George Jenson, Illustrator on 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' and 'Return of the Jedi,' Dies at 87

Courtesy of Art Directors Guild
George Jenson

An Oscar-nominated visual effects artist, he also worked on 'Terminator 2,' 'The Rocketeer,' '2010' and 'Lost in Space.'

George Jenson, an Oscar-nominated visual effects artist, illustrator and art director who worked on such films as Close Encounters of the Third KindReturn of the Jedi and Everybody's All-American, has died. He was 87.

Jenson died May 25 in Henderson, Nevada, of complications from melanoma, publicist Rick Markovitz announced.

A native of Canada who specialized in science fiction, Jenson received his Oscar nomination for his visual effects efforts on the 1984 film 2010, Peter Hyams' sequel to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Jenson was hired by Steven Spielberg and served as the director's production illustrator on Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and 1941 (1979), then worked on such films as 9 to 5 (1980), Looker (1981), Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi (1983), Christine (1983), Romancing the Stone (1984) and Red Dawn (1984). 

He was a production illustrator or visual effects art director on Dune (1984), Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986), Big Trouble in Little China (1986), The Boy Who Could Fly (1986), Masters of the Universe (1987), Leonard Part 6 (1987) and Vibes (1988).

Jenson was art director on Everybody's All-American (1988) and the production designer on Solar Crisis (1990).

He then served as a production illustrator, storyboard artist or illustrator on The Rocketeer (1991), Terminator 2 (1991), Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992), Drop Zone (1994), Three Wishes (1995), Thinner (1996), Shadow Conspiracy (1997), In Dreams (1999), The Perfect Storm (2000), Doctor Dolittle 2 (2001), Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) and Phantom of the Opera (2004).

Born on June 24, 1930, in Calgary, Alberta, Jenson and his family moved to Los Angeles when he was 6. After serving in Germany for the U.S. Army during the Korean War, he attended the Art Students League in New York City on the GI Bill.

Jenson began his career in show business in 1964 as a production illustrator and storyboard artist at 20th Century Fox, working for producer Irwin Allen on the sci-fi series Lost in SpaceVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Time Tunnel and Land of the Giants.

He segued to Filmation Associates as a layout artist and illustrator from 1972-75 on such series as Star Trek: The Animated SeriesMission: Magic!Lassie's Rescue Rangers and My Favorite Martians.

Jenson then turned his focus to live-action features as a production illustrator on Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) and Logan's Run (1976). 

His older brother, Roy Jenson, a stuntman (he doubled often for Robert Mitchum) and character actor in such films as Chinatown and Soylent Green, died in April 2007.

Survivors include his wife, Susie, and children Karen, Eric and Brian Jenson.