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Utah man creates art behind 'Captain America' movie

By Mike Anderson | Posted - Apr 7th, 2014 @ 9:42pm

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AMERICAN FORK — Artist James Carson helped create many of the set pieces seen in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," out of his home. This weekend, movie-goers got to see his work on the big screen.

"There's always that breath, before (the movie) comes up," Carson said. "It's like, 'Oh, is this gonna look lame, or is this gonna look good?'"

If ticket sales are any indication, audiences liked what they saw.

"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" broke records in its opening weekend, grossing over $96 million. Utah was the second-highest market in the nation for sales, according to Megaplex Theatres.

Among Carson's works in the box-office hit, is the SHIELD Headquarters building. Part of which he says he modeled after the Adobe building in Lehi, Utah.

"We were going for of a modular, brutalist design," Carson said. "A little bit of the Adobe building is in that huge, fortress-like triskelion."

While the more iconic part of the building is tall and round, the section right next to it resembles large blocks, similar to the Adobe offices.

Carson said he always knew he wanted to be an artist, and it was just a matter of time before he figured out film would work out become his niche.

For some reason, in a lot of films, I'm kind of pegged as the guy that designs bad-guy stuff.

–James Carson, graphic artist

His first paid works were drawings of airplanes he sold as a child in kindergarten. "A nickel a piece. I banked big time," Carson said, chuckling.

His contributions to film, since the mid-1990s, range from "Mars Attacks" to "Pirates of the Caribbean" to several comic book adaptations.

In the early pre-production stages, Carson says the instructions for concepts are sometimes very descriptive, and at times vague.

"That's often when it's fun, when it's kind of uncovering something," he said. "It's a process you whittle away at."

Some of the environments Doctor Octavius is seen in "Spider Man 2" were designed, at least in concept-form, by Carson. He also drew up Green Goblin's glider in the previous "Spider Man."

"For some reason, in a lot of films, I'm kind of pegged as the guy that designs bad-guy stuff," he said.


Carson established his career in Hollywood before moving his family to Utah County about eight years ago. Nowadays he maintains his contacts in California by phone and Skype, creating his designs at home. Sometimes his kids give their input on projects.

"My 7-year-old said ... 'Hey Dad, that's really cool. But you should put some cars flying through the air,'" Carson said, talking about an upcoming project. "So I did it, and the director loved it."

In summer of 2015, fans be able to see more of Carson's work in the upcoming film "San Andreas", starring Dwayne Johnson. He said it's just one more example of the creative freedom that helps keep him going, working his dream job.

"My main job was to destroy San Francisco with earthquakes and tsunamis," Carson said, talking about his own hometown. "If I can do this for another 15 to 20 years, I'll be happy."


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