'Art Of' books have become quite popular over the last number of years and it seems that they have become an established part of movie merchandise for all movies, not just the animated ones where they began.
The content of art of books tends to vary quite a bit. Some are truly fantastic windows into the creative processes behind a film, while others, such as the one for Laika's film, Coraline, seeme to be slapped together at the last minute in an attempt to placate the movie going public.
The three I've chosen for this list are far from that insofar as they represent the best kind of 'art of' books in their own way. One is for a western film, one is for an eastern film and one is for a TV series. Together they take quite different approaches but all serve the same purpose, that is, to show how filmmakers created the worlds and characters that we all love.
Note: All the images come from the excellent and highly recommended Parka Blogs website where you can find comprehensive reviews of each books in addition to links to Amazon for purchase.
The Art Of The Incredibles
This was the first book of its kind that I came across, and it is not hard to see why it remains one of my favourites. Drawing heavily on the look of the film, The Art Of The Incredibles contains a good mixture of character, layout and background art. There are plenty of sketches and concepts which convey the many iterations of design that some of the characters went through before final design.
However, it is the landscapes and backgrounds that deserve the highest praise. All the main sets and locations are shown in detail, with plenty of information on how the look of the film was heavily inspired by the 1950s and 60s. As a special bonus, a fold-out in the middle contains the entire colour script!
The Art Of The Incredibles is bursting with art from cover to cover and ensures its place in this list with plenty that cannot be seen anywhere else.
The Art of Spirited Away
While this may appear to be a similar book, it does in fact take a very different approach. All the characters, backgrounds and layouts are there to be sure, but this book covers a Miyazaki film! Instead of the lush, flawless art of the book discussed above, The Art of Spirited Away is chock full of sketches, watercolours in addition to finished art.
The book compliments Miyazaki's art style in a way that conveys the individual effort that went into the film; read: thousands of hand-drawn cels. Unlike other books, the emphasis is on the art moreso than the film or how it developed. In deferrance to other books, there is also a comprehensive looks at how the film utilised digital technology to enhance the tradtional processes; a throughly educational and enjoyable read.
Pure art from start to finish, The Art of Spirited Away represents almost the antihesis of The Art of The Incredibles.
The Art of Avatar: The Last Airbender
Lastly, we come to an 'art of' book made for a TV series. Something of a rarity, the book came about only because there was a theatrical, live-action film made of the series. Apparently the art in that didn't warrant its own tome, so we have this one to read instead.
The Art of Avatar: The Last Airbender takes yet another road to artistic gratification. It methodically goes through the main characters in the series before going into each episode in detail before finally ending with the many ancilliary pieces of art that go into things like video games and promo posters.
Naturally as a series, this book can't afford to go into nearly as much detail with each episode as you would for each scene in a film. Nonetheless, it admirably covers scenes, props and characters in each episode over the three seasons and provides as much information as possible about them. As you might expect, everything is still a bit brief, but that is only because the series could easily fill three books or more with the volume of art created for the series.
From cover to cover, The Art of Avatar is a superb companion to a great show that provides a wonderful overview of how the creators came up with a universe quite unlike anything we've seen on TV before or since.
And there you have it, three very different yet equally fulfilling ways to express all the wonderful art that goes into animated productions.