Should Roger Dean sue over Avatar film?

As far as we know Roger Dean was not involved at all in the Cameron film Avatar but clearly his influence is there and has been recognised by a lot of people.  Some outraged long-term Roger Dean fans searching in vain for a credit at the end of the film are calling for Roger Dean to sue Cameron.  Others are are asking why he wasn’t honest enough to acknowledge Roger Dean’s influence or involve him in the project. You’ll find all this and a lot more in the discussions and articles on these links –

Digital Spy – designs in Avatar seem remeniscent of Roger Dean but not ready yet to call for Roger Dean suing Cameron. Then there are blogs with stuff like this starting to think there is an issue that needs addressing.

Stupid Future – Roger Dean wants his floating islands back – now it is getting a bit more serious.

Plus of course, the long-term YES fans (Roger Dean did many of the band’s covers and designed their stage sets) have their say here and they are rather more unhappy about their favourite artist being ripped off.

There was also a mention on Roger Dean’s own site but it appears to have disappeared. 

The Artists UK Roger Dean section is here.

What do you think?


  • Naja

    I here alot of whining and crying on Roger Deans behalf and I too belive that this great artist should glean alot of the artistic credit and monetary benefits…if he, Roger Dean so chooses! I worked under another famous artist/illustratoer that Roger wrote the forward to his book called the “Age of Innocence” and I read thought the words as well as looked other works and writing of his; to get a feel for the charater of the man, the artist. Believe you me, if Roger Dean would like to gain the financiacial fruits of his past achevements he could and would, and possibly will at the beat of his own drum…this is certainly nothing new to him and will probaby happen to him as well as other great artist’s again as well. How they choose to deal with it is really there business. it is great to hear fans angry and heard what THEY think he shoud do, I believe the answer is yes and no! Please Hear me out! I a was watching the Blue-Ray and cheering on “Oh my God good going Dean!…and looked for an artist’s credits at the end off the movie and the curiously on the web and found this dreaded blog; I started writing the same stuff you all were putting out and STOPPED! I decided to and read through the entire thread before making myself the fool…As and artist you are always asked “Who has influenced you work?”, and an artist will let that information be made public without fear of being alled a plagurist or plagurizing a style. This being the information and quick results age ehere everyone becomes an expert overnight; looking and compaing and pointing the fingure her and there is on the rampant..too fast, too late! I belive that is where Mr. Jame Cameron has taken a very wrong and dangerously wrong road! Maybe the two (ot three including YES because YES they paid their right’s to obtain the Roger Dean art and as many have pointed out, there are numerous similarities to their music as well!) should go to the “White house and hammer there differences with our President over a few a few beers since this has worked before in a well now civil matter… since most of you say Mr. Cameron has always settled out of court to avoid enbarressment…this would then make it the ultimate smear campaign you all want and be nationally know settlement and chastization for Mr. Cameron and due and rightful attention that Dean deserves. Thats what you all want?! In all seriously though; Mr. Cameron is being somewhat plageriszide or beinf “paid” himself by the movie making industry by turning once 2D movies into 3D movies only to have have the cimena ticket rise from $10.50 to that three to four dollars moer at a clip, and that is what the overall arguement comes down to when I read this thread , MONEY! Roger Dean must also feel as a fantastic and humble artist that he is, proud to see the infuence that he has made on this fim “AVATAR” and so many artists and films as well…and I believe he will get his just rewards, he most certainly always does!
    I say let this play out and then if you do not like the eventual results; create a smear campaigm on Cameron as has been done before forcing him to think back on his “smoking Days” Thank you…It has been done befor with measurable results, with enough intelligent and level headed fans!

  • Naja

    Sorry about the misspellings on my last and long winded rant, but I did read through it a few times and though it to be proofed, but my view has not changed…let’s let Roger Dean the the artist you and I all admire and are passionate abou, take care of this. We kmow that this is his work made to the big screen by Mr. Cameron and as stated the history of Mr. Cameron, abeit a geinous with special effects technology has a few new roads to walk on …but I think Roger Dean can and will take care of himself and would be honered with a more level headed fan base! Not that there is not a place foe really passionate fans like your sels, I guess it is all good thinking in all through…

  • nanc

    At first I was a little thrown back by the fact that James Cameron would make a movie that is in all certain terms, a cartoon. Knowing what an avatar in this computer age meant, I was not sure what the movie was about after seeing short advertisements with military guys, alien race, and an alien world. But after seeing the movie I was impressed, not really a great movie but it was pretty visually impressive. Ironically, the story line is very similar to many other movies. But when the movie got to the scenes of the “floating mountains” OMG!, I started saying to my husband, “that’s outer planets” which is one of the terms us Yes fans call those floating pieces of land on their album covers. Being once a huge (almost a religion) Yes fan, I then noticed the extreme similarities between Roger Dean and this movie. But hold on! Cameron not only must be a Yes fan at one point of the movie he has incorporated not only Yes scenes but Jon Anderson’s first album. Olias of Sunhillow. Some of the references cannot be mistaken. The tree of light where the alien race goes to worship their creator is directly from that album. Many times I wanted to start singing Olias of Sunhillow. Why doesn’t he admit and give credit where credit is due.

  • CilianZ

    “Because he invented floating mountains”

    Magritte, Castle in the Pyrenees, 1959:×767.jpg

  • graham belfast

    as Bono says in the fly “every artist is a cannibal ,every poet is a thief. everyone draws inspiration from external sources purely original thoughts are very rare and arent we all connected on a spiritual level of consciousness anyway ?

    Copyright and litigation dont seem to be compatible bedfellows why dont we just enjoy the art for what it is stunning in both cases
    im sure if you asked roger dean about his 70s art he will have drawn from someones ideas and used templates as well

    chill out and remember everythings gonna be alright

    graham astral traveller belfast

  • Hi Graham. Thanks for astral travelling in from Belfast (although we have heard that the planes are back in operation!). Yes, Roger Dean certainly has influences but the feeling of most contributors here is that there is a distinction between being influenced by someone and outright wholesale theft of their ideas and style. Roger dean fans do not seem to have watched AVATAR thinking, “Oh, that’s nice, he’s got some Roger Dean influence in his work.” What they did think you’ll find by reading back through the posts and it seems closer to, “This is a complete ripoff of Roger Dean’s ideas and style” don’t you think? Note the contribution from CilianZ above and ask yourself whether Roger Dean maybe was influenced by Magritte. Look at Roger Dean’s actual art and I’m sure you’ll agree that he has not ripped off Magritte’s idea in total, nor has he copied the style. Besides, Roger Dean is rarely satisfied with having only one thing floating and nor was Cameron in allegedly copying him. If there is no distinction between influence and plagiarism we’d have a whole world full of supposedly original Mona Lisa’s wouldn’t we?

  • Orlando S.

    Unfortunately, there are lots of great (and not so great) artists that borrow & copy without giving credit. How many times has Archimboldo turned in his grave, when seeing yet another face made of fruit or vegetables (those who haven`t heard of him, Google his name and discover this oft copied 16th century master)?

    Great artists have no problems in citing their sources, and when they don`t they loose fans, just as James Cameron is doing right now. We`ll all of us live off the pleasure of denouncing him for many years to come to uninformed Avatar fans. I think the film has enough merits to immortalize J. Cameron, as it is brilliant, but he`ll be bugged by this point, just because he`s unable to give credit where credit is due.

    As for Roger Dean, what a gentleman. Not only do we love his art, but now we have even more reason to love the person. Why not pop over to the Yes website & get a t-SHIRT, which can be used to start conversations w/ as many people as possible. Roger, being the artist he is, only sells fine prints & signed stuff… Who knows I might afford one sometime?

  • graham belfast

    Thanks for the reply . I do take your point I was brought up on the Yes albums in the 70s, and Roger Deans album sleeves somehow mirrored the music [also Uriah Heeps albums ] SO I do have empathy with the whole copyright argument

    They are unique I remember painting my bedroom white and lime green and plastering the posters from ” Tales from Topographic Oceans” and” Close to the Edge” all over the walls lol much to the bemusment of my parents who thought I had joined a cult and were flicking through the yellow pages for the guys in the white
    coats !

    My point was just to put some balance on the discussion you have comments about suing for millions of dollars etc I hope the exposure results in a whole new generation of people who might never have had the chance to enjoys Roger Deans Art work and maybe by default discover some Yes music [surely a good thing]

    I was commenting mainly from an esoteric view point about the art and music but maybe Cameron in hindsight should have credited his inspirational muses its kinda sad that didnt happen

    one thing you maybe should highlight here is the roger dean web site where you can still enjoy his porfolio and maybe buy a few items to redress the balance WWW ———- its all about EGO lol my advise is to surrender the Ego and forget about conflict

    Life is an illusion[albeit a very powerful one] and as said previously in the end ” Everythings gonna be alright”

    PS all flights back to normal maybe Roger is on his way to Iceland as we speak with paintbrush and easle another volcanic landscape and masterpiece in the making methinks


    Graham Astral traveller Belfast

  • Artists UK

    Hi Graham

    You probably paid about £1.99p each for those Roger Dean Big O posters and in pristine/very good condition they would now almost certainly both be worth over £200 each. The white and lime green wall would almost certainly be worth less :-)

    It is a shame that litigation hangs around the creative fields of art and music like a dark thundercloud but until we have a world in which people respect each other properly and treat each other with friendliness and generosity that is the price we all pay. We can hope but we may be waiting some time for it to change …

  • Pingback: Roger Dean should be PISSED! [Avatar]

  • Firefyte

    I totally agree. Anyone looking at the conceptual art used in Avatar can clearly see Roger Deans genius. Dean had visualized floating land masses, skeletal rock formations and flying dragons with vividly colored camouflage patterns decades ago. In many cases Dean would focus an entire series on creatures with fantastic camouflage. Not only did Camerron take from Roger Dean but he also took from the cover artwork of the Edgar Rice Borroughs John Carter of Mars series. These classic covers had several multi-legged creatures very similar in concept to the creatures in Avater. Perhaps Michael Whelan might also have a bone to pick with Camerron. If push comes to shove I am sure we will hear Camerron say something dismisive like “all artists build on the work of other artists” but the mind of Roger Dean is just too evident in Camerrons movie…..he should at the very least be honest and give Dean the credit he deserves. I have other issues with Camerron….he tends to enjoy portraying the Marine Corps as either unprofessional and incompetent (Aliens) or a bunch of blood thirsty rednecks (Avatar). Avatar being a work of pure fantasy… Camerron could have just as easily made the ruthless attacking human forces a corporate security group (Blackwater) hired to do the company’s dirty work….or even some specialized branch of the Army or a detachment of Space Rangers. Instead Camerron took the opportunity to make the Marine Corps the bad guy….that is why I never paid him my $11 to see Avatar at the movies.

  • Firefyte

    My bad…Ridley Scott made Aliens….but Camerron still should not have made the Marine Corps out as just a bunch of blood thirsty thugs.

  • Did no-one ever read gullivers travels?

  • Artists UK

    Err, yes John … what exactly is your point?

  • Brian Aust

    I loved Avatar and, like those of you who mentioned previously, immediately saw tales of topographic landscapes throughout the movies. The floating islands and the arches did not in any way come out of Cameron’s imagination and the flying steeds are straight out of Roger Dean’s “Morning Dragon” painting. I imagine that the Yes albums made a good living for Dean, but Cameron owes him big. I read an interview with James Cameron wherein he was asked “did you get your landscape and creature ideas from prog-rock album cover artist Roger Dean?” His reply was insulting: “well, maybe deep in my head were some imprints from a youth spent smoking way too much pot.” That’s horse manure. The thing that bugs me most is how millions of people who don’t know Yes music or Roger Dean’s work have seen Avatar and thinking “Wow, what a cool world!” o question about it at all. I know several and they all say “who’s Roger Dean? Really, Yes album covers? No way….”

    We all love Roger, and it isn’t pleasant, but he should sue. It’s his intellectual property and James Cameron was absolutely wrong for not including Dean in the process of making Avatar. He should especially sue in light of the next 2 Avatar sequels. My sense is that all Cameron had to do was recognize him and he would have been happy, even honored to be onboard for such an otherwise breathtaking cinematic experience.

  • Artists UK

    You are probably right Brian. I know that when I spoke to Roger about it I was certainly under the impression that the financial implications were not his real concern. It seemed to me that he just thought it was wrong of Cameron to use his ideas without permission.

  • Paul

    Typical, Americans think they can pinch anyones ideas and concepts and dont give a dam, sue them, bet they would sue you !!.

  • René Mélançon

    Hello! I am from Québec , Canada , and have always been a big fan of Roger Dean……Even though Mr. Cameron is a fellow Canadien … I am not too happy about the fact that he let Stromberg tottaly rip off that artist ….especially the stone arches ….OMFG! – It’s too obvious! Even the floating sea-landscapes are a rip-off ……Piss off Stromberg! Dean should sue…in good ol’ American style …. that He should win over that Bastard!

  • I understand the views of everyone here, but it’s impossible to copyright or trademark an “idea” – only a particular piece of work. Regarding the designers claiming not to have heard of Dean; I can believe that if Cameron said “I want something like this…” and they elaborated on his idea.

    It is also entirely possible that Cameron himself was unaware that his ideas were heavily influenced by Dean. But it’s also possible that he knows the law regarding copyright, and knows he can get away with using variations of someone else’s idea.

  • Artists UK

    Good comments Paula and given the fact that nothing appears to have happened to our knowledge so far over the Avatar film Cameron does appear to have got away with it. Maybe he also knows the adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity … He may have made many Roger Dean fans all over the world very angry but they all went to see his film and made money for him.

  • Victoria

    I watched Avatar on cable for the first time a couple of days ago. My first thoughts were, ‘how heartwarming, Dean is still doing his beautiful thing’.. Avidly, I watched through the credits, no mean feat, given their huge number! There was nothing, absolutely no recognition of Dean’s astonishingly amazing world which he brought to life in his artworks.

    Dean and his work may inspire a certain amount of ‘intertextual’ mimicry but I felt this was not the case with Cameron’s world, Pandora. The direct comparison was too great, too obvious to be easily explained away by Cameron. What was he thinking? He has plagiarised Dean’s work blatantly and should be held to account. Certainly some kind of acknowledgement and financial compensation should be awarded to Roger Dean. I am Australian and Dean’s work – introduced initially to me in the 70’s via the Yes artworks -made me a lifelong admirer of his style and imagination. Cameron may have brought a world called Pandora to the screen but Dean created that universe many years ago.

  • Artists UK

    Thank you Victoria. I think many Roger Dean fans would agree with your last comment that Cameron may have brought a world called Pandora to the screen but Dean created that universe many years ago. You have the same view as many others here that Cameron crosssed the boundary between influence and plagiarism in the making of this film and should be held to account for the wholesale theft of Roger Dean’s work.

  • jon

    When Ridley Scott wanted an H.R.Gieger alien, he got H.R.Gieger to make him one. That shows a lot of class. Cameron, on the other hand… not so much.

  • Julian Svensson

    James Cameron was probably inspired by a number of Fantasy artists including both Roger Dean and Rodney Mathews. The floating islands in the sky for one as well as some of the amazing illustrations painted by Mathews for many Michael Moorcock books. Personally I think Cameron would have done better to base the film around one of Moorcocks excellent fantasy books, at least the film would have had a decent screen play.
    Lets not also forget that all these guys were probably inspired by one of the grand daddies of fantasy art – John Martin. There is currently an excellent exhibition of his work to mid January at Tate Britain Gallery. Sadly Martin is not as well known as he should be, but the good news is that when I went to the Exhibition the rooms were half empty, yet people are queing for 3 hours every day just to buy tickets to see the Leonardo de Vinci exhibition at the National Gallery. People should be queing up for John Martin as well!

  • Artists UK

    Sure Julian, John Martin was an amazing artist and ‘Plains of Heaven’ one of the most dazzling pieces I’ve ever seen but to quote him as an influence, main or otherwise, for Roger Dean, Rodney Mathews etc might be stretching the limits of credulity a bit. I’ve never heard either of these artist’s mention him as an influence. I would agree that some of Rodney Mathews’ style is there in Avatar in some of the plants but nowhere near as strongly as the number of ripoffs of Roger dean’s work that Roger Dean fans here have been mentioning. Let’s not forget that Rodney Mathews does quote Roger Dean as an influence. Much as I admire John Martin I can’t help feeling you’ve hijacked the thread here to talk about something else other than whether Roger Dean should be suing Cameron.

  • Michael

    A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Dean. Wonderful person.
    I got to see the original oil for “Relayer”(($1,000,000 for anyone interested). :of you look closely in the lower right quad you will see horse with people riding . Those horses have six legs!

  • When I listen to a piece of music I often have my own thoughts and visions related to that music. If I ever see a video based on the song then that vision, if not strong enough, is tainted and I never enjoy it the same way. The same can be said of Roger Dean’s work and Cameron’s world in Avatar. Dean’s work gives the viewer of sense of wonder and mystery that essentially is destroyed when converted to realism. Even though I immediately recognized Dean’s influence in the film, I only watched it once. I’ve looked at Dean’s paintings many times since and have felt the same emotions I felt when I viewed them the first time.

    Thankfully cinematic interpretations of art (and literature) can’t destroy the original work.

    As to the suit, I think there Roger Dean should have been recognized. At the same time, if I ever want to paint a fantastic landscape with arches and floating rocks, could I if a judge has ruled only a certain artist can? Thomas Kincade is known as “The Painter of Light”. Does that mean I can’t paint light effects, essentially destroying my ability as an artist to paint anything?

    Best to all.

  • Artists UK

    Well Mike, that is always the problem … when is it an influence and when is it plagiarism? But it seems that many people here feel that Avatar plagiarised Roger Dean’s work without giving him credit for the original ideas. And as you said, Roger Dean’s ideas are clearly evident in the film.

  • Thanks for your reply and I apologize if my comments came across as supportive of the New York ruling.

    They are not.

    I have been influenced by Roger Dean’s work since the 80s and have thought of creating something similar. I haven’t, simply because I know that it would come across as nothing more than a copy. It’s hard to have original inspiration when so many ideas have already been used. Saying that, what makes Roger Dean’s work great, is that he introduced elements into art in a way that none others had ever done so. Not just once, but in nearly all of his works.

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