Art Books, Blue Sky, Reviews, Studios

[ART BOOK REVIEW] The Art and Making of The Peanuts Movie

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The Art and Making of The Peanuts Movie is one of the best, most complete animation art and making of books that I’ve read in a while. When Blue Sky Studios first announced that they were doing a computer animated Peanuts movie, most fans were anxious that the studio might not get these beloved classic characters right by modernizing them for today’s audiences; luckily enough, though, the studio surprised most of us and did a splendid job with the film. This book takes you through every little detail of making this film, and it’s simply a delight to read.

The Art and Making of The Peanuts Movie is, unlike most art books nowadays, not just a picture book with only concept art, but it’s actually a making of book that takes you through every aspect of the making of this movie. The book starts out with quite a lot of text, but once you’re past the introduction to the Peanuts and their legacy, the book really becomes the perfect combination of information and art.

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The book is divided in quite a lot of chapters, which are divided into sub-chapters. The book starts out with an introduction to the classic Peanuts characters and stories, so if you’re not familiar with these characters outside this movie, it’s a great introduction to the legacy and Charles Schulz’ work. The book continues with a chapter that talks about the beginnings of the film, how Blue Sky acquired the rights to make this film, and really the start of the film’s production. After those quite text-heavy chapters, we finally move into the art side of the book. Even though we finally move into the chapters that are about the designing of this film, it doesn’t mean there’s no longer any text: the book is still filled with a ton of information, and some pages are sometimes still just text with one or two images.

The first pages in this part of the book really dive into how they transformed these 2D characters into the 3D world, the different comic strips they studied from different decades, and how these characters evolved over time – basically, how they tried establish the look they were going to use in the movie. This chapter also dives a little deeper into the technical parts of making this movie, like sculpting the 3D models and rigging them so they could be used they way the animators needed them to. A great addition to these very informational pages are actual images of the comic references with actual images of the rigs and how they looked when they artists were working on them, something we usually don’t get in these books.

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After those pages, we move into one of the bigger parts of the film, and also this book, which are the characters. Each character has a few pages dedicated to them, featuring a lot of different stuff – not just art, or final renders, but once again a really great combination of everything. Because these characters have been around for so long, they didn’t need to be redesigned, so these pages don’t really focus on the designing of the characters but more on how they transformed them into the 3D world. Each character gets quite a lot of text, more than in most art books, where they discuss the character in the classic comic strips and the process of creating this particular character for this film. The pages also feature a ton of images like conceptual paintings, comic strip reference and tests, animation thumbnails, costume designs, and a ton more. Each character gets just about the right amount of pages, and I didn’t really feel like they left out anything major  or that they could have added much more.

After this part in the book about the characters, we once again get some more info on the technical part of making this film, with the next two chapters focusing on cinematography and the animation. These chapters are once again a little more text-heavy than the others are, but these pages are more interesting with some added images as examples. These chapters really focus on how the studio tried to stay true to the Schulz’ original work in the cinematography and animation while still trying to update it for modern audiences. A lot of great examples from the comic strips are shown in these chapters to show how Schulz himself played with the camera positions in the comic strips, and in the animation part we even get to see some 2D animation tests that were made early on by the Blue Sky artists.

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The next chapter focuses on the film’s environments and all the different scenes in the movie. This part of the book is most similarly to other art books. It takes you through the different scenes of the movie and really shows a great range of different types of designs – from color keys to set and prop designs to storyboards to even more animation thumbnails. This part of the book really dives into every little detail of the movie that had to be designed, from a tree you might spot in the background to a major location in a big scene, and every little part is enhanced by a big chunk of information about it which is simply a delight to read and discover.

Then, we once again get some more technical chapters, this time focusing on music and sounds from the voice acting of all the main characters to the musical score. Every little detail that has to do with music and sounds in this movie gets highlighted in this part of the book and, obviously, we get a lot of beautiful behind the scenes images in this part of the book.

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The book finishes up with a nice little summary of the book. They chose a sequence from the movie and basically show how it progresses from story to the final shot you see in the film. Every part of the pipeline has a little paragraph with information to enhance it, and there’s a ton of images and art to explain it even better.

The Art and Making of The Peanuts Movie is everything an art book should be. This is probably the most complete and insightful art book I have read in a while and really taught me a lot about the process of turning these 2D characters into a 3D world, and trying to stay as true as possible to the source material. This book has made me respect every single person who worked on this film even more than I already did, and it doesn’t really matter if you loved this film or thought the film was simply okay, you have to buy and read this book just so you can appreciate all the hard work that went into the making of it.

✮✮✮✮✮

Purchase: The Art and Making of The Peanuts Movie

Amazon: US | UK
Book Depository: US / UK

A special thanks to Titan Books, who provided review copies of The Art of The Peanuts Movie.

Edited by: Kajsa Rain Forden

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About Max

Max is an animation addict from The Netherlands. His favorite animated movies are Beauty and the Beast and Ratatouille, and he is a big fan of everything Disney, Pixar or DreamWorks related. He loves reading and collecting art books and one day he hopes to work for a major animation studio. Follow his art blog: http://maxdenhartog.tumblr.com