Disney/Pixar The Art Of The Good Dinosaur, Chronicle Books, Nov. 10, 2015, Hardcover, 168 pages. Disney/Pixar Funny! Twenty-Five Years Of Laughter From The Pixar Story Room, Chronicle Books, Nov. 24, 2015, Hardcover, 160 pages
If there’s some money left in your purse after the holidays, here are some neat book suggestions that may interest you.
It is now customary to have a Chronicle art book accompany the release of a Pixar film, written by documented authors able to offer a true insight into the making of their movies. The Art of The Good Dinosaur follows that tradition of Pixar’s quality books. Indeed, it proposes another collection of beautiful artwork, be it sketches, storyboards, color scripts, models, sculptures and more. One can’t help but notice the particularly exquisite and expressive lighting studies by Sharon Calahan. Particular attention was given to the backgrounds that are the most represented here.
But here lies one of the paradoxes of the present approach. When watching the movie, the photo-realistic design is particularly stunning. Whereas Disney’s Dinosaur applied computer-generated dinosaurs onto live-action settings, The Good Dinosaur’s characters take place in a true CG environment, particularly detailed and textured, that truly looks realistic. Consequently, it is difficult to retrieve in them the painterly quality of the concept art and the connection between the pre-production work and the final result seems a little harder to find.
That said, I had appreciated the fact that the authors of these books brought a point of view on the process. Now the artwork is just given without any comments or quotes. So, the whole book loses some part of humanity and personality. The production of the book may have been faster and cheaper that way, but for me, it was less interesting. The adorable film certainly deserved something else and despite the undeniable quality of the book, there’s a kind of a disappointment in its reading.
Finally, I regret that this collection focuses only on the final version of the film. People who buy such books are perfectly aware of the creative juggling behind the making of The Good Dinosaur, with Bob Peterson’s initial concept having a notably less photo-realistic approach of the backgrounds. That’s part of the process and there’s no problem with that. It would have been even more interesting to do justice to the original artwork, which was arguably even more imaginative than the content we get here. This should not prevent Pixar collectors from adding this title to their collection, even as I wish the book offered more than it did.
The absence of a definite author is less prejudicial to the other book published recently by Chronicle, Funny! Twenty-Five Years of Laughter from the Pixar Story Room. Indeed, story sketches have to speak from themselves and are indeed inefficient if not understood that way. From Toy Story to The Good Dinosaur, some of the most iconic and hilarious moments were first conceived by the artists featured in this book.
But, whereas in The Art of the Good Dinosaur, it was more about the final version of the film, the present book takes into account the hundreds of gags that don’t make it past the cutting room floor, like Mater from Cars as a ninja or Sadness from Inside Out wearing “mom’s jeans.” The drawings, doodles and storyboards in the book reveal the moment a spark of an idea takes shape and turns into something the world can enjoy. So, this is funny, spiritual, and smart. The delightful illustrations give a hint at Pixar’s own unique creative process and identity. So, no need to add words to them. They speak for themselves easily, and it is rather pleasant to read it one or two pages at a time, just to start a hard work day. It both nourishes our admiration for Pixar’s story department and our pleasure to discover all these gems made at last available to the public. If you are a Pixar fan or simply want a book that blends art and humor, this one is for you!
The Good Dinosaur artwork by Noah Klocek and Armand Baltazar
Funny! artwork by Matthew Luhn, George Cooley and Ted Mathot
Our thanks go to April Whitney at Chronicle Books.