Sunday 17 March 2013

The Art of The Croods Review

The Croods, directed by How to Train Your Dragon's Chris Sanders and Space Chimps' Kirk DeMicco, is DreamWorks' first film under Fox. While it seems critics aren't all too taken with the story of "the world's first family", one area that has been unanimously praised is the film's visuals. As such, and going off the beautiful shots we've seen in the trailers, the Art of book looked to be a must-buy. With just under a week to go until the release of the film, we can say that The Art of The Croods is definitely worth the purchase for animation fans.

Timothy Lamb and Takao Noguchi

Huy Nguyen

The book comes from Titan Books, who frequently publish DreamWorks' Art of books (and will be publishing Blue Sky's The Art of Epic in May), and is written by Noela Hueso. Hueso is a former editor of The Hollywood Reporter, so while this is her first book, it's clearly not her first rodeo. She handles the book's manuscript very well, balancing insightful details from the film's production, with great quotes from the crew and a hell of a lot of great concept art, character sketches, story beats, matte paintings and more.

Arthur Fong
An array of the hybrid animals present in The Croods.
Multiple artists.

Because this book does boast a lot of great quotes from every facet of production, from the VFX supervisor, to the production designer, to the head of animation, all the way up to the producer and directors. It's a little thing that presumably didn't take too long to put together, but it makes a lot of difference - you'd be surprised how few of these books get a truly diverse range of quotes.

Margaret Wuller

The Art of the Croods also boasts a foreword by Nicolas Cage, who voices Croods patriarch Grug. DreamWorks often get their voice talent to pen the forewords for these books, and it's easy to be cynical and write that off as the studio trying to cash in on the big Hollywood names to sell books, but, personally, it just goes to show how much of a personal journey these films are for the actors, as well as the filmmakers and animators. Cage does a fine job in the role, talking up the film and the company.

Leighton Hickman

Paul Duncan

The detail the book goes into is enjoyable too. Maybe it's because I didn't know as much about the production of The Croods going in as I have for other recent animated films, but I felt like I learned a lot more from this book than from, say, The Art of Wreck-It Ralph. Some detail on the film's progress while it was in production with Aardman would've been nice though.

Huy Nguyen (top left), Christian Schellewald,
Christophe Lautrette and Dominique Louis (bottom left),
Arthur Fong (right)

Onto the main event though: the art. The art of The Art of the Croods does not only not disappoint, but it thoroughly exceeds expectations. DreamWorks have a very talented crew assembled, and they each get to show every ounce of that talent here. Particularly, I admired the work of Carter Goodrich (as usual), Christophe Lautrette, Huy Nguyen, Arthur Fong, Paul Duncan, Margaret Wuller and Dominique Louis; there were even some great storyboards by director Chris Sanders. These were the artists whose work particularly stood out to me, but every single artist featured in the book deserves a lot of praise for helping make such a beautiful film.

Simon Wells

Colour Script: Paul Duncan and Arthur Fong

The artwork, much like the film itself, it seems, is very, very colourful, very vibrant, very creative and original, and will have you thoroughly hooked. There are some great storyboards and parts of a colour script (which is always a big plus for me). In terms of character designs, I think DreamWorks deserve a lot of praise for not rounding out or Hollywood-ising their characters too much: they're brutish, they're not pretty, but they're inherently likeable nonetheless. It's hard to say that they've made a historically accurate caveman film, but at least they're treating the audience and the film with some respect and thought.

Christophe Lautrette and Dominique Louis

Paul Duncan

The layout of the book is such that there are sections about the characters, the fictitious animals present in the film, and then the beautiful, huge paintings of the backgrounds and vistas visited in the film. It's well sectioned and easy to follow, but the chronological, sequence-by-sequence, recount is flawed, and very spoilerific, if you're reading the book before seeing the film.

Christophe Lautrette and Tianyi Han

Dominique Louis

One great feature is one that frequently pops up in DreamWorks Art of books, the "Anatomy of a Scene" section. This is the section of these books that somewhat overlaps with a Making of book, which is good, because it shows off the work of the hundreds of talented artists (of all sorts) who worked on the film, without taking too much away from the art focus of the book. Also, love or hate 3D, DreamWorks are clearly passionate about it, and it's great to see them integrate it even into their books, as this section totes some specific focus on the film's stereoscopic considerations, saying it "can help create more powerful emotional character moments". The "Anatomy of a Scene" section, while quite spoilery, is again a highlight for me.

Joe Moshier and Margaret Wuller

When reading about the film's hybrid characters, you may feel bombarded by ever-cheesier pun-names, and the book's conclusion section is completely superfluous, but The Art of The Croods is a very solid, very vivid and very purchase-worthy book. Let's hope the film is as good.


The Art of The Croods, by Noela Hueso, Titan Books. [15th March 2013, £24.99 (UK); $34.95 (US)].

You can order a copy of The Art of The Croods and support A113Animation by going through our Amazon Associates link above (UK link).

Note, all images and artwork used here are property of Titan Books, 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.

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