Invasion of the Dinosaurs

6 February 2012

'Invasion of the Dinosaurs' presents a key decision for any cover designer: do you sell the story using the best, most realistic images of dinosaurs you can find (as on the VHS sleeve), or do you hold true to the programme itself and show the model creatures in all their rubbery glory? Personally I always wanted to feature the genuine dinosaur models, partly out of faithfulness to the source material and partly because they don't look that bad when still, it's more their movement that lets them down. Plus, with a little Photoshop magic to sharpen teeth and claws, they could be made to look a bit more dangerous. I also felt the context they were shown in would make a big difference: just cut out and placed in front of a separate background leaves the focus on their inauthentic appearance, whereas compositing them into a scene from the show would, I hoped, put the attention on the incongruity of dinosaurs in a city rather than the models themselves.

With this in mind, I planned a panel showing dinosaurs in front of a London landmark, below which would be whichever villains I could find suitable photos of and, of course, the Doctor. For the former, the photo of the Tyrannosaur attacking the Apatosaur was clearly the most dramatic of the available dinosaur images. There's a colour shot of them against a yellow CSO background, but I had a higher quality black-and-white version saved from the old Radio Times Doctor Who episode guide site which was taken from a lower angle and so was likely to better match an eye-level photo of a London street. This needed colourising, of course, so I gave the two creatures different skin colours to help differentiate them and heightened the ferocity of the battle with a little blood. For the backdrop I had hoped to find a suitable photo of a recognisable London landmark, such as the Houses of Parliament, Whitehall or Trafalgar Square. Unfortunately all such photos featured far too much traffic to ever hope painting it all out and achieving the empty scene I needed. So I had to go with a photo of a nondescript side street taken on a quiet Christmas morning but which at least featured an Underground sign to prove it was indeed London. It's modern day rather than the Seventies, unavoidably, but I think only the lamppost on the far right really gives it away. Placing the Tyrannosaur's tail behind this helped fix the dinosaurs in the scene, however. Click here to see the full dinosaur attack scene.

For the foregound figures, the Doctor was the trickiest as most of the photos of him from this story had him on the phone or holding his dinosaur stun gun. With the latter, while I felt I could potentially fill in his hidden shoulder using other shots, I'd still be left with his hand tweaking thin air. So I selected an on-the-phone shot and replaced the right side of his torso and a patch of hair around his left ear. There's a slight discrepancy in the sharpness of the two sides of his jacket, but not too noticeable (I hope). General Finch was also a composite of a head-and-shoulder close-up with a fuzzier full-body shot, which at least ensured his face had good detail. Professor Whitaker was also colourised from a mono photo and, I admit, flipped so he would face the Doctor. I managed to flip back the front of his lab coat so it still buttoned up left over right, but couldn't do the same for the parting in his hair.

I initially wasn't sure what to use as a background - a primeval landscape? The fake colony ships in space? - until I settled on a plan view of London. I found both map and satellite images, but decided the latter was more appropriate, and positioned it with a distinctive curve of the Thames in view. Rather than a straightforward square frame for the dinosaur scene I wanted to enliven it with some comic-style spikes, which were easier to draw in Illustrator then import into Photoshop as a channel. Only once all the elements were brought together did I feel there was a bit of a space below the dinosaurs right in the centre of the cover. I considered placing the Whomobile into the street but a) was worried it would distract too much from the dinosaurs, and b) couldn't find a front-on shot of the vehicle. I did manage to find a photo of a crumpled Hillman Hunter, which is arguably anachronistic within the modern-day street but is more in time with the programme itself. This nicely filled the gap without drawing attention from the creatures, and reflected the scene in episode one when the looter's escape is hindered by a collision with a prehistoric animal.

Download the final INVASION OF THE DINOSAURS cover here

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