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"The Art of Meet the Robinsons" puts preproduction artwork in the spotlight

"The Art of Meet the Robinsons" puts preproduction artwork in the spotlight

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Given that it's only 64 pages long, "The Art of Meet the Robinsons" (Hyperion, February 2007) can hardly be called an in-depth look at the creation of Walt Disney Feature Animation's next release.


Copyright 2007 Disney Editions

But -- then again -- given that making-of books aren't selling all that well these days ... Well, I guess it only makes sense that the folks at Disney Editions would take a more cautious approach this time around. Rather than creating yet another expensive coffee table book that would just wind up on the remainder table, they opted to go small this time around. Both in the number of pages as well as in the subject matter that this hardcover tries to cover.

Ah, but that's the real beauty of this Tracey Miller-Zarneke book. Rather than reproducing beautifully composed final shots from this Steve Anderson film and/or talking about how the production team struggled to adapt William Joyce's "A Day with Wilbur Robinson" to the big screen, "The Art of Meet the Robinsons" just tries to do one thing well. Which is showcase some of the many preproduction drawings & paintings that were done as art directors Robh Ruppel & David Goetz tried to get a handle on this animated feature's unique style of visual storytelling.

You see, in "Meet the Robinsons," so much of the storytelling is done visually. Take -- for example -- that warm golden sunlight that illuminates the gymnasium as the science fair is getting underway. Which gives the audience hope that Lewis' latest invention might actually work. Then follow that with the cold, gray damp light that fills this same space when things suddenly go disastrously wrong.


Copyright 2007 Disney Editions

It's these sorts of visual cues (Along -- of course -- with the finished animation as well as the musical underscore) that helps the audience to know how it's supposed to feel. Whether they should be feeling sympathy for our hero, be concerned for his welfare or rooting for him to succeed.

And "Meet the Robinsons" is loaded with this sort of stylistic shorthand. The squat, square architecture of the orphanage where Lewis lives and the closed-off feeling of the neighborhood that surrounds him re-enforces how trapped this orphan feels, how hopeless his future seems toward the start of this film.

Now contrast that with the future that Lewis encounters when Wilbur time-naps him. It's filled with colorful, curvy buildings that stand tall against a beautiful blue sky. It's an environment that just radiates hope & optimism.


Copyright 2007 Disney Editions

On the other hand, when Lewis winds up in an alternate version of the future (Which was manufactured by the Bowler Hat Guy's nefarious mechanical companion, Doris), he encounters this dirty over-developed environment that seemingly stretches out forever under a smog-filled sky. (FYI: The inspiration for this particular setting in "Meet the Robinsons" came from a Disney artist who -- as he was flying back into LAX -- looked out the window and observed how depressing Southern California looks from the sky.)

Anyway ... These are the sorts of things that you'll learn about as you read through "The Art of Meet the Robinsons." The little artistic decisions that were made by all the talented folks at WDFA that really help to make individual scenes in this new animated feature visually pop.

Now add to this Miller-Zarneke's gift for pulling entertaining quotes out of her interview subjects (EX: Bill Joyce's description of Cornelius Robinson's research laboratory: "It's like Dr. Frankenstein set up shop in Wonkaland") as well as her ability to sniff out fun behind-the-scenes stories (I.E. Why the production team eventually decided to put a shirt on fat old Uncle Joe. Given that earlier bare-chested version of this character -- according to "Meet the Robinsons" screenwriter Don Hall -- looked like " ... a half-naked, scary, bald serial killer") and you've got a really fun read.


Copyright 2007 Disney Editions

Now top that all off with a fun foreword by new Disney / Pixar Animation ubermeister John Lasseter as well as a heartfelt afterword by Anderson ... And I think that you'll see that -- even though this new hardcover is only 64 pages long -- there's still a lot to like about "The Art of Meet the Robinsons."

Your thoughts?

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  • Aaaahhhh!!!! The pictures are too tiny!

  • I didn't have time to read the whole thing, but I flipped through this book at The Art of Disney- I like books like this.  I'm really excited for this movie, and part of the reason is it has such a different design than other Disney films.

    "Now top that all off with a fun foreword by new Disney / Pixar Animation ubermeister John Lasseter"

    You kinda ruined it there for me, though- a "fun" foreward by John Lasseter?  Uh huh.

  • Sounds like a great book. Hope it comes out here :)

  • dvd extras have rendered 'art of' books to the morgue. it is time publishers were aware of these changes and move with the times. i personally stopped buying these antiques after 'art of lion king'.

  • I don't think DVD extras are ever anywhere near as deep or absorbing as an "art of" book.  Obviously, most people don't buy DVDs for the art gallery, since you're talking about seeing an image on a screen across the room vs. being able to involve yourself with the images in a more intimate way.  That and the fact that DVDs have about 1/50th the artwork in them that  the average book has between its covers.

  • I have great hope for this film.  It looks like a lot of fun!  

    I look forward to more great coverage from Jim as we get closer to the release in a couple days!

    Rich

  • I was most amused by the following tidbit: "The inspiration for this particular setting in "Meet the Robinsons" came from a Disney artist who -- as he was flying back into LAX -- looked out the window and observed how depressing Southern California looks from the sky."

    No offense to any Southern Californians in the audience, but coming from a Canadian city with two of the biggest urban parks and one of the biggest networks of river parks in North America, that was also the very first thing I noticed on my first trip to Disneyland. It really shed a lot of light on why my friends from down there are just SO into Disneyland.  

  • i disagree mickeyduck. you are wrong.

    the artwork provided on the emperors new groove and sleeping beaty discs meant i didnt have to fork out to buy their correspondong 'art of' books which would've been another 40 pounds each. daylight robbery. note my words. they will slowly withdraw 'art of' books.

    more and more people are doing what i'm doing and refusing to purchase them. i dont think harrods or selfridges even bothers stocking them anymore! if that isnt eveidence then i dont know what is.

  • Nice to hear a blurb about Bill Joyce's book.  I'm hoping we hear more about Joyce when the movie comes out.  He's quite a character himself and his books are great.  

  • I just recently bought "the Art of Monsters Inc" so to me, its not dead yet.  I want to buy the art of Snow White, but that can cost over 600 dollars US since its out of print and I am an animation student.  I hate the art gallery in DVD discs.  Most often, they don't include the most interesting and creative artwork and stick to the drawings which were the closest to the characters.  The only exception to this was the Laserdisks that disney released of Lion King, Hunchback of Notre Dame, etc, that had an entire laserdisk chock FULL of art and scripts and storyboards.  I think there was at least four hours of stuff on the hunchback disk.  

    Anyway, I am fully willing to buy expensive art books.  I just bought the "Illusion of Life" by Ollie Johnson and Frank Thomas, and most of them were going for 250 US.  (I got mine, coupled with another disney book "the art of animation" for $30 US. I love Ebay)  Art books couple with them interesting views of the artists about the characters themselves (well, the disney ones do; Pixar just overloads you with beautiful pictures) and what they had to go through to get the movie finished.  I read my teacher's copy of the "Art of Tarzan" and loved all the little funny instances in production.

    DVDs are not going to replace the novelty of having a book full of art, full of different styles and anecdotes.  I had never really heard of Mary Blair until watching a little segment on her on the Cinderella DVD and now I am going to buy her art book.  So i guess that the DVD is a selling point for me.

  • Is it out already?

  • CoryTheRaven I'm a So. Cal. native born and bred.  I disagree that my home looks depressing from the sky.  I believe we boast a very high rate of people moving in, so someone must like this place for some reason (okay, they may not all be legal residents, but that's a whole other story).  If you are used to seeing a lot of green and NOT seeing the air, So. Cal. may not be very appealing.

    If you love Disney and your friends love Disney, then it's a common bond that you share not because So. Cal. is what it is.

  • I would actually be more inclined to buy the 64 page coffee table book anyways.  Who wants the several hundred page read anyways?  All you want to do is sit down and relax and look at some pretty pictures.  This seems more like my kind of book. :)

  • hmmm.... I was told by an inside source that the reason this book is so thin, was because they really didn't create very much artwork for this film. That due to the "drawings and hard work are expensive" regime that this film was started and mostly executed under, Robinsons just has a lot less preproduction art than most animated films. Not that they couldn't have easily filled out a larger book, it just might have been a lot of really similar images.

    As for DVD extras vs. Art of books, gimme the books anyday. Until I get an extremely high def TV (and Disney decides to put higher resolution into it's DVD releases) nothing on the screen captures me like the images in thier books. And as for Disney phasing the books out... they did that. Tarzan was the last big Art of Book. Since then they've been smaller books heavier on text and script. Pixars books have been smaller too, but I hope that John and Ed keep the Disney books going. The DVD's are great for commentary and behind the scenes stuff, but I still love the books. Attention Disney- I'll buy both!

  • It's nice having a look at artwork before and during the theatrical run, rather than waiting for the DVD.

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