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BOOK REVIEW: “The Art of Dreamworks’ HOME”

BOOK REVIEW: "The Art of Dreamworks' HOME"

DreamWorks’ latest feature film, Home, will debut on March 27th of this year. Like many
other animated films, the movie will have a companion book showcasing the
efforts of all concerned. The Art of Dreamworks’ Home – which is available for purchase as of this week – is authored by Ramin Zahed, longtime editor of the trade publication Animation Magazine, so we can be
confident that the book has been entrusted to an expert. Speaking of expertise,
this book is the thirteenth Art of collaboration
between publisher Insight Editions and DreamWorks.

Home is the story of an alien invasion
of earth by the Boov, a race of squat critters whose colors fluctuate with
their emotions. Far from being a horrifying event fraught with destruction, the
Boov behave rather like interior decorators, reshaping the Earth to their
tastes and carting away features they don’t like in gravitational bubbles. One
of them, Oh, forms a friendship with young human Tip, who gradually teaches him
tolerance. However, a second race, the Gorg shows up in their wake, with far
more destructive intentions.

One would,
of course, expect copious amounts of artwork, and the book certainly delivers.
It differs from some of the other books in that pages of what appear to be
finished artwork or very late concept work is at least equal to art from
prototypical and developmental stages. Art director Emil Mitev does a wonderful
job with  Sci-fi themes: Some of  them are stunning: the layout on Page 51
depicting the Boov Mother ship recalls the fantastic covers of some of the
1950s pulp magazines. Director Tim Johnson wanted the gargantuan Gorg ships and
Earth-wrecking machines to be forty miles high, a scale even grander than the
craft in Independence Day. Pages
140-154 demonstrate how well they achieved this goal.

The character
design team, headed by Takeo Noguchi, explain in sidebars that the characters
were based in simple designs: Round for the Boov, square for the human world,
and sharp triangles for the Gorg. Noguchi wanted his lead character, Oh, to be
so simple that “kids at could easily draw Oh at home with crayons.” Working
from the idea that all life evolved from an aquatic environment, Noguchi has
the Boov resembling cute little squids and depicts the Gorg as a cross between
starfish and sea urchins. Some of the best work, however, is reserved for Tip,
a young biracial girl who teams up with Oh after changing his attitude. Don’t
miss Noguchi’s attractive model sheet on page 66.

The film
moves through several locales such as Paris, China, Rome, and Australia, and in
each locale Mitev production designer use a soft palette more akin to
watercolor to contrast the high-tech depictions of alien technology. The
globetrotting is done by Oh, Tip, and Tip’s cat Pig in a vehicle called “Slushious”.
Mitev took “a very average family midsize” car and combined it with a
convenience store; it flies on flavored ice slushie power and can shoot tacos.
No, really. Touches like this give a hint of the fun the production team must
have had with this film, and Zahed’s lively text, accompanied by numerous
sidebars, pass this on to the reader.

As a bonus,
art from a short, Almost Home, is
included, chronicling Boov attempts to annex other planets and biting off more
than they can chew. In all, this book is a fine example of the “Art of” genre,
but there is one quibble, at least from me.  The sumptuous artwork spreads are without
captions on the majority of pages. Readers may be left looking at fantastic
pictures and having no idea what they are looking at, how they relate to the
story or characters, and wondering what they mean or depict. Of course, the
book can’t give the whole story away in advance, but some explanatory
captioning would have greatly improved The
Art of Dreamworks’ Home
.

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