Escher's visions etched
on the mind of Brian Johnson


a) The derelict as an Escher optical illusion
In one interview about his work on Alien, Brian Johnson the special effects supervisor, talked about Giger's original concept for the derelict being too hard to work out how to build because it looked like an Escher optical illusion,

b) Building the Nostromo like an Escher optical illusion
It would come to a point where Brian would talk about the design for the Nostromo with Ridley and he showed him a perspective drawing of the top of the tower. Under what context Ridley needed to see it is unknown. Was it something to do with the refinery towers? Whatever the reason, the sketch was described to be like an Escher optical illusion in the way of the drawing "Waterfall". However the subject of Escher's work at the time was seen to be a strong reference point for Brian going by the interviews.

Giger's Derelict preproduction painting (work 374: Wreck)
that bears qualities of an Escher drawing
Visit The M. C. Escher official website (

  1. Regarding Giger's original derelict design 

    Brian Johnson : "It's a wonderful design, but as it turned out, we couldn't build it. It was like an Escher optical illusion. As a two-dimensional painting  it look very logical, but there was not actual way you could build it in three dimensions."(Cinefex 1) ( see also Giger's work from The Design Of The Derelict)
  2. Building the Nostromo
    Brian Johnson
    :This was at Bray. Bray Studios. What I did here was, because Ridley is- Ridley is an ace sketch artist, that’s what he used to do before he became an art director, and before he got involved in other things – commercials. So he used to go away and on a bit of paper scribble, you know, I want it to look like this. And then Ron Cobb used to turn it into a 2-dimensional work of art. And then Ridley would say yeah that’s pretty good, I like that.
    Brian Johnson working on the Nostromo
    So in the end what happened was, I said, okay, and I showed him a perspective drawing/sketch of the top of the tower, which is one of those trick of eye things, so that it looks like the water is always going down the waterfall, but you know, if you follow it around at one point it has to… you know?
    So I said okay, do you want me to build this? Got the message, so I said, I’ll build you a small scale model of the Nostromo, and then you can do whatever you want to it. You can always cut it in half, extend it, you know. But if we start with sort of a 16-foot model, we’re never going to finish it. So that’s what I did. (

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