With pages steeped in youthful chills and soft-core paperback scares – R.L Stine’s Goosebumps series was a fundamental horror stepping stone for the majority of the MTV Generation. Bringing these sweet tempered shocks to the big screen, the 2015 cinematic adaptation of Goosebumps reintroduces the franchise to a new audience – complete with a big budget, dazzling effects and a score from legendary composer Danny Elfman. Issuing the soundtrack on stunning 180 gram double vinyl, WaxWork Records had the forethought to realise the series resurrection would not be complete without the art direction of Tim Jacobus – who’s creepy cover arts were one of the fundamental reasons for Goosebumps success and longevity within popular culture.
With millions of copies floating around in the world, Jacobus illustrations have helped shaped adolescents nightmares for over a quarter of a century. Looking back on how he got involved with the fright filled franchize, Jacobus explaines “I worked for Scholastic for a couple years doing book covers. One-offs. I never did any series work, just single covers. The art directors there thought I might be a good fit for Goosebumps.”
“In the book business, art directors work with illustrators, editors work with authors – but authors and illustrators don’t collaborate that often” reflects Jacobus. “I mostly worked with the Scholastic art directors on the concepts. R. L. was writing the books the same time I was doing the cover art. He would send a written summary of the story. A couple of sentences or a paragraph – and we would roll from there. He was writing the books the same time I was doing the cover art”. The disconnect between R.L Stine and Jacobus in terms of the cover concept and construction gave Jacobus free licence imagination to run wild – creating images that became as important as the stories themselves in the minds of the reader, an aesthetic that carried over into the vinyl cover art.
Recalling the bright, eye catching graphics of the Goosebumps heyday – Jacobus takes the traditional techniques that made original books seem to pop off the bookshelf and added a crisp digital sheen. Rich, plush purple bastes the edges and strong, clean shades complement the precise linework of this childlike chiller. “I started with pencil and paper” reflects Jacobus. “Then, I take those sketches and scan them into the computer. I render the rest of the art there using Photoshop. I also use a Wacom tablet and pen. This still gives me that organic feel that I got on the original cover when they were done traditionally with acrylic paints and brushes. My hand still moves in the same way.”
“I wanted to be true to the original book cover art. I went back and restudied them… I haven’t drawn some of those characters in over 20 years” Jacobus. “Just like when I did the original book covers, I was doing the art before I saw the movie or heard the sound track. I approached it as if it were two book covers. A single cover and a wrap around cover. Different compositional rules apply to each style.”
Taking a nostalgic, cinematic approach to the artwork – Jacobus included some of the series most iconic characters to pull at the fanbases nostalgia strings. “I suggested we do a movie theme and have Curly (de-facto spokesperson and mascot of the Goosebumps franchise) on the cover selling tickets outside the abandoned theater – I want the theater to have the feeling of Welcome to Dead House he explains. “I was hoping the viewer would feel like they discovered a long, lost cover from the original series. For the inside, I wanted it to be a movie set, Slappy ( the main antagonist of the Night of the Living Dummy saga) as the director and the other characters as cameramen, grips, lighting guys and general movies set workers. The idea for the characters to be in the theater watching the movie, came from WaxWork – that was a good idea, it was like visiting old friends!”
Resonating across generations, the mixing of Danny Elfman’s penchant for darkness with the prolific pen of “the Stephen King of children’s literature” – R.L Stine’s Goosebumps is a ghoulishly whimsical trip down memory lane. Doing justice to Stine’s original vision, the WaxWork Records soundtrack complete with Tim Jacobus legit illustrations bring the Goosebumps revival full circle and inflict some creepy but colorful 90’s nostalgia to vinyl.
Peace to Tim Jacobus for helping out with this piece. Goosebumps is available now from WaxWork Records. Keep in touch with Tim and check out some of his new (and classic) illustrations on his Facebook page and official site.