M. C. Escher in popular culture

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There are numerous references to famous Dutch painter M.C. Escher, in popular culture.

Pop culture references to Relativity

  • The idea of the movie Fish & Cat ,directed by Shahram Mokri, came from Escher's paintings.[1]The director gives a change in the perspective of time in one single shot.
  • In the climactic scene of Labyrinth, Jareth the Goblin King takes Sarah to a stairwell that closely resembles Relativity, and walk as if defying gravity. A copy of the picture can be seen hanging on her bedroom wall earlier in the film. The Escher estate was given acknowledgment in the credits for the film.[2]
  • In Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. the film's climax in the cradle also has several different gravity sources, which along with the lighting effects create a disorientating experience for the viewer.
  • In A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, the heroine, Alice (Lisa Wilcox) faces Freddy in a series of steps similar to Relativity.
  • The design of the Mines of Moria in the film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was largely inspired by Escher's work, "Relativity" in particular. A scrapped sequence in The Two Towers involving an "Endless Stair" made specific reference to "Relativity" in its concept art.
  • In a dream sequence within Inception, the architecture student Ariadne makes the streets of Paris bend and fold over themselves, forming a cube-like structure. In director Christopher Nolan's shooting script for the film, the structure is described as having six perpendicular planes, with gravity functioning independently on each plane.
  • The CGI film Mind's Eye contains one animation called "Prime Corporate Video", containing a colored 3D version of Relativity, showing the stick figure robots walking about and changing fields of gravity on their own.
  • In a scene of Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, Sir Lancelot, Teddy, and Larry Daley enter the painting Relativity, and experience the same strange gravity featured in the painting.
  • In the Futurama episode "I, Roommate", Fry and Bender go apartment-hunting and visit a room that resembles Relativity. Fry claims that he does not want to pay for a dimension he isn't going to use; Bender then trips down one of the stairs and continues to fall.
  • In the Drawn Together episode "Clara's Dirty Little Secret", Clara thinks she is pregnant, and Toot suggests that she fall down some stairs. Clara thinks of a suitable room and leads them to the "M. C. Escher room", where Toot pushes Clara down (and up, around, and back down) a flight of stairs.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Brian Goes Back to College", Stewie and Brian share a room where Stewie puts up a framed print of Relativity, which he calls "Crazy Stairs." He then breaks it while playing Ultimate Frisbee and asks "Oh no, did that hit crazy stairs?". In a later episode, "No Meals on Wheels", Peter complains that the fact that his new restaurant is attracting paraplegics "is weirder than that rap video by M.C. Escher." Escher is then depicted inside Relativity dressed like MC Hammer in "U Can't Touch This".[citation needed] and rapping, "Going up the stairs and going down the stairs and going up the stairs and going down the stairs and going up the sideways stairs."
  • In the Keroro Gunso episode "Keroro, Huge Transformation! A Massive Remodeling, near the end of the episode, it reveals that Keroro has remodeled part of the household to parody "Relativity".
  • In Xiaolin Showdown, a Xiaolin Showdown with Grandmaster Dashi vs. Omi the village morphs to something like the lithograph.
  • An episode of Sonic the Hedgehog, "Blast from the Past", contains a scene where Sonic and Sally walk around a room full of stairs going at odd angles, reminiscent of "Relativity".
  • The floors of Wayside School in the Canadian cartoon Wayside are depicted and based on this artwork, such as with sideways doors on walls and ceilings and stairs that can lead to another place or nowhere.
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode Gaming the System, a video game level had staircases much like the ones in M.C. Escher's work, Relativity. In the episode The Doof Side of the Moon, as Phineas and Ferb were taking Irving's brother through a skyscraper they had just made, Phineas calls a room with the same staircases found in the print Relativity the M.C. Escher room. In another episode, "Where's Perry? Part II", Dr. Doofenshmirtz comments on how Major Monogram's sunglasses go on the same side of his nose (his eyes are depicted on the same side of his nose), asking if M.C. Escher actually made these. Monogram replies that M.C. Escher was a close family friend of his.
  • In the intro of the animated series of The Addams Family, a version of "Relativity" occurs within the Addams Family mansion.
  • In the season five episode of 30 Rock "Christmas Attack Zone", Jack misdirects Liz in his large Manhattan penthouse saying he "sent her to the East Wing, it's very confusing; it was designed by M.C. Escher." to which Liz is heard off-camera saying, "Boy, this staircase is weird." a reference to "Relativity".
Books and comics
  • Matt Groening parodied Relativity in the comic strip Life in Hell, where the cartoon rabbits fall down stairs at impossible angles. The joke was later reused as a couch gag on The Simpsons, and parodied in The Simpsons Movie.
  • The it:X-Mickey comic Il giorno dei dimentiratti featured a chase in the center of the Relativity castle.[3]
  • W.I.T.C.H. issue #74 features a fight in a house rearranged exactly as Relativity.[4]
  • The Marvel comic book Avengers Forever #7 (June 1999) and the 2002 DC Comics book JLA/JSA: Virtue and Vice both feature a number of the story's superheroes finding themselves in a realm with multiple gravity sources assigned to different surfaces, much as in Relativity. In the former, the heroes almost immediately fall through space the moment they find themselves there. In the latter, they do not. Interestingly,[according to whom?] while the books were not written by the same author, both were illustrated by Carlos Pacheco.
  • In the Fighting Fantasy role-playing series book 45 Spectral Stalkers, Relativity is shown in a picture as the room of the mysterious Loremaster, whom the player may encounter.
  • In Larry Niven's novel Protector, protagonist Brennan builds a working model of Relativity using gravitational engineering in his private world, Kobold.[5]
  • In the manga Berserk, the realm occupied by the God's Hand demons resembles Relativity. The antagonists are able to bring themselves into that world, dubbed "Hell", through the use of the artifacts called Behelit.
Video games
  • In the city building game Afterlife, Hell's ultimate punishment for Envy is called the Escher pit and is designed to torture souls by having them all be given different punishments, and after a few days are allowed to switch with a neighbor, thinking he/she is better off, only to find that all punishments are worse than the last. The outside slightly resembles Relativity.
  • In Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening, one room is partially based on this.[clarification needed] The gravitational problems are compensated for by gravity switching to whichever staircase the player is about to climb.
  • In The Matrix: Path of Neo, one section of the Merovingian's Rooms is based principally on this lithograph.
  • In Chrono Cross for the PlayStation, the second and third rooms of the Temporal Distortion area are based on Relativity. The first room is based on Van Gogh's works.
  • Sierra Entertainment's early PC adventure game Quest for Glory featured a puzzle room with multiple false exits and trap doors. The game's narrative jokingly wonders if the room was designed by M.C. Escher.
  • In AdventureQuest Worlds, the first lord of chaos is Escherion, who has the ability to invert objects and lives in a castle with an inside similar to "Relativity".
  • In the video game Haunting Ground for PlayStation 2, there is a room modelled after the lithograph, complete with its inhabitants.
  • In the game Gauntlet: Dark Legacy, the final level of the Dream Realm, known as the Maze of Illusion, is somewhat based around Relativity.
  • In a Digimon episode, the heroes find themselves in a room where gravity is upside-down.[6][clarification needed]
  • The PS3/PSP game Echochrome was inspired by M.C. Escher, namely Relativity influenced.[according to whom?]
  • In Pokémon Platinum, a place called the Distortion World is featured, with different angles present and an isometric view based on a few of these art pieces, Relativity in particular.
  • In Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, there is an Escher-esque[according to whom?] level featuring upside down staircases leading to dead ends.
  • In the anime Cardcaptor Sakura, The Maze card creates a maze similar to Relativity.
  • In the anime Yu-Gi-Oh!, the Millennium Puzzle, an Egyptian artifact owned by the protagonist, is said to contain the spirit of an ancient Pharaoh. The insides of the puzzle look remarkably like Relativity, which represents the Pharaoh's inability to remember his past. When various characters enter the puzzle during the course of the series, there are multiple gravitational pulls and strange dimensions (such as the instance when a main character, Joey, looks through a door, only to see himself inside looking through the same door some distance below).
  • Other variations of Relativity appear in the Captain Future anime series ("The Comet Kings" part 3) and the Jackie Chan Adventures ("The Lotus Temple").
  • In the manga series Aqua, one of the chapter covers features an M.C. Escher-like[according to whom?] world.
  • In Persona 3, the distorted features of the tower Tartarus was inspired by Relativity.[citation needed] However the in-game gravity is linear and is not affected by the tower's design.
  • In the music video for the song Otherside by Red Hot Chili Peppers, the hero enters a room resembling the one in Relativity.
  • Rappers Kid 'n Play used Relativity as inspiration for the cover art of their second album Funhouse.
  • Christian rock band Prodigal mimicked Relativity for the cover art of its 1982 self-titled debut album. However, the inhabitants and much of the imagery is inspired by the song titles on the album.
  • The chorus of the Teenage Fanclub song "Escher" from the album Thirteen contains the lines "and I don't know if I'm going up or down", an apparent reference to the theme of this picture.
  • A man (Andrew Lipson) created a Lego version of Relativity.[7]
  • In the Walt Disney World version of Haunted Mansion, there is a room that reflects Relativity. It seems to go on forever, and has glowing, ghostly footprints ascending and descending the 'haunted' stairs.
  • In the Sprint commercial "Manning's Mind", Peyton Manning views multiple copies of himself running the stairs of a real-life version of Relativity.
  • The geometry textbook Discovering Geometry features one of Escher's lithographs on the first page of every chapter, and uses several lithographs in the chapter on tessellations.

Pop culture references to other works

  • Mott The Hoople's eponymous 1969 debut album features Escher's work Reptiles on its front cover.
  • In the film "Contact" the transport pod clearly resembles Escher's work Cube with Magic Ribbons, and there appear to be images from Reptiles on the inside of the rings that surround the machine.
  • The Doctor Who episode "Castrovalva" takes its name from Escher's early lithograph of the same name, though Escher's view of Castrovalva has none of the paradoxical elements of his later works to which the setting of the episode could more readily be compared.[8]
  • Eric Shanower's illustrations of the Absurd City in Paradox in Oz are clearly based on Escher's illustrations.[citation needed]
  • Sheila Chandra included a piece called "Escher's Triangle" on her CD Roots and Wings - the title refers to Escher's use of the Penrose triangle in pictures like Waterfall.
  • The bonus stages of the first Sonic the Hedgehog game, for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, feature an animated background of birds turning into fish, a reference to Sky and Water.[citation needed]
  • The early nineties rock music group Chagall Guevara wrote a song called "Escher's World" which made many references to the impossible structures that can be found in Escher's work.[9]
  • Escher is also the subject of a song by the rock group The Breakfast. The song is called "Escher's Etchings" and is included on their 2003 live album Bona Fide. The lyrics can be read here [10][citation needed]
  • The music video for "Drive" by Incubus is based on Drawing Hands, beginning with an animated hand drawing a piece of paper and second hand to form the actual Escher drawing. It also shows the hand drawing lead singer Brandon Boyd to attach itself to. All drawings in the video were done by the band members themselves.[citation needed]
  • A comic crossover between Mike Allred's Madman and Bernie Mireault's The Jam, features Escher as a central character when the two characters enter into an alternate universe created by a somewhat godlike Escher, based on many of his works.[11]
  • "Escher" is the title of a song by the British band Teenage Fanclub. The song is about a man who doesn't know if he is up or down.[12]
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's 2006 song, "White & Nerdy" contains the lyrics "M.C. Escher—that's my favorite MC."
  • In 2006 Audi released a commercial with many Escher-inspired scenes.[13]
  • In the film Donnie Darko, the poster on Donnie's bedroom wall is M.C. Escher's "Eye".
  • In the film The Quiet Earth, Escher's Another World is seen on the wall of Zac Hobson's home during the surrealistic 'Effect Tremor' sequence. Given the subject matter of the film, the presence of the artwork is akin to a sly in-joke.
  • In the Psygnosis game "Lemmings", the 18th level of "Taxing" is named "Tribute to M.C. Escher", as the solution involves building a zigzag stairway slightly reminiscent of "Relativity".
  • The Flight of the Conchords song "Inner City Pressure" contains the lyrics, "You've lost perspective like a picture by Escher".
  • On the Joy Electric album, My Grandfather, the Cubist, there is a song titled "Draw For Me, M.C. Escher".
  • On the SyFy show Warehouse 13, Escher is said by the character Leena to be one of the architects, along with Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, who designed the Warehouse. There is also the Escher Vault, the design of which is similar to the lithograph Relativity. Inside this vault, the stairwells and walls are constantly moving. Anyone not wearing specially designed glasses run the risk of being lost forever once inside. H.G. Wells is the only known individual to have successfully navigated the Escher Vault without glasses, instead using her Inperceptor Vest to retrieve personal items stored within.
  • In the video game God of War III, the puzzle "Hera's Garden" is based on Escher's Waterfall.
  • In the 2010 science fiction film Inception, where Arthur gives Ariadne a tour of the dream world in which an Escher design can be seen faintly in the background.
  • In the 2010 Action/Adventure video game Dante's Inferno, the final part of the third circle, Gluttony, is depicted as a structure similar to the one featured in Another World, which the player must traverse in order to proceed to the next circle.
  • In addition to its "Paris folding" sequence, mentioned above, the film Inception also depicts two versions of the Penrose stairs, used by Escher in Ascending and Descending. In both occasions, the stairs are referred to as a paradox.
  • The title card for The Fairly OddParents episode "Deja Vu" depicted two hands in the same position as those in the print Drawing Hands.
  • Mad TV featured the character of M.C. Escher, a "hardcore" rapper whose music was heavily censored on MTV.
  • In the 30 Rock episode "Christmas Attack Zone", Jack Donaghy sends Liz Lemon into a wing of his apartment designed by Escher to temporarily confound her.
  • Progressive/fusion German band Kraan entitled the second track from their first LP "M.C. Escher"
  • German jam band United Jazz + Rock Ensemble entitled one of their tracks "Steps of M.C. Escher"
  • In the computer game "Diablo 2" the Arcane Sanctuary, an area in the 2nd act, is designed to resemble Escher's drawings.
  • In the computer game Call of Duty Black Ops 2, a Zombies multiplayer map called 'Die Rise' is designed after his work.
  • The computer game The Bridge is themed primarily around Escher's works.
  • The computer puzzle game Monument Valley is a fully interactive interpretation of Escher's works, with as its goal to make architecture the protagonist. In order to win at this game, one must think like Escher from multiple perspectives. [14]
  • Actor Kevin Spacey's U.S. President Francis J. "Frank" Underwood refers to Escher in a scene in the Oval Office in season 3, episode 5 (Chapter 31) of Netflix's "House of Cards".

See also


  1. "Meet Shahram Mokri, director of Iran's first slasher film". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2015-10-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Full cast and crew for Labyrinth (1986)
  3. X-Mickey #4 - Il giorno dei dimentiratti PDF (49.2 MB)
  4. W.I.T.C.H. issue 74 - part 2, scanned by MAX9075
  5. Protector, p. 156.
  6. The Gateway to Home (1) (Digimon Season 1) pt.2
  7. Lego Version of M.C. Escher's Relativity
  8. Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide
  9. Escher's World - Chagall Guevara at Sockheaven.net
  10. thebreakfast.info
  11. Madman/Jam #1-2 (of 2)
  12. Teenage Fanclub Lyrics
  13. M C Escher Audi Drive Illusion
  14. http://blog.monumentvalleygame.com/blog/2013/11/28/inspiration