The Art of Up Review

P1500119This is the last in my little series of art book reviews I am uploading before I go on vacation.  I hope you have enjoyed them! You guys all know my favorite movie, not just animated, is Up. It’s a movie that for whatever reason really spoke to me when I first saw it and it continues to do so on each rewatch. To me it is about grief and remembering our loved ones but moving on too.  It embraces a spirit of adventure and travel while still feeling remarkably intimate and close. I just love it. So naturally when I heard there was an art book for Up I had to have it!!

One cool thing in this art book is to learn to the Pixar creators it was their chance to make their version of Peter Pan. I have never thought about that before. Pete Docter says in the preface “odd as it was the image of a floating house captured that feeling of escaping the world…4 years later more than 300 of us are floating along in our studio-sized house, making this movie. And although from time to time I still long to escape from it ll. I’m so happy to have had the chance to work with these amazing people. As Carl discovers, it’s the people you’re with who make the adventure worthwhile.”

P1500120In the introductory essay you learn about how the creators were inspired by the notion of a ‘coming of old age story’ and the desire all of us have to escape. We learn they started with the idea of a floating city and then it evolved to just one man. Pete Docter says “the story has simple beginnings, in thoughts like, ‘We get a kick out of old people. IS there anything fun we can do with an old person’. Pete had evidently drawn an old grumpy man holding a bunch of balloons and that inspired them. Isn’t that interesting?

Then they got the idea of a couple and the life they had together. Then when she is gone Carl feels all this regret “Carl had led a very simple life, he felt he had not fulfilled her hopes and dreams. She died before he could. So he has this guilt throughout the journey, thinking ‘all I want to do is fulfill this wish for Ellie. I missed this”.  I loved reading this because it is the true reason I love Up so much. This journey of self-forgiveness that Carl goes on is so moving.

And then he says “There is a strong moment when Carl’s wife gives him absolution, a reminder that ‘the life that we lived together was a great adventure-and I was not wanting more. You are my greatest adventure’ I love that”.  I love it too! As much as people love the opening montage I think I love that moment with the scrapbook even more.

And this is all before the first chapter of the book! The first chapter is called Seeking Simplicity and it is mostly about the characters and overall art design of the film. The book gives you tons of concept art and sculptures the characters and scenes of the film.

P1500121Then next we get a chapter about the house and the meaning of home to the artists.

P1500132It’s really cool to see all the thought that went into every detail from the weather veins to the stove, picture frames and lamps inside. “Pete wanted the house to feel claustrophobic because Carl doesn’t ever leave it, and his world has become very small. But then for the tepui and Muntz’s lair, the scale had to feel grand”


Next we get a chapter on the The Tepuis in South America and the beautiful Mountain waterfalls that inspired the film.

P1500129I love that we get quotes throughout from the entire team behind the project from art directors, editors and designers and it is all beautiful work.  It is clear they were all inspired by Pete Docter’s vision. This section is long and it also includes more character design from Russell, Kevin and Dug.

P1500125Throughout the book we get lots of storyboards and concept art and it is all a joy to look at!

P1500128The Art of Up is really only for people who love this movie and were inspired by its vision. As that includes me it is wonderful to own. I love seeing the progression of an idea of a floating city and Pete Docter’s desire to escape morph and change into something truly special. The heart and passion that he had for this film clearly trickled down to all involved. The art work is beautiful the text is inspiring.  It’s a perfect companion to a great movie! So if you like Up get this art book. I know you will love it too!

The Art of Tangled Review

P1500069Anyone who reads my blog knows I have a soft spot in my heart for Tangled. It’s actually the film that got me interested in animation again. I was so turned off by the  films like Chicken Little and Shrek the 3rd that I had stopped going to animated films. Many people say the trailers for Tangled are awful. I really couldn’t tell you because I didn’t’ care about animated movies in 2010. Then my little sister (18 years younger) wanted to see it so I decided to see it and was blown away. Particularly the 3D and the lanterns was awe inspiring. I also loved how funny it was and Mother Gothel immediately became a favorite villain. So, naturally I had to get the art book when it came out and it is a really cool one with a very unique approach.

In his Preface John Lasseter reminds the reader that Tangled was Disney’s first computer-animated fairytale adventure. It’s easy to forget that these days. He talks about the challenges they had making the movie and applying the source material to a modern audience.  In fact, that is a theme of this art book. It’s about the new technology and all the old history and Disney tradition that made Tangled work.

P1500071We start out getting the history of the Rapunzel story and the many incantations it took over the years at Disney.  The sketches are so interesting and a side of me wishes we could have seen those films as well!  They eventually had to scrap everything and start again bringing on Byron Howard and Nathan Greno. What’s really cool then is they go through the ‘artistic inspirations- seeking to touch a cultural memory’.  We then see what the filmmakers learned from Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Pinocchio and Disneyland Park.  This even comes down to the ‘signature shapes’ of each movie.

P1500074I also love a section called ‘Graceful Graffiti’ where they talk about the process that went into Rapunzel’s paintings and artwork on her walls.

P1500076We learn more about Rapunzel or the ‘elevated prisoner’  ias they call her in a chapter called The Tower and find out everything down to the hair brushes used to inspire the film. The same is true for all the characters including Mother Gothel.

P1500077Next is The Forest, Snuggly Duckling and the Kingdom.  The amount of detail about each location and character is outstanding and I love the way they keep tying it back to the history of Disney animation. It’s fascinating.

P1500079And of course we get a segment on the lantern sequence; although I would have been interested to learn more about creating their first 3D film.

P1500131If you only buy one art book The Art of Tangled might not be a bad one to pick.  Even if you aren’t that crazy about Tangled you get so much information about the history of Disney- like I said even down to the predominant shapes used in certain classic films.  And it is kind of comforting in a way to see the artists at Disney are taking the legacy of the company so seriously.  This is after all the company that gave us Bambi 2 without batting an eye…

I think this quote from art designer Doug Rogers sums up the attitude of the film and art book “You want to give audiences back something that they had- or something that they heard that other people had…Working for Disney you need to give 110% because the public expects this from Disney.  They’re used to quality from Disney. It’s always in the back of your  mind, that’s what I’m going for, that’s why I’m working here, that’s why I like it, and let’s make sure that we get the best”.  For those of us that love animation how great is that to hear!

So I highly recommend checking out The Art of Tangled and enjoying the best that Disney can offer!

The Art of Book of Life Review

P1500093The Book of Life is a film the more I’ve thought about the more forgiving I have become about its weaknesses. There are certain aspects to the story that could be better but one thing I never had any doubt on was the film’s magnificent artistry. Jorge R Guitierrez’s amazing visual palate and vision is incredible to watch and so I had to pick up the art book as soon as I could lay my hands on it!

I always like art books where you can tell there is a real affection for the film on the part of the creators. Such is the case with the Book of Life. It starts with a forward from producer Guillermo del Toro. He talks about meeting Guitierrez and that his ‘enthusiasm was overwhelming’. These are the kind of people I want making movies!

P1500094Guillermo agrees with me “Jorge is my favorite kind of filmmaker- the guy who permeates every single aspect of his work with his ideas, his vision and his hard work but, like any good leader, allows everyone to feel like a vital contributor to the tale.” He goes on to say “browse through the art in this book and you will find a crew in love with their work, inspired by the world that Jorge has presented to us…”

Next we get an introduction by Guitierrez.  It’s really cool because he talks about he loves art books and he says “And now, I swear by the blood of my ancestors, this film and this book are one! THIS I SWEAR! In fact, it was my intention from the start to have our beloved film look exactly like the art in these pages….We poured our heart and ouls into the art in your hands. And little spicy salsa….Now go enjoy the spicy art in this book.  We made it just for you and all the little mustachioed kids all over the world. We are the Book of Life”.  I love that!

P1500095The first chapter is about characters. We get the evolution of the characters which I always like to see and it’s not just the big characters but every last one of them.  It is also really cool to learn about details like the colors of the wood in the characters designated what spirit world they are in and how old they are.

P1500099Chapter 2 is about the world-building and is entitled “the Making of the Book of Life”. I really like how they lay out the different ingredients that make up each world. The Land of the Remembered contains- skulls, hearts, flower petals floating upwards, plant life and growth, 15% square shapes, 80% circular and 5% triangular.  The Land of the Forgotten contains- stalactites, stalagmites, ash, charcoal trees, giant chains, 5% square shapes, 5% circular, 90% triangular.  Isn’t that interesting? I would never have noticed all the triangles in the Land of the Forgotten!

P1500106Each page in this section is full of storyboards and concept art including a fold out page that becomes 3 pages of storyboards!

P1500101The final chapter focuses on each of the main locations.  We get to see the incredible detail in buildings like the chapel and bull fighting ring. I loved seeing all the matador posters they made.

P1500103And all the detail about the Land of the Remembered is worth the price of the book!

P1500105The final segment is a brief Afterword by art director Paul Sullivan about the collaborative process with Reel FX who I don’t think get enough credit for this film. It certainly is a huge step up from their first film Free Birds.

This Art of Book of Life is a special book because it helps you see the passion that goes into a film. I guess I particularly appreciate it because it was a film I was maybe a little harsh on the first time I saw it. Those problems are still there but I think I always saw the beauty and passion that went into it. It just makes me appreciate it a little bit more. I’m glad I own the book and would recommend it to all of you!

The Art of Zootopia Review

P1500034I think someone that doesn’t like Zootopia may actually like the Art of Zootopia.  It is so great. It gives you such a clear image of the attention to detail that went into the film that it is so fascinating. Details like vending machines and buildings that are briefly seen are incredible in addition to all the major set pieces getting fleshed out. It’s my favorite movie of the year and one of my favorite art books.

It starts with an introduction from John Lasseter where he shares his excitement for the all-animal world “I challenged the filmmakers to imagine Zootopia as a world that is truly and uniquely animal, where there are no people and mammals have evolved to human levels of intelligence.  For inspiration I encouraged them to dive deeply into research on animals and their habitats”. His happiness with the finished product is evident “I believe the cleverness and fun add up to make Zootopia one of the most entertaining films we’ve ever made.  At its heart, it’s pure Disney.  But it’s also unlike anything we’ve ever seen before in animation”

Next you have a foreward from Byron Howard and Rich Moore.  They talk about how they changed their vision from a futuristic tone to more natural in feeling. “But through our research we came to understand that cities are a reflection of their inhabitants’ history and lifestyles, and that Zootopia had to evolve as a human city does. It had to haave layers built up over time to make it feel like a place that truly exists”

P1500037Then we take a world building approach to the rest of the book. We get to see the thought that went into each of the burrows and learn about little details we might have missed. What I loved is seeing details like this page on Koslov’s Palace a place I don’t think even made it in the movie, or if did it’s brief. They even have the borscht served designed!

P1500039You also get layouts on the lead characters and see their evolution.

P1500035And I loved learning more about side characters like all the planning behind the 2 polar bear guards of the shrew.

P1500038There are great design details that didn’t make it into the film like an amusement park of sorts.

P1500043It’s details like these that make The Art of Zootopia a great find and one you should put in your collection. It’s got enough reading to be informative and the artwork to dazzle.

If any of you pick up the Art of Zootopia let me know what you think.

The Art of the Peanuts Movie Review

P1500107I unabashedly loved The Peanuts Movie last year. And it wasn’t just nostalgia for Peanuts, which I do have but I genuinely thought it was a sweet, charming little film. And I’ve always said that the artistry didn’t get enough credit. Just because it was a familiar property I think people missed the hybrid animation trailblazing the film did. So naturally when I saw they had a Peanuts art book I had to jump right on that!

P1500108The Art of the Peanuts Movie starts with a forward from director Steve Martino where he talks about how he related to the entire Peanuts gang growing up. “Growing up in the Midwest, Charlie Brown’s neighborhood felt like my own…the gang were like friends that I visited on a daily baiss through the ‘funny pages'” He then talks about the specials and even a Charlie Brown sign on his coffee table growing up that read “Happiness is a Warm Puppy”.  He is then honest about the huge pressure he felt in adapting this work that is beloved to many including himself. “It felt like I was carrying Schroeder’s piano, only it had grown to a grand piano”

Finally he was able to overcome his fears by a quote from Charles Schulz himself”One of the solutions is, as Charlie Brown does, just to keep on trying. He never gives up. And if anybody should give up, he should”. I’m not going to lie I teared up a bit reading his essay. I love when artists admit their fear of the art.

Next is another forward by Vanessa Morrison president of 20th Century Fox Animation. This is a little more corporate although she does express her love growing up on the series and reading it with her mother.

Then we get 2 articles about the legacy and new direction of Peanuts as well as early concept ideas. With all that done, we get into the main meat of the book where they dive into the process of making CG characters. It’s really cool. You see the mold making process and how the characters are designed.

P1500109They also have this neat graphic showing the comic to 3D transitioning for the entire gang.

P1500110Next we get several pages on each character describing the design and attributes.

P1500111 P1500113Next is a cool article about how you keep characters on model and moving in a natural way. This is something they achieved in spades especially in the skating scenes.

P1500114It’s really cool as well to learn about the animation and how the computer uses pin points to bring them alive.

P1500112We get an entire section on backgrounds and how they created the pop friendly feel of the Peanuts neighborhood.

P1500115The last section is mostly about the story and goes into incredible detail about how every facet was created and designed down to the posters and flags on Charlie Brown’s wall. That is so cool to learn about!

P1500117And we get storyboards and anything else you could want to know about the process of bringing this movie to screen.

P1500118The Art of the Peanuts Movie is a great book because it is so rich. It covers the incredibly difficult task of adapting the strip to a movie, the design process of characters, and the story development and boarding process. You can learn about all sides of animation through this book and it will warm your heart to see such love going into a work of art. I think it might even give some people more respect for what they accomplished than the film is given. At least it does for me but I already loved it.

But definitely if you love the Peanuts and thought The Peanuts Movie was great you should pick up this art book.  It’s fantastic!

The Art Book of Song of the Sea Review

P1500080It’s rare in the world of animated art book that you have one written by the director himself! But that is just what you get with the Song of the Sea Art Book. Anyone who reads this blog knows I consider Song of the Sea to be a modern animated masterpiece so when I saw this for sale I shelled out the big bucks for it. It’s expensive but I had to have it!!

This art book is so rich I could read it for weeks and get new things out of it. It starts out with a brief introduction from art director Adrien Mericeau, head of story Nora Twomey and then director Tomm Moore. What I love is how close the team felt to these characters. Twomey says “Bit by bit, it came together, layer upon layer bound together by story, song and beauty.  Once we remained true to Ben and Saoirse and thought of them as real people, everything else came into place”.  You feel that closeness to the characters when you watch the film.

Tomm Moore shares how he came up with the idea for Song of the Sea when visiting a beach in Dingle with his 10 year old son Ben. “While there we came across a sea cull and I started thinking about the connection between our attitude to wildlife and our environment and the stories that once reminded us our place in the natural world”. This idea kept “percolating away in my sketchbooks and in the back of my mind”.  Isn’t it great that this kind of animation is still possible? That someone can get an idea and make a movie in this day of franchises, marketing gimmicks and big budgets it’s really refreshing.

We then next get a forward by Charles Solomon.  This is more like an interview with Tomm Moore sharing his approach to filmmaknig and creating Song of the Sea. It’s really cool that they have a quote from Pixar’s Pete Docter who says “Many films are noisy and manic, full of pop culture jokes; frenetically paced with wacky, manic characters that never hold still. In contrast, Song of the Sea has a quiet beauty.  It is graphically gorgeous, yet simple. Best of all, the characters are well-observed and truthful. It’s a joy to watch for so many reasons.” Amen to that!

P1500081Next Moore gives tons of information about the mythological and folkloric references. It even explains the meaning behind things I just accepted as his own invention like the spirtuality of the family dog Cu. “As it is the children’s dog Cu’s moment of glory the wind takes the form of 2 Cu Sidhe, fairy dog hounds, from Scottish and Irish folklore.” I don’t know about you but I find that fascinating.

P1500091Then Moore has a QandA he did that has incredible details. This is followed by our first chapter of the book which is all about the locations they used and how they sketched what they saw. This includes both sea and cityscapes and we get beautiful color photos along with descriptions.

P1500086Next up we have a large section on the characters.  This includes the concept art and inspiration for their stories. We  get our main characters of course but also smaller characters like the trick-or-treaters and the owls.

P1500087What’s really neat about these sketches is the finished product is so similar to them so you really feel like you are seeing into the mind of the artists!

Then we move on to development and production.  This details the storyboarding and layouts and what had to be cut that Tomm Moore loved.

P1500085P1500089The artwork in this segment is just amazing. I wish I could frame every page and put it on my wall!

P1500092The final segment is quotes and acknowledgements and has memories and thoughts from producers, cast and crew and then ‘quotes from friends’. They have Don Hall director of Big Hero 6 who says “steeped in his country’s mythology, as well as classic animation from all over the world Tomm Moore is telling that incredibly difficult and all too rare, type of story: the personal film that is accessible to all. And he does it with style, but never at the expense of substance. In fact, the style…actually enhances the substance”. I couldn’t agree more.

The Art Book of Song of the Sea is pricey. I think it cost me $60 because I had to buy it from England but to me it is worth it. I love my book and it has made the movie even better, if that was even possible. If you can afford it I highly recommend picking it up!

The Art of Finding Dory Review

While I am happy vacationing in Spain the first 2 weeks of July I thought it would be fun to post a couple of reviews of animation art books I own. If you don’t have an art book it’s pretty self explanatory. It’s a book that explains and shows the art behind a particular film. These are not limited to animation (Marvel, DC and Star Wars for example have them) but all that I own are. I might not be quite as quick to respond to comments as I usually am on these art book posts because I will be gone. Have patience with me and I hope you enjoy them!

The first book we are going to look at is from the most recent animated release, Finding Dory.  It is the Art of Finding Dory.

P1500021It’s kind of interesting because this art book has a preface, introduction and forward. The preface is by John Lasseter and he talks about the first time Andrew Stanton pitched Finding Nemo (“You had me at the word fish”) and then Finding Dory (“Nemo had as its canvas the entire ocean, but Dory expands that world even more…where even the plainest quarantine tank is lit by intricate caustics of light playing along its walls and floors). That emphasis on light and how it was used by the artists is a big theme of this art book.

The forward by director Andrew Stanton is quite moving. It shows the emotional connection he had to Dory from get-go. He says “Dory was  lost. Most people overlook that fact…You see, Dory was looking for her family, too, only she had forgotten that fact. Dory had been lost for years, no knowing where or when that tragic separation occurred. I’ve always wanted to believe every audience member sensed that longing in her- that a fish with short-term memory loss, wandering the ocean alone, couldn’t truly be happy”. I know feel thoroughly guilty for never thinking that much about Dory- the poor fish! I’m so glad Andrew Stanton told her story because clearly he was very moved by it and it shows in the finished film.

Finally, the introduction by author Steve Pilcher, pencil and marker man on Finding Dory, shares his perspective on the design of Finding Dory. “The way shapes, color and light worked together to support the intent and focus of a shot became a carefully coordinated balance from sequence to sequence, shot to shot”.

You can tell The Art of Finding Dory is written by a technician like Pilcher because it is very technical but I found that fascinating.

The first part of the book is all about the production design. They focused a lot on lighting and how the ocean illuminates things differently than on the land/tank sequences.

P1500022I really liked pages that showed the sketching process to making Finding Dory.

P1500027They then have tons of information on character design for both small and larger characters.

P1500025Next we get tons of storyboards showing the evolution of the film’s story. I love looking at storyboards. It reminds me there are men and women actually drawing this stuff!

P1500028Finally we get to see the layout of the Marine Life Institute and all the small details from the flags, maps and signs.

P1500032They designed everything for the park- even stuff you don’t really see like the Kidzone bag you see above. That’s so cool!

P1500029If you liked Finding Dory then I think you will definitely like the Art of Finding Dory. It’s beautiful to look at but very enriching as well. I learned a lot about computer animation and the Pixar brainstorming process.

Let me know if you get to check it out what you think. Thanks!