The Classic Origins of Today's Hollywood Design

Science fiction and fantasy continue to rule at the movies — and with their reign comes a lot of nostalgia for the futuristic designs of yesteryear. Today's movies are full of cool retro design elements — just check out our collection to nods to the pasts in new and upcoming movies, from Prometheus, Men In Black 3, to The Incredibles.

Here are all the nods to retro coolness in the movies that have hit our screens recently, or are coming soon.

The Classic Origins of Today's Hollywood Design

The Lorax

Even though The Lorax animated movie was somewhat joyless, it did have a spectacular dystopian city, that channeled a whole heap of robotics from the past. In a land without trees mechanical flowers and blow up shrubs are just as good! But the pièce de résistance was the giant dome the town of Thneedville was encased under. The isolated town is a classic science fiction staple going back to 1881 in William Delisle Hay's white supremacist fantasy, where everyone lives in a domed bubble under the sea, and on film in the 1976 flick Logan's Run. The Dome usually offers an easy answer to a complicated question, by hiding its inhabitants from the outside world.

The Classic Origins of Today's Hollywood Design

Prometheus

Many of you have been pointing and screaming at the suit similarities between Ridley Scott's Prometheus and Mario Bava's Planet of the Vampires. And you're right. It's been mentioned that Vampires was an influence on Alien, so why not Prometheus? It's so obvious and not just because both suits are blue and yellow, the helmets, collars, piping, it's a lot of similarities for a movie this big. We don't doubt it was intentional. Both movies are about the dark manipulations of alien creatures, hoping to escape to Earth!

Iron Sky

Moon Nazis return to the Earth after hiding for years after their destruction in World War 2, to take over the globe. But first, they attack New York City. This is vintage futurism to the core, the clothes, the classic flying UFO, and (of course) reiteration of the worst futuristic nightmares from WWII — this isn't really a wink at retro futurism as much as homage.

The Classic Origins of Today's Hollywood Design

Men In Black III

Men In Black III travels back in time to reboot the entire series, with a new retro 1960s theme. The nods are all over the trailers, stills and all the shots of makeup master Rick Baker's amazing works. We rounded up a few easy-to-spot examples right here. First there's this wonderful Outer Limits tribute. It's almost like a toast to the past's fake future!


The Classic Origins of Today's Hollywood Design Men In Black III

A salute to Robot Monster.


The Classic Origins of Today's Hollywood Design Men In Black III
Invasion of the Saucer Men.

The Classic Origins of Today's Hollywood Design Men In Black III

This Island Earth.


The Classic Origins of Today's Hollywood Design Men In Black III

And these amazing future scooters!


The Classic Origins of Today's Hollywood Design Cabin In The Woods

While meta horror movie is seemingly set in the here and now, all of the gadgets controlling the fates of the teens were pretty grounded in 1950s technology.

In a our interview with Cabin director, Drew Goddard, he explained that this was exactly what he was channeling. In fact, a lot of his "future" was inspired by the town he grew up in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Which is was built specifically to house the people who build the Atomic Bomb.

The whole town exists because it's a government lab that designs weapons. And that's the only reason the town exists. That just felt like the world of Cabin in the Woods for me. It inspired all of the design, I just handed manuals of what Los Alamos looked like in the 1950s to my production designer. We even studied the costumes. I just keep coming back to where I grew up, watching these decent kind suburban men go to work, every day making these weapons of mass destruction. And I wanted to explore that more. It's a strange town, it's a very strange town to grow up in… I can't escape its influence and I'll probably be influenced by Los Alamos for the rest of my life.

By focusing on this retro future technology (dated knobs and buttons that controlled force fields and the victim's pheromone levels) Goddard creates an ominous sense of tradition and fear for the future. This secret corporation had always been enacting these evil deeds, and they were only going to get better at it. It made the horror feel timeless.

Despicable Me

Swimming in Bond villain glory, we adored the retro lair of the evil villain Vector. He had it all: mid century white swivel chairs, button controlled everything, even a shark tank! The overall design of this kids movie relished in the sleek lines of the past. In fact, if Elroy Jetson grew up to be an evil fanny pack wearing menace, we believe this is the house he would live in. This is just one of the many retro nods — the mechanical cookie spiders are also awesomely old fashioned.

The Classic Origins of Today's Hollywood Design

Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow

Completely dedicated to the vision of the future from the 50s and 60s Captain Sky and The City of Tomorrow is an the cover of an old Amazing Science Fiction story brought to life. From the passenger-carrying rigid airships to the giant attacking metal monsters.

The Classic Origins of Today's Hollywood Design

Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America is The Rocketeer for the new comic book generation (as it should be, since director Joe Johnston also directed The Rocketeer). Captain America doesn't just delver on wacky Hydra steampunk weaponry and Jules Verne-esque submarines. The sentiment and mentality of all the characters in the movie in pushing old timey patriotism, hard. It doesn't just have the retro futurism flair, it also has the "go get em Uncle Sam" spirit that permeated in a lot of the rose colored looks into the future. This image is actually from the Captain America video game, which contains even more wild weapons from someone else's lost future.

The Classic Origins of Today's Hollywood Design

The Incredibles

And finally, there's The Incredibles. This movie looked, sounded and acted like a retro futurist's dream of tomorrow. Monorails, robots, slick lines were all set to a fantastic jazz soundtrack that couldn't help but get you swept up old memories of Disney's Tomorrowland.