When it comes to putting together a good "Art of" book, especially one that covers the creation of a new animated feature ... Well, it's a lot harder than it looks.
Sometimes the authors of these over-sized coffee table books take themselves a bit too seriously. Which is why they then make the mistake of loading up their "Art of" book with over-written, self-important prose. Still others -- because they're writing about a feature-length cartoon -- feel that their tome has to be entertaining too. Which is why they then strain to fill every page with cute & clever commentary.
Copyright 2008 Insight Editions. All Rights Reserved
Of course, Jerry Beck
is too smart to make an amateurish mistake like that. As one of the
most respected animation historians in the business, Jerry knows that
-- when it comes to an "Art of" book -- his job is to just get the hell
out of the way and let the film shine through. Which is exactly what he's done with "The Art of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" (Insight Editions, October 2008).
Mind you, this time around, Beck isn't writing about just one film.You see, previously no one thought to do an "Art of" book for the first "Madagascar" movie. Which then puts Jerry in the rather unique position of being able to discuss the artistic & technology development that occurred between that 2005 DreamWorks Animation release and its 2008 sequel.
Copyright DreamWorks Animation. All Rights Reserved
Which -- given that one of the main reasons that so many moviegoers found the first "Madagascar" to be so enjoyable was its very distinctive look (Which skillfully married the simple yet strong design from the Little Golden Books with the vibrant colors & stylization of Henri Rousseau's paintings) -- "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" 's directors Eric Darnell & Tim McGrath were smart enough to not mess with success.
But at the same time, given that this "Madagascar" sequel has Melman, Gloria and the gang escaping to Africa ... This was just too big an opportunity to expand the artistic horizons of this DWA franchise to pass up. Which is why Darnell, McGrath and their development team just jumped at this chance.
Beck does a terrific job of seamlessly shifting between the two "Madagascar" films, explaining how the artistic choices made on the first movie then went on to influence the look of the sequel. Jerry's also great at finding the sorts of behind-the-scenes stories (Like how Ben Stiller's unique comic stylings greatly influenced how the role of Alex, that neurotic New York lion, was written) that entertain information junkies like myself without upsetting the suits back in Glendale.
Which is why -- before you head out to the multiplex this coming weekend to see "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" (Which -- from what I've been hearing -- is tracking very strongly. With some folks suggesting this new DreamWorks Animation release could earn over $50 million during its first weekend in domestic release) -- you might want to pick up a copy of this new Insight Editions' "Art of" book. Which -- thanks to Jerry Beck's storytelling skill -- will give you a greater appreciation of how these two DWA productions came together.
Maybe it's just me, but I never found the characters from Madagascar all that appealing. But then, I've only seen the trailers, so maybe if I'd seen the movie I'd feel differently.
Except the penguins. The penguins are frakkin' hilarious.
The words "Art" and "Madagascar" do not belong in the same sentence.