Even if I had never seen a trailer for The Book of Life, the fact that the forward to the film’s art book–The Art of The Book of Life–was written by Guillermo Del Toro interested me. I guess that’s why they got him. The forward is short and to the point. It talks mostly about when Jorge Gutierrez approached him to produce his film and his infectious enthusiasm. As you read through this book, you feel like you get to know him and realize that is not an overstatement.
The best part of this book is that it is written by the director, Jorge Gutierrez, himself. Being that The Book of Life was his brain child and had been in pre-production for the past 14 years, there would be no one better to do it. Jorge has a very strong voice in his writing and you feel like you are sitting down with him by your side as he shows you exactly what he was thinking. He shares with you his inspirations (both living and remembered) as well as his incredible love for the holiday Dia de los Muertos. Jorge introduces the book and says that “The unique look of the film is very much my passionate love letter to Mexican folk art.”
The book is separated into three sections: Characters, Making Of, and Locations. It features all the things we have come to expect in contemporary art books such as visualization development sketches, color keys, full page spreads, and pull outs.
Jorge loves symbols and patterns. So, of course, symbolism and intricate designs are everywhere. There are so many details that you may have noticed while watching the film but didn’t necessarily catch. He collaborated with his wife on many of the aspects of the film but said that when creating the characters, he would take everything “manly or ugly” and she would do all things feminine and beautiful. Everything is a love letter. Xibalba is a love letter to Guillermo, Chakal is a love letter to the Mexican bandit villains from his favorite Spaghetti Westerns, and every man’s mustache is a love letter to mustaches in and of themselves.
This chapter is full of colors, shapes, layouts, and materials–basically everything you would want to know about the minutia of what makes this film unique. It showcases color keys at the bottom of the pages and has a few pullouts. We also get brief introductions to all the worlds and a different setting within The Land of the Remembered where the reunion scene was going to take place.
This final section gives us a deep dive into the film’s backgrounds and the characters that fill in those backgrounds. More love letters to people like Picasso and even one of his favorite comedies, Mean Girls. The whole book is such a perfect melding of Mexican heritage, Spanish tradition, and just the right amount of Aztec flair.
Afterword by Paul Sullivan
If it wasn’t enough, reading through the book from the directors eyes, a few words from the art director, Paul Sullivan, really put the stamp on the end. It’s very obvious that Jorge’s enthusiasm ignited a spark at Reel FX. Everyone felt like they were apart of something special. As you read, you can feel everyone’s combined passion. It is tangible and permeates every page.
I give this book 4 1/2 stars out of 5! It is a wonderful addition to your library and one that you’ll want to go back to over and over.