I'm quite surprised by the mixed reviews for this artbook on Amazon. One person actually called it the "worst book for one of LAIKA's best films". Well, I actually enjoyed this book.
This 160-page artbook collects the concept art for the film. I love the art direction of the film and for the concept art. Production designer Nelson Lowry was inspired by Japanese woodblocks and designs that use blocks of strong colours. Kyoshi Saito (1907-1997) was the woodblock maker whose art was the main inspiration with his use of strong shapes and textures. Most of the concept scene paintings are actually digitally created with that look and feel. It reminded me Japan Journeys: Famous Woodblock Prints of Cultural Sights in Japan, a book that features Japanese woodblock art. I find it interesting and cool to see concept paintings being created in the style of traditional woodblock art.
Other than the scenes and location art, there are also designs for the characters, props. The origami characters are great. Well, origami is great to begin with. Again, nice use of other art forms in the movie.
Downside of the book is the lack of photos on the puppets and set design. The art is awesome so I would love to see the physical puppets but they are not included. Photos of the set design include the ship, interior of the whale, and the landscape of snow with that huge statute head.
There's also not a lot of text. They are like 1-paragraph quotes from the staff talking about the designs. There's nothing about the making of the film or production process. So I guess you will have to buy the film disc when it comes out to watch those behind-the-scenes videos.
Overall, I find this to be an enjoyable book with beautiful artworks. If the film was created with 3D animation, people won't have complained about the lack of photos for the set and puppets. This is exactly the type of artbooks 3D films will put out. But since it's Laika and stop motion we are talking about, I guess we do expect and want to see the beautiful puppets and sets.
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