15 Roger Dean Paintings That Totally Didn’t Inspire “Avatar”

Roger Dean Breakaway
Roger Dean Breakaway
Breakaway (used as album cover for new Yes compilation “Progeny”) by Roger Dean

Roger Dean has a new album cover out—a whole bunch of them, actually, included in a couple collections of Yes live recordings that have just been released. (There are many more details to the recordings than we care to go into here, but you can read about them at Yes’s official site.) It’s good to see that Dean, 70, is still cranking away at his unmistakable art. But Dean suffered a disappointing setback in September of 2014, when a judge dismissed his two-year-old lawsuit alleging that Avatar (2009) ripped off the imagery he’s been creating since the late ’60s. Yesterday, Dean posted a link on his Facebook page to an article by an expert in copyright law who says the judge made the wrong call. The author, Stephen Carlisle, an admitted Yes fan, does not say whether Dean would have won the case, only that the case should have been allowed to proceed: “All in all, there is far too much smoke to totally discount the existence of a fire, especially at the Motion to Dismiss stage of the case.”

Roger Dean has a huge gallery of work at his website, where you can also inquire about buying prints. Here are a few notable examples:

Album cover: Yes, “Yessongs: Awakening” by Roger Dean
Album cover: Yes, “Close to the Edge” by Roger Dean
“Yellow City” by Roger Dean
Album cover: Space Needle, “The Moray Eels Eat the Space Needle” by Roger Dean
Album Cover: Yes, “Fly From Here” by Roger Dean
“Floating Islands” by Roger Dean
“Electric Sheep II” by Roger Dean
“Elbow Rock” by Roger Dean
“Edgar Forest Village” by Roger Dean
“Coral Castle” by Roger Dean
Breakaway (used as album cover for new Yes compilation “Progeny”) by Roger Dean
Blue Demon
“Blue Demon” by Roger Dean
Album cover: Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, "The Iridium Controversy" by Roger Dean
Album cover: Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, “The Iridium Controversy” by Roger Dean
Arches Morning
Album cover: Yes, “Keys to Ascension” by Roger Dean
April 1st" by Roger Dean
April 1st” by Roger Dean

21 thoughts on “15 Roger Dean Paintings That Totally Didn’t Inspire “Avatar”

  1. Well I dont see them too Avatarish …. but since when is a crime to have inspirations? It isnt like James steal from him (And I dont like the Avatar movie , but this seems like the classic American "bullshit suing over nonsense" to me)

      1. Public notice
        Idiot not knowing what a note to self is.

        Also, Jesse Furman is a judge in New York, the trial was conducted in America.

    1. That’s just it “Rodrigo”, the scenery in Avatar was NOT an inspiration out of pure creativity, but THEFT of concepts and copyrighted art generated by another person out of TRUE inspiration. It’s akin to someone writing your life story in a novel, making millions and not compensating you for the story. It’s not American Bull*&^% over nonsense, it’s theft pure and simple. Go see the ophthalmologist because you need glasses not to mention an attitude adjustment. Do YOU work for free, Cortes???

  2. I agree. Inspiration is a hard thing to pin if It's infringement or not because every story is inspired by something, only when it's a blatant copy can you sue people. Floating islands is not an original idea so I would have ruled in the same way.

    1. Well said Dave…
      I feel Roger was robbed of the obligatory credit he deserved for that “inspiration.”
      If Cameron would have only recognized the source I would have been happy.
      Also, for Wikipedia to have an Avatar picture on Roger Deans page is criminal!

      1. “Also, for Wikipedia to have an Avatar picture on Roger Deans page is criminal!”

        Maybe. I see it more as a thorn in Cameron’s side.

    2. This is well within artistic freedom and inspiration, especially considering that floating islands are a lot older than Roger Dean. With Alien, it’s something completely different.

  3. No-one will ever convince me that the artwork for Avatar was not stolen exactly from Roger Dean’s work. It was obvious from the first shots of the Pandora planet. Not “inspiration” but plagiarism.

  4. Daft Punk also uses Roger Dean’s art for their planet in their Interstella 5555 music movie and no one seems to talk about it.

  5. Exhibit A : I joyfully sat through all the credits after Avatar, waiting to point out Roger Dean’s name to my wife. I sat for another stunned minute wondering how I’d not seen it.

  6. Yeah Roger is most likely the guy who inspired the artist who came up with the actual set designs for Avatar…

  7. Yeah Roger is most likely the guy who inspired the artist who came up with the actual set designs for Avatar… FACTS

  8. Absolutely feel it’s inspired by Roger including the Dragons. After the first viewing of Avatar I thought how awesome it was Roger was getting sung notoriety and coverage and then heard it was not Deans work. Say what you will but I defiantly think it was inspired by Roger Dean

  9. When I first saw the movie I was looking for roger Deans Credit. Assuming he did all the concept work. But nothing not even an acknowledgment of thanks for the inspiration. Such a shame. The movie business is rife with concept developers ripping off artworks. It has happened to me numerous times because I know the evolution I took to create the work and I know that the ideas could not have come any other way. I use to feel felt ripped off but after numerous times I accepted it as the most sincere form of flattery, I don’t have time to go chasing every movie for a scene where they used my work. I just reinvent my work. I’ve also worked on a couple of feature films one of which was Narnia. In the design studio, you have researchers who scour the web and books for images to pin up to inspire the artist’s and designers in the concept stage, making literally a wall of reference material of colors ideas, etc. I’ll eat my hat if there wasn’t a wall of Roger Deans work in the production department Avatar. They would have gone use that but change it. You can’t copyright colors and its a tough call to sue unless they actually used your exact image but with slightly different shapes or colors. The problem with Deans work is his success in his art becoming a recognized style like say Picasso or Dali or Monet. You could make movies using all the colors and similar shapes and look of any of these other famous artists but none of them could sue you for it as it has become part of the culture and by default probably doesn’t belong to the artist anymore. With Giger, I think he actually worked on the movies were as Dean did not. They were just inspired by his work. But a simple acknowledgment like ‘Inspired by Roger Dean’ would have been appropriate. But everyone knows it was inspired by Roger Dean anyway.

  10. HOW can you, and the BLIND NY judge, NOT see that a “substantial similarity” exists between Avatar and the copyrighted works of Roger Dean?!??!?? I read the Memorandum and Order dismissing the complaint and something is horribly wrong here. There was a motion to dismiss the complaint and it was granted based on a single person’s interpretation (judge Jesse “blind ass corrupt” Furman) of the work who obviously knows nothing about concept, context, geometric juxtaposition or anything else visually related. I don’t know how or why Dean let this lie without recourse but it is blatantly obvious to the most causal observer that this is plagiarism plain and simple. The man deserves the lion share of the credit for scene art despite any amount of time expended by Twentieth Century Fox on computer generated graphics–and that should include the box office revenue… This notion that this is a “suit over nonsense” is completely ridiculous. The man’s life work was STOLEN, presented as original and grossed millions in entertainment dollars–WITHOUT CONSENT OR COMPENSATION.

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