not the first to release behind-the-scenes books, Pixar
has always made sure that such were of high quality. Previous
efforts have come through Disney's publishing arm, Hyperion
Books. For this year's release of The Incredibles,
Pixar turned to Chronicle Books, a San
Francisco-based imprint that has long offered a surprising
number of things that cater to the Fanboy mentality. The
change allows for something that feels somehow more intimate
than earlier books. Chronicle Books have put together two
must-haves for animation fans this year. In addition to
The Art of the Incredibles, they also have a tie-in
with Warner Brothers, The Art of the Polar Express.
The Pixar book does a great job of showing us the development
of the project. Rife with pre-production sketches, author
Mark Cotta Vaz chronicles the influences on the characters
through interviews with the artists. Seeing the evolution
of sets and characters is neat, but the text and illustrations
don't always actually match up.
For instance, a comment gets made that Syndrome, the villain
voiced by Jason Lee, bears a strong resemblance to writer/director
Brad Bird. Nowhere in the book do we have a photo of Bird
to prove it, however. In some ways, this volume aims for
the obsessive fan that already knows everything, but just
wants to be able to look back over it.
Indeed, even a lot of "final product" is missing. The
book has production sketches, but few stills from the film.
While there are photos of maquettes that are pretty much
the characters as they appear onscreen, we still don't see
that final step. A lot of children will be looking through
this book, and might want to have the dots connected. Especially
when the text painstakingly describes why characters worked
in certain environments, it would be nice to see the two
merged. Instead, that's all left for the DVD (which, by
the way, Pixar always does a great job in producing).
The text ties it all together well enough. If it's just
the production art that interests you, however, Chronicle
Books also offers a beautiful post card set that has a few
extra pieces as well. The notebooks they offer also sport
imagery that hearkens back to classic 1950's advertising,
almost as if this were an attraction at Disneyland 1956.
Which, no doubt, was part of Pixar's intention.
As books go, The Art of the Polar Express is actually
stronger. Similar in layout, and also co-written by Vaz,
this book offers more in taking us all the way through the
innovative process of the film. Photos of the actors are
juxtaposed with photos of the characters in the film, often
in the same pose.
Perhaps Robert Zemeckis' effort was the more innovative
film in terms of effects, giving Chronicle Books a clearer
mandate. Despite its title, The Art of the Polar Express
is as much about the technology, and it is fascinating.
Both are beautiful books, and worth having on the shelf.
If you know a family that loved either one of these films,
the accompanying book would make a great gift.