Just a few more weeks until the release of one of this year’s most anticipated animated movies How to Train Your Dragon 2. As usual, this means it’s time to get your hands on the art book companion piece; in this case The Art of How to Train Your Dragon 2 by Linda Sunshine.
The Art of How to Train Your Dragon 2 is completely different from other DreamWorks art books; in some ways I absolutely loved it and in others, not so much. The first main change is that the book follows the events from the movie chronologically, while other DreamWorks art books are divided in a chapters about characters, locations and so on. This book strictly follows the events from the movie, so it starts with the sets and characters introduced in act one and ends with the locations and characters introduced in act three. In a way, this book would be a cool companion piece to have while watching the movie, because you could flip through this book at the same time.
Surprisingly, I really liked this change because this is going to be a big movie with lots of characters and lots of sets, props and other designs. This format gave a better overview at all the characters and locations. If the book would have had a character chapter with 20+ characters at once, it would’ve been too messy, so this was a great enhancement.
A change I did not like, however, was that this book didn’t include the classic “Building a Sequence” chapter. Pretty much every DreamWorks art book has featured this chapter about the technical side of making an animated movie. Sometimes it tells you something about animation, other times something about lighting, but this book didn’t feature anything about the technical aspect of making How to Train Your Dragon 2, which was a real disappointment because the film is such a leap forward technically from the first film. It was a missed opportunity not to highlight that a bit.
Something that perhaps compensates for not having a “Building a Sequence” chapter are little interactive icons scattered throughout the book. When you find a special dragons icon on a page, you can scan it with your mobile devices and you’ll unlock goodies such as a clip from the movie, storyboards and other fun stuff. I love this idea but unfortunately it worked neither on my phone nor tablet. It it would have worked, I would not have minded not having the “Building a Sequence” chapter, but for now DreamWorks… fix it!
All the art in this book is absolutely wonderful. It goes into great detail about the designs of each and every building and prop designs that you probably wouldn’t even notice when you’re watching the movie. This is great because it gives the reader a better look inside all the intricate work and planning that goes into making an animated film. Everything on screen needs to be designed and The Art of How to Train Your Dragon 2 shows concept art of even the smallest things like flags, doors and waterwheels. They really went above and beyond highlighting these “less important” features.
There are a lot of characters in this movie. Of course, all the characters we know and love from the first How to Train Your Dragon return, but also a complete new cast of characters and dragons.
All the main designs for the original characters were already set in the first movie. So on these characters’ pages, there isn’t much to see. Most of the pages feature some sketches by the amazing Nico Marlet. We do get to see a lot of original and detailed costume design, weapon design, hairstyles, make-up and CG models. Nico Marlet is extremely talented so every piece by him in this book is a treat.
All the new characters like Valka, Eret and Drago do get quite a bit of attention on their pages with tons of old and new designs. All the information about the designs by employees of DreamWorks gave a great inside in the designing of these characters and all the early designs gave a visual idea of what most of the characters could’ve looked like.
The Art of How to Train Your Dragon 2 is must-have for every animation fan. the art is absolutely spectacular and the book gives a wonderful inside look at the design process of How to Train Your Dragon 2. The book had its flaws but at the end of the day it’s as good as most of the other art books. I’d recommend every dragons, animation and DreamWorks fan to buy this book because you won’t regret it.
The Art of How to Train Your Dragon 2 by Linda Sunshine: Amazon
Special thanks to Titan Books who provided a review copy of the book.