The Art of DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion

Dream team Ants, ogres and drag­ons: how DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion took on Pixar to be­come one of Hol­ly­wood’s big­gest cre­ators of fam­ily-friendly en­ter­tain­ment

ImagineFX - - Reviews -

Founded by Steven Spiel­berg, Jef­frey Katzen­berg and David Gef­fen in 1994, DreamWorks has be­come one of the big­gest in­de­pen­dent film stu­dios in the world. It sub­se­quently cre­ated an an­i­ma­tion arm – DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion – in 1997, with the re­lease of its first film, Antz. This huge com­pen­dium cel­e­brates the 20th an­niver­sary of the stu­dio, cov­er­ing some 30 fea­ture films in the process.

Al­though DreamWorks and Pixar com­par­isons are in­evitable, it’s clear from The Art of DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion that they’re dif­fer­ent beasts. Whereas Pixar films are en­tirely com­puter gen­er­ated, DreamWorks utilises a range of for­mats, in­clud­ing tra­di­tional an­i­ma­tion and clay­ma­tion. Pixar’s work is also rather dis­tinc­tive, while DreamWorks’ feels larger scale and more ar­tis­ti­cally ad­ven­tur­ous.

DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion’s big hit­ters (Shrek, Mada­gas­car) are likely to be the sec­tions in the book that people turn to first, yet it’s the stu­dio’s lesser projects which tend to have more strik­ing art­work. 2003’s Sin­bad: Leg­end of the Seven Seas’ cityscapes com­bine Per­sian ar­chi­tec­ture with Vene­tian canals and wa­ter­ways in a man­ner that feels func­tional and be­liev­able.

The sewer-based world of Aard­man An­i­ma­tion’s Flushed Away is sim­i­larly aquatic, al­beit on a far smaller scale. Here the heroic rats have as­sem­bled a crude ver­sion of Lon­don us­ing trash they’ve found in the sewer, in­clud­ing repli­cas of Tower Bridge and Big Ben made from re­claimed por­taloos and wash­ing ma­chines. It looks dirty and sec­ond-hand, but the con­cept art is lit with warm colours to make these dank en­vi­ron­ments feel al­most homely.

An in­evitable con­se­quence of cov­er­ing DreamWorks’ huge body of work is that the book can’t go into a lot of de­tail on spe­cific films, with each ti­tle re­ceiv­ing be­tween eight and 14 pages. The only text comes from the pro­duc­ers and artists in­volved with the films – there are no de­scrip­tive cap­tions for the con­cept art. So for ex­am­ple, the pur­pose of the in­trigu­ing phys­i­cal ma­que­ttes cre­ated for Shrek 2 goes with­out ex­pla­na­tion.

For this rea­son, it’s a book that’s best suited to the cof­fee ta­ble, so you can com­pare and con­trast con­cept im­ages while you watch the films at home. It’s also ar­guable that each im­age tells its own story.

This isn’t a ma­jor prob­lem, and the art is beau­ti­fully pre­sented and laid out, even if it does lack con­text and ex­pla­na­tion. The book’s also bang up to date: it con­cludes with art from Home and How to Train Your Dragon 2, both due for re­lease later this year.

How to Train Your Dragon was di­rected by Dean DeBlois and Chris San­ders, who also worked to­gether on Dis­ney’s Lilo & Stitch.

Kung Fu Panda was “a com­edy that had po­etic and dra­matic bits”, says its pro­duc­tion de­signer.

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