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
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.