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Book Review: Lavish Art Abounds In The Art of The Croods

Book Review: Lavish Art Abounds In The Art of The Croods

There are two things
a competently written art book should do: Give the reader an in-depth, inside
look at how a film is created, and make one feel as if one is experiencing the
world of the film without actually being in the theater. Noela Hueso succeeds
at both on her first attempt at an “Art of” book.

Writing these books
is no simple matter; there are troves of drawings and paintings available for
consideration. Conceptual sketches can sometimes be more interesting than
finished designs. Dozens of people must be interviewed, and the text must be as
compelling as the art. Such books need very tight organization lest the
material overwhelms the writer.

Perhaps the most
salient fact Hueso realized is that there are two parallel casts in “The
Croods”. The first is the cave family, whose journey to safety in a rapidly
changing world carries the story. The second cast consists of the fantastic
flora and fauna that exists in the imaginary “Croodacious Period” setting. It
is here that the imaginations of the DreamWorks crew is at its most unfettered.

Hueso wisely begins
by introducing the individual Croods through a wealth of conceptual art. Due
credit is given to designers Carter Goodrich, Takao Noguchi, Dominique Louis,
and many others who set the look of the protohuman clan. It is fascinating to
follow how the artists experimented with depicting characters not far removed
from apes by giving them some contemporary human features. Hueso ferrets out
informative comments from the design crew in order to illustrate the process.

Immediately after
this section, a whimsical double-spread pullout of hybrid animals designed by
Noguchi leads into eighty pages in which the layout and design of the various
settings is detailed. The Croods and Guy, their guide, travel from the former
safety of their cave through jungle, tundra, a field guarded by a fierce
Turkeyfish, an above-sea level coral field, gorges, stone mazes, and finally
mountains where “the end of the world” takes place.

Each setting is rich
with different plants, unique terrain, and a riotous assortment of animals that
run the gamut from comic to lethal. Lush double-page spreads abound, and the
efforts that went into final design – there is a page with thirteen variations
on one minor creature – a cross between a bird and a ram – bespeak the thought
that went into the film and the book. A second double-page pullout is dedicated
to nothing but conceptual art for the trees and vegetation that appear in the
film. As always, there is cogent commentary from the design crew. One
lighthearted anecdote recounts how they were eventually able to find a role for
a giant ear of corn they admired. Along the way, Hueso elicits comments from
Director Chris Sanders (whose artwork also appears) that unifies the material.

For those who cannot
get enough of the minute technical details underlying the computer-generated
and 3D effects that enhance the film, Hueso devotes the final twenty pages of
the book to them, using the anatomy of a single sequence late in the film in
order to do so. Modeling, surfacing, character rigging, light effects and matte
painting are among the subjects that are lavishly covered.

The Croods has been a hit for DreamWorks Animation
during perhaps its most difficult time, and this book more than does the film


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