Newman's old posters lead to a new gig with Hollywood

2012-01-12T11:30:00Z 2012-09-19T22:24:25Z Newman's old posters lead to a new gig with HollywoodBy Kathi Downing, Corvallis Gazette-Times Corvallis Gazette Times

While many people have seen the new movie, "We Bought a Zoo," they might have missed the part that Summit resident Earl Newman played in the film.

The film stars Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson and is about the purchase and rehabilitation of a fictional California zoo called the Rosemoor Wildlife Park. The film is based on the true story of Benjamin Mee and his family, who bought the Dartmoor Zoological Park in Devon, England, in 2006.

The very observant can spot two posters in the film's restaurant scene. One is of a tiger and the other of a zebra that is adorned with pink flamingos, and anyone who knows Earl Newman's work can see that the flamingos are clearly his handiwork.

Earl's brush with Hollywood began in 2010, when set designers from 20th Century Fox were looking for animal posters to use as props. They discovered two intriguing prints from the long-defunct Jungleland, hanging on the walls of the Stage Coach Inn Museum in Newbury Park, a Los Angeles suburb.

Jungleland was an animal park that existed more than 50 years ago. It was situated on 170 acres in nearby Thousand Oaks. Originally called the Geobel Lion Park when it opened in the late 1920s, the wild animal park was sold several times before being bought by 20th Century Fox in 1956 and renamed Jungleland. It was turned into an animal theme park. This was the year Disneyland opened in Anaheim, and the beginning of the "theme park" era. After 20th Century Fox relinquished the park in 1961, it went downhill due to competition from other area theme parks and ultimately closed in 1968.

While Jungleland was thriving, however, young Venice Beach artist Earl Newman was commissioned to create two posters for the park. One depicted a roaring tiger; the other, a long-necked giraffe. These are the posters that recently caught the eye of Fox's set designers. They tracked Earl down, and when they asked to buy the rights to the artwork, Earl instead offered to create two new posters for the movie.

When asked why he didn't just sell the rights to the old posters, Earl said that he wanted the challenge of trying something new. The rest is history.

Earl traveled to southern California to meet with the designers, who accepted his sketches. He used the tiger from the original Jungleland poster and changed the name of the park to Rosemoor to reflect the movie's storyline. The Jungleland giraffe was abandoned in the second poster, replaced with a zebra and flamingos, reflecting Earl's own taste in animals.

While doing the artwork for 20th Century Fox, Earl accumulated about four dozen extra 2-foot-by-3-foot posters that he is willing to give away. These were all hand-printed in Summit and come in a variety of colors. He will be asking that anyone taking a poster donate a minimum of $100 to the Benton County Historical Society in Philomath, the Coast Range Food Bank or a peace organization. Interested parties can give him a call at 541-456-2131.

While on the subject of Earl Newman, it would be appropriate to add that this is the 50th anniversary of his connection with the Monterey Jazz Festival, for which he has printed posters from its inception. Ten of those jazz festival posters are on display at the Philomath Liquor Store.

Nashville resident Kathi Downing can be contacted at ramdown@peak.org or 541-456-4252.

Copyright 2014 Corvallis Gazette Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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