DreamWorks are definitely in their golden age right now. The studio once derided as a cheap Pixar-wannabe has output hit after hit in recent years, with two of their latest films (How to Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda 2) holding their own against Pixar's offerings each year; with the latter actually besting the Toy Story studio! With their latest film though, Rise of the Guardians, - based on the Guardians of Childhood book series by William Joyce (The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore) - DreamWorks look set to reach new heights in terms of sophistication, scale and visual splendour. So, I've been greatly anticipating the film, and - because of the previously mentioned visual splendour - the accompanying 'Art of' book!
Titan Books (Insight Editions in the US) bring us DreamWorks' latest 'Art of' book, and they were kind enough to send me not just one, but two copies, of it - and if you enter our competition, you have the chance to win a copy in time for Christmas! And I'd really suggest you do enter, because The Art of Rise of the Guardians is the best 'Art of' book of the year thus far!
I said that The Art of Madagascar 3 and The Art and Making of Hotel Transylvania were very bright and vibrant, but this is in another league. Less vibrant perhaps - and more epic - but definitely bright; The Art of Rise of the Guardians is chocked full of bright, varied and lively artwork from the many locales of the film. From the North Pole and North's (Santa's) workshop, to Bunny's (the Easter Bunny's) Australian warren, and more, the book (and the film) boasts many distinct visual styles that mesh together into one fantastically beautiful concoction.
Because the artwork on display here is truly stunning; the artists at DreamWorks have really proved that they're some of the best on the planet, and their work is a pleasure to behold. Striking, vibrant colours paint a beautiful picture of what the film looks like, and lead to some of the best production artwork I've seen. I particularly found myself marvelling at the work of Max Boas, Felix Yoon, Jayee Borcar, Arthur Fong and Woonyoung Jung - who each produced fantastically detailed and stunning pieces from some of the worlds of Rise of the Guardians. I also really liked the abstract artwork of Perry Maple - reminiscent of Lou Romano's colour script for The Incredibles.
I particularly liked the Sandy and Bunny sections of the book. Sandy (the Sandman) is just such an interesting and creatively designed character, and Bunny likewise. The factoids about Bunny's character-history really interested me - apparently he was once a stuffy scientist type, but when voice-actor Hugh Jackman came on board, the creative team had an epiphany, and reinvented Bunny as a bad-ass, ranger. It demonstrates that, contrary to Chris Rock's controversially hilarious comments at the Oscars this year, the role of a voice actor is very important to an animated film. It helped also that the artwork for Bunny and Sandy was some of the best in the book.
I've really liked DreamWorks's "life of a sequence" sections in their 'Art of' books, and The Art of Rise of the Guardians has a huge one. An entire fold-out spread dedicated to it, showing visuals from several stages of development of one of the film's most difficult scenes, with key quotes from DreamWorks team-members and more. It's a nice little addition to a brilliant book.
The actual text of the book is great too. One of the main problems I have with some 'Art of' books is overzealous authors, who approach the project like a traditional book, meaning the focus is off the art, and on the manuscript. Here, the author, Ramin Zahed, (Editor-in-Chief, Animation Magazine; author, The Art of Puss in Boots) is spot-on with his approach. Zahed's text is succinct, ensuring that all of the focus is on the art, but manages to accompany it well, chronicling some of the history of the project along the way.
The book also boasts a good foreword by Alec Baldwin (voice of North), bigging up the film and the team at DreamWorks; also showing that he has a great respect for, and knowledge of, animation. This is eclipsed, however, by a very personal and empowered preface by William Joyce, the story's creator. It hammers home one of the main foundations of the film: faith.
On the minus side, there's no colour script, but, because of the great, varied colour scheme throughout the book, it's not as sorely lacking as it is in some other recent 'Art of' books. Another small niggle was that it could have used a couple more storyboards, but this wasn't enough to subtract from the best 'Art of' book of the year.
Be sure to enter our competition for a chance to win a copy of the book, but, either way, The Art of Rise of the Guardians is a must-own for animation fans, and Rise of the Guardians looks set to be one of the year's best animated films.
--The Art of Rise of the Guardians, by Ramin Zahed, Titan Books (UK); Insight Editions (US). [16th October 2012, £24.99 (UK); 22nd October 2012, $40.00 (US)].
Note, all images and artwork used here are property of Titan Books, Insight Editions, DreamWorks Animation and any other respective owners, and are used here for illustrative purposes only and in accordance with the fair use policy of copyright law.