Animation Articles: April 26th, 2020

A selection of the best animation articles including news, opinions, and features from around the world for the week beginning the 26th of April, 2020.

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Three Great ‘Art of’ Books

‘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.

In Praise of the BFI Spirited Away book

Via: Good Reads

Admittedly (and ashamedly), the Spirited Away book by Andrew Osmond published by the British Film Institute (BFI) sat in my cart on Amazon for quite literally years before I finally got around to buying it. I know, I know, but that’s just the way it happened.

In any case, the wait was absolutely worth it. Far smaller in size than I had originally imagined, its dimensions are no indication of the stature of the writing. Presented as sort of an overarching summary of the plot intertwined with details of the production and overarching themes, the BFI Spirited Away book serves as a comprehensive guide to one of my very favourite films.

Delving deep into the beginnings of the production, Osmond teases out the reasons for its very existence; why Hayao Miyazaki decided to make it when he did, and why it stands as one of his best films to date. Analysis comes in the form of the various themes (environmental and social) running throughout the film as well as focusing on the character of Chihiro and her development during the course of the film.

Osmond has done a fine job of conveying the sometimes complex traits of the film that have confused many Western (and Japanese) audiences since the film debuted in 2001. He also does quite a good job when it comes to the background to the film, and to Miyazaki himself, going into some detail about his career to date and how is personal experiences helped shape the film.

Overall, the book is a definite must-read companion to the film. It does an excellent job of stripping away some of the layers and, at least for myself, has lead to a clearer understanding of the film. You can buy it on Amazon and consider it the best $15 book you buy this year.

Flixist Looks At Spirited Away But Neglects One Very Important Thing

Matthew Razak over at Flixist has a great in-depth look at Hayao Miyazaki’s seminal 2001 film, Spirited Away. That article is well worth a few minutes of your time as it discusses many aspects present in that film that are sadly lacking in many contemporary American productions.

However, while Razak focuses a lot on the animation, the direction and the over-arching themes of the film, he almost completely neglects to discuss the characters.

Yes, he talks about Chihiro and her transformation from a spoiled little girl into a more mature adolescent and his analysis is quite good in that regard. However, he glosses over the supporting characters that help her in that regard.

Like Haku, the faithful, if resentful, servant of the bath house owner Yubaba who is on a quest for self-redemption and rediscovering his identity, or Lin, the worker at the bath house who teaches Chihiro some of the realities of working life. Not to mention Yubaba herself, show imparts a tough impression of the businesswomen and her strikingly contrasting sister, Zeniba.

If it were not for characters such as these, as well as the multitude of supporting characters, from river gods to no-faces, Spirited Away would be an altogether duller film. Visuals and direction can greatly improve a film, but if the characters themselves aren’t complete, the film will feel stifled and wooden.

That is where Miyazaki excels in his films; the characters are never boring, or repetitive or simple. They are complex, flawed and plentiful; just like real people. Their importance should not be overlooked when analysing a film.

 

 

It’s Now 10 Years Since the World Was First Spirited Away

 Via: Inside Pulse

Today marks ten whole years since Studio Ghibli first shared Spirited Away with the world. Thus far it is the only foreign film to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, which says a lot about it and its success with foreign audiences.

Spirited Away is one of my favourite films for the simple reason that it has a lot going for it. A great coming-of-age story, a quirky yet layered set of characters, fantastic animation that stays true to traditional methods while incorporating digital technology and a superb score by Joe Hisaishi all combine to make it a very enjoyable film yet at the same time remain an emotional tale.

Its hard to believe its now 10 years old but it is. A true testament to the deftness and skill of Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. John Lasseter also deserves an honourable mention for handling the better than usual English dub.

Oliver Good over at The National has a nice write-up on how Spirited Away helped break the mould for Japanese movies.

 

 

One Look At These Posters And You’ll Visit Film On Paper Too

If you’re not even a wee bit jealous of Eddie Shannon, then you’re clearly not into movie posters.

Film on Paper is his website where he is archiving his entire collection (literally thousands) and it is by far the most fascinating that I have come across. Filled with rare and foreign versions, the site includes a couple of animation ones, nice ones in fact. His ones for The Incredibles are unreleased, which makes them even more awesome (check out the one below if you don’t believe me).

Is this not the most badass poster you've seen for this film?

You could spend literally hours on the site and I absolutely recommend that you do. Movie posters are a fascinating artform in and of themselves and its nice to see them get some love from a devoted collector.