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Retrospective: Artist, Filmmaker, Actor -The Hildebrandt from Gladstone – May the 4th Be With You

The Brothers Hildebrandt – The creation of the original Star Wars Poster was just the tip of the iceberg.

NOTE: As with all Mr. Local History retrospectives, we often update the post when we learn stories and are sent photos from our community. We will continue to grow this piece as information becomes available. Originally posted in 2020, we have a 2022 update below.

Greg and Tim Hildebrandt better known to the illustration world as “The Brothers Hildebrandt” began their careers 1959. The Brothers have worked on documentary films and thousands of illustrations for text books, children’s books, calendars, book covers, posters, comic books, advertisements, movie posters, production design for films, collectables and trading card games. They are often referred to as “fantasy artists.”

What people don’t know is that Tim Hildebrandt was a proud Gladstone resident for over 30 years. Let’s take a look at Tim and Greg this iconic artist twin superheros that created more modern artwork that most can even begin to imagine.

Early Years in Detroit

Greg and Tim Hildebrandt were born five minutes apart, in that order, on Feb. 23, 1939, in Detroit, Mich. Greg said the duo first started drawing at the age of 3, having been fascinated by Walt Disney’s Pinocchio.

Tim & Greg growing up in Detroit.

The names Greg and Tim Hildebrandt are well known to fans of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, The Secret of Nimh, The Trans-Siberian Orchestra, comics, pin-ups and fantasy. However long before their involvement with these they were producing art and animation for the iconic Jam Handy Organization. Though only employed at the company for about 6 years, their time at the studio was a fantastic experience and one that had an important impact on their careers.

From 1957 to 1963 were what Greg considers to be the highlight of his and Tim’s career as they learned the filmmaking business from a studio that was “dedicated”, “fantastic”, and an “imaginative space”. Source: Greg Hildebrandt interview.

Through contacts they made at Jam Handy, they received a unique offer from TV personality Bishop Fulton J. Sheen to work on a series of documentaries on world poverty. The bishop was a highly respected, famous Catholic TV and Radio personality, and as Greg and Tim felt this was their calling they took the job in a heartbeat. His production company was located in New York City, thus required them to move there from Detroit. Their 1963 departure was sad to many at the Jam Handy Organization, especially to Frank Goldman, as they saw Greg and Tim hopefully running the animation department in the coming years. Off to the shine of NYC they went.

Infamous Star Wars Call

in 1975, Greg and Tim illustrated the first of a series of Lord of the Rings calendars for Ballantine Books. This series of paintings launched the two men into international fame, with over a million calendars sold, and the name The Brothers Hildebrandt® was born!

Greg and Tim were big Disney fans, particularly of Sleeping Beauty and Eyvind Earle. The “Twins,” as they were referred to seemed to work in a parallel level of awareness like a right and left hand. The Animation Department Head, Bob Kennedy would schedule them on opposite shifts when they had a short deadline on productions since they could duplicate each other’s work. But doing this the work was completed in half the time that one person would take accordingly.

Ray Pointer – Jam Handy Organization

On about May 16, 1977, Greg and Tim received a phone call asking if they could create a movie poster that a director (George Lucas) needed for “some kind of science fiction movie.”  The the original Star Wars movie (Episode IV – A New Hope) was to release in just 9 days on Wednesday, May 25, 1977.

Getting the work done twice as fast. Greg and Tim collaborating.

“The movie was being released in just 9 days. Who is the guy with the black thing on his head?” the brothers inquired.“Oh, it’s a mask or something,” the team that liaised for Lucas replied.

Tim Hildebrandt in a 1987 Bernardsville News interview.
1977- Star Wars.- The duo produced the finished product in 36 hours, taking turns sleeping and painting after drawing the figures on the panel. “I think we spent about four hours working on it together,” said Hildebrandt. They had also produced the poster not having seen the movie.

Greg and Tim Hildebrandt disappeared to their studio for 36 hours and emerged with their creation. It was shown a day later and they loved it.

As they say the rest is history.

I should have talked more about Star Wars — the fuller story of the movie poster is wild, including my dad. mom, and I going to the East Coast premier. When you have the time, here’s the hour long video about it. Click Here

Charles Hildebrandt on the Star Wars Movie Poster

Tim Leaves Jersey City for Gladstone

Just a train away, historic and affordable.

In 1970, seven years BEFORE the infamous Star Wars call, Tim Hildebrandt decided like many others that Jersey City didn’t give him what they wanted to raise a faimly. Like many in the NYC suburbs you want to stay connected to NEw York via train but you want to be far enough away. Gladstone is as far as you can get on tpe Peapack Gladstone branch, so Gladstone it was. They purchased a modest three story Victorian house on Jackson Avenue in Gladstone, New Jersey.

The Gladstone home of the Hildebrandt’s served as inspiration for drawings, paintings and even the movie. The Victorian home was built around 1895. It was recently sold in June 2019 to yet another graphic artist. Funny right?
We found this old photo of the same home c.1900.
IInside the home alongside an entire wall, Tim painted a wall mural that was recently found behind wallpaper by the new homeowner. You can see the ties to dragons and castles similar to those found in Tim’s Lord of the Rings paintings.

“The calendar was Tim Hildebrandt’s idea”, his brother remembered. “I wanted to pursue gallery art at that point, but Tim was pushing and pushing” on the J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy, “and then I read it and said OK.” The calendar project was their studio’s second best known, after their poster for the 1977 movie “Star Wars.”

1978 edition of the Hildebrandt brothers JRR Tolkien Lord of the Rings calendar. The only item to outsell the calendar series was the Star Wars movie poster. The calendar started for them and ran from 1976-1978 with Ballentine Books. The million-selling Lord of the Rings calendars created during the ’70s are now considered artistic masterpieces.

It was a wacky old Victorian with turrets and cupolas. I think it’s still standing. Definitely not a mansion. It was crammed with paintings and knick-knacks back in the day. And yes, they filmed it around the house. Mrs. H. must have been very patient.

John Waldron – Charles’ close friend and college roommate.
“Happy Christmas to All!” by Tim Hildebrandt for the book “A Night Before Christmas” illustrated by Tim and Greg Hildebrandt. Tim and Rita’s house in Gladstone, New Jersey appeared in many of Tim’s paintings. Source: Spiderwebart
Start a new local holiday tradition. These books have illustrations of Tim’s Gladstone home.

During that separation, Tim Hildebrandt illustrated calendars, painted covers for sci-fi fantasy magazines including Amazing Stories, the Time of Transference, The Byworlder, and cards for the Clue game whose characters were based on Gladstone residents he knew.

It was noted that Tim Hildebrandt’s cards for the Clue game “The Great Museum Caper” characters were based on Gladstone residents he knew and photographed. (Colonel Mustard Pictured above). In an interview he stated that his wife Rita would make costumes, hand out to locals where a photo was taken. Then he’d do his thing. Source: Board Games Geek

The “Separation” and Tim’s Movie

Starting in 1981, for 12 years the two brothers separated and when on their own artistic journeys. Tim went on to try out filmmaking and Greg moved into various projects.

Tim continued working on a number of projects after the “the separation”. In 1982, Tim and his wife Rita Hildebrandt took the movie plunge and decided to make the sci-fi horror film The Deadly Spawn filmed in their Gladstone, New Jersey home. It starred their son Charles, who was a student Bernards High over in Bernardsville. Tim, who was 46 at the time, stated after the project, “I’d much rather be making a film than a painting.”

1983 -Tim produced the horror film The Deadly Spawn and appeared in a small role in the movie that starred his son Charles George Hildebrandt. The film cost less than $30,000 with all of the actors working for free on nights and weekends.
The film took place at the Hildebrandt’s home and took over a year to complete. He said that there were corpses and blood everywhere and even on the lawn. In a town where they rollup at 6pm, they would walk by and just shake their heads, said Hildebrandt.

It’s mankind versus the ultimate eating machine! In the 1983 horror film The Deadly Spawn (also known as Return of the Aliens), a three-headed alien creature with some razors harp teeth, arrives on planet Earth for just one reason; to eat. Mixed with a metal soundtrack and similar references to the movie Alien, the fim was a 80’s local cult classic.

The Deadly Spawn Plot:

A meteorite crashes to earth during a torrential thunderstorm, bringing with it a slimy, three-headed alien beast that craves human meat and gives birth to hundreds of eel-like spawn. The monster takes up residence in the basement of a family home, devouring the parents without anyone else’s knowledge. The oldest son Pete (Michael Robert Coleman) is a science major in college, and his younger brother Charles (Charles George Hildebrandt- Tim’s son) is a horror movie fanatic who loves to dress up like his favorite monsters and scare his visiting aunt and uncle. When an electrician arrives to check the fuse box, Charles follows him into the basement in costume for a little fun, but instead discovers the hideous alien and what’s left of his mother’s corpse. Meanwhile, two of Pete’s friends come over for a study session, bringing along the remains of a dead alien spawn that they found on the side of the road. Baffled, they dissect it in an effort to establish its origin, but it seems to defy everything they’ve ever been taught in class. Their intellectual curiosity is abandoned when they find Pete’s uncle being eaten by a swarm of alien spawn, and from there on it’s a fight for survival against the monster.

Source: Rotten Tomatoes
June 18,1981 – Tim and the Deadly Spawn at his home in Gladstone. Source: Bernardsville News
Trailer: The 1983 thriller The Deadly Spawn
Deadly Spawn article – Courier News July 11, 1981

The website Cool Ass Cinema wrote that the film is “not out to win any awards, it’s simply there to entertain and in the most energetically gruesome fashion possible.”

Charles The Teen Actor Grows Up

The Mr. Local History Project caught up with Charles Hildebrant, one of the actors who was a sensation at the time and quite the celebrity at Bernards High School back in 1983.

Charles Hildebrandt, at 14, in the film The Deadly Spawn, shot completely with unpaid actors in his house on Jackson Road in Gladstone back in 1983.

I wish I were mindful of exactly what I was doing back then. Here I am in Times Square at the premier of this movie and it was all sureal to me. Then when I went to the movie theater in Basking Ridge they actually clapped for me. Pretty cool for a high school kid.

Charles Hildebrandt about growing up unaware of how awesome his experience really was.
Mr. Local History sits down with Charles Hildebrant and discussed his life, his father, and the film while growing up in Gladstone, New Jersey.
The Deadly Spawn Lyons Cinema advertisement on April 21-1983 in the Lyons section of Bernards Township. Imagine going up against Tootsie, Sophie’s Choice, Monte Python’s the Meaning of Life, Flashdance, The Outsiders AND Night of the Living Dead all at the same time? The Lyons Cinema was the only theater showing the film in the Somerset Hills.

During the interview, which you can watch on the MLH YouTube Channel, we covered a wide range of topics from low budget sci-fi classics, the advanced special effects, the neighborly indifference to living in the area (oh that’s just Tim doing his thing, we spend almost an hour discussing growing up in the area.

Charles was just like most other kids; he got on the Gladstone train every morning and took it three stops down to the Bernardsville station and then went to school at Bernards High. A 1985 graduate, he decided to attend Rutgers and then finally law school. He’s currently a film and entertainment lawyer living with his family in the DC metro area.

I still stay in touch with my best friend John who I’ve known since I was six. We were roommates in college and while we live in different places, we still joke about our time in the area.

Charles Hildebrant

Before ending I did ask out of all the work his father did, did he have a favorite. Well yes he did.

Charles also laughed when I asked how the $100,000 budget was spent on his family film, he quickly replied with a laugh, “If we had $100,000 to do this film it would have looked like Alien. Sorry to disappoint, but it was more like $30,000. And most of that was production costs for renting equipment.”

1993 Reunion

After twelve years of being apart, the twins decided it was time to get back together. Tim was living in Gladstone and brother Greg was in Hopatcong.

After twelve years, the Brothers Hildebrandt picked a neutral location between their two homes on the Morristown Green to reconcile and rejoin their artistic efforts. They would work together for another 13 years before Tim’s passing.

The dozen-year separation (1981-1993) I had from my brother was a twin thing, mostly driven by the overriding need to find out if we can survive on our own. When we reunited in 1993, meeting on the Green in Morristown. “It was a beautiful spring day. We hugged and bawled like idiots.”

Greg Hildebrandt about his brother Tim

Upon reuniting, they teamed to produce Marvel posters, pre-production art for the Batman films, and 159 Marvel Masterpiece Trading Cards, which they produced in only six months.

In 2004, Tim and his family moved from Gladstone, New Jersey to San Antonio, Texas. Tim passed away two years later on June 11, 2006 from complications of diabetes. He was visiting John Dods in New Jersey when he died in 2006, which why there was a memorial service in New Jersey. He is greatly missed by everyone who knew him, especially his brother.

He’s in my hand, eyes, mind, art, soul. He always has been from birth, and he still is.”

Greg Hildebrandt said of his brother

A memorial service was held at St. Brigid Church in Peapack on Saturday, June 17, 2006. He left behind his wife Rita, son Charles, nieces, Mary, Laura and Elizabeth, and nephew, Gregory. His sister Mary Hildebrandt and her husband, David Boller, were living in Bernardsville at the time.

Greg’s Life After Tim

Since Tim’s death, Greg has been the exclusive artist for a number of artistic endeavors including the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. He creates all the art for their tours and their merchandise. This is very special to Greg as he loves their music and is very close to Paul O’Neill, the creator of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Spiderwebart Gallery, Greg Hildebrandt’s gallery is hailed as an otherworldly artist whose work fostered the dreams and fantasies of millions of fans, young and old.

 “If you don’t know Greg’s work, go spend a couple of minutes drooling over to get an idea of what a master this guy is. He has a storied career, he’s created some of the most visually eye-catching work out there, and he’s a nice guy on top of it all. 

Show Promoter – Baltimore

Star Wars Calls Again – Marvel Too

In 2015, Greg had the opportunity to return to Star Wars after 20 years for Marvel Comics. He painted three new pieces for them for Star Wars comic covers. The Star Wars Compendium is a series of magazines published by Paradise Press, collecting the articles originally printed in their Star Wars Official Poster Monthly and The Empire Strikes Back Official Poster Monthly, but excluding the posters included in those series.

He has since also painted Deadpool, Old Man Logan, Secret Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Captain America comic covers for them, and cannot wait to do more!

Greg Hildebrandt’s artwork (this one for Deadpool) is found all over the internet and can be purchased not only on his website, but on eBay as well. He’s also done The Punisher and a number of Deadpool vs. The Punisher (would love to see that in a Marvel movie.)

The American Beauties

Greg also has produced a number of “Hot Rod Pin Up Girls” that have been enjoyed by car enthusiasts for decades. ‘Emerald Evening’ was the launchpad , and American Beauties was born.

The American Beauties collection has unique subsets. There are good girls, bad girls, show-girls, girls with boats and planes, girls with guns and cars. Each of these paintings has a story to tell.

What I had was my love of art and an overwhelming appreciation of the beauty of women. But I didn’t want anyone looking at my art like I was copying these great artists. I want people to see my vision of pin-up art.

1999 – Greg about his transformation from comics to pin up art.

Harley Quinn & The Dark Side

2016 – Greg has also started a new series of his own titled, “The Dark Side.” In this series he paints his favorite characters at extremely large sizes. The focus of the series has been exploring the darker side of characters, starting first with characters that are known for their darkness as part of their story. The first two paintings in the series are of The Joker and Harley Quinn.

Greg Hildebrandt’s Harley Quinn and the Joker. A more modern take on Harley Quinn and The Joker.

DC has expressed a lot of interest in using Harley Quinn for a cover. The third painting, naturally, is of Batman. Greg couldn’t paint Joker and Harley without painting batman, too!

So where are we in 2022?

  • Greg is 83 and lives and works at his Spiderwebart Gallery: 5 Waterloo Rd, Hopatcong, NJ 07843
  • Tim’s son Charles is now 55 and lives in DC.
  • Tim’s wife Rita is living in San Antonio Texas.
  • We lost Tim in 2006.
  • Gladstone Parks and Recreation will be honoring the film “The Deadly Spawn” in the Summer of 2022

The house where Tim filmed the Deadly Spawn is now owned by Susanne Wash and her family who just moved in last year. For over a year she has spent tremendous time and effort restoring the house that served as a movie set for the Hildebrandts.

Recently Greg was honored by the Air Force at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. They requested a license to put one of Greg’s pinup paintings titled, “Keep em Flying”, on the nose of a transport plane. Greg, of course, said yes. This is a dream come true for him.

‘Keep em Flying,’ is #54 in Greg Hildebrandt’s American Beauties Series. This painting is a combination of homage to the original Rosie the Riveter from WWII and homage to the magnificence of the Mustang plane that helped us win the war. Both of these are works of art. Source:Spiderwebart

Additional Information:

So NOW you can watch this and appreciate the Brothers Hildebrandt story. A local Treasure here in the Somerset Hills
In 1979 Greg began to work with a new agent, Jean Scrocco. She is still his agent to this day. One of the first licenses Jean wrote for Greg was with the Heavy Metal band, Black Sabbath. They wanted to use one of Greg’s dream paintings from the early 70’s for an album cover. Greg said, no. Jean licensed it anyway. The album was Mob Rules. Thank God for agents.

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