College for Creative Studies: Transportation Design


Tim Flattery

Concept artist/illustrator

The Batmobile, the Fantasticar, the Mach 5, automobiles that transform into alien robots - it should come as no surprise that the look of Hollywood's most acclaimed vehicles have spawned from the concepts of a designer originally out of Detroit.

Tim Flattery has worked on over 30 films since he broke into the highly competitive entertainment industry during the late '80s. His creativity and reputation as a designer continue to land him assignments with leading motion picture studios, and his representation as a CCS graduate has opened doors for those aspiring to follow down the path he has blazed.

"I'm really proud of the work I did on the Batman movies and Solaris," said Flattery. "It's every kid's dream to design the Batmobile, which has become such an icon. Not only did I get the opportunity to create its look, I supervised construction of the full-scale model used in the movie.

"So far, my favorite project has been Solaris. We did quite a bit of research with NASA on future technology, light and space stations. Our goal was to make the film as realistic as possible and I believe we achieved that."

The designer has recently appeared in dozens of televised interviews and industry publications to talk about the work he did on the Fantasticar featured in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Powered by a proton accelerator, the flying car splits into three separate units and, in theory, travels at 550 mph with a maximum altitude of 30,000 ft. It took Flattery, who has more than 20 years experience as a pilot, approximately ten months to conceptualize and oversee development of the model.

"The director wanted something that was aggressive but still soft and friendly," he said. "Immediately I thought of underwater creatures, particularly manta rays and stingrays. They look fierce but swim so elegantly and are usually friendly... Although I do find inspiration from the work of other artists, I turn to nature about 99 percent of the time because, well, it's the best design...The Dodge influence was the result of the company's sponsorship of our expensive 'toy' (about $1,200,000 to build). The logo and crosshair on the front actually fit in naturally with the curves and other elements of the Fantasticar's original design."

Flattery has also worked on Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Mission Impossible III, Men in Black, Total Recall and Back to the Future II among other Hollywood productions.

"I've also done a lot of really good work that ended up not making it to the big screen, but that's just part of working in this industry," Flattery explained. "I'm currently working on the new Incredible Hulk movie, which stars Edward Norton and is based more on the comic book than the release a few years back. And I've been busy generating images for a Disney film, Unique, to pitch to studios."

As his tools, Flattery relies foremost on his drawing skills. If he is working on two-dimensional art, the designer scans his images and then paints them in Photoshop. He uses Lightwave to create three-dimensional work.

"Computers, software, markers, paint and other materials are all just tools on my desk," Flattery said. "The real force behind my art comes from being able to render images in a way that best conveys my ideas. I learned how to do this as a student at CCS. Instructor Clyde Foles taught me great design sense and infected me with his mindset. The lessons I learned from him were worth every penny I paid in tuition."

During the 80', most students pursuing CCS' industrial design program planned to work in the automotive industry. Flattery had different intentions. He approached another one of his instructors, Homer Legasse, and explained his dreams of breaking into film. His mentor helped him create a portfolio that turned heads at Apogee, the studio that worked on the special effects for Star Wars. He was offered an internship between his junior and senior year.

"I had been looking at all of the books and I knew a portfolio full of transportation design images would be too limited," said Flattery. "Homer helped me develop a diverse body of work, which at the time was a challenge because I was one of the first students at the College who planned to go into this line of work. Today, there's a bunch of CCS alumni out here in California doing really well.

"I reap as much satisfaction doing this type of work now as when I first graduated. There's so much diversity - I never get bored."