Book Review: The Art of Inside Out
Since its first film Toy Story was released in theaters over 20 years ago, PIXAR Animation Studios has almost always had book releases, chronicling the making of their films (the exception was Toy Story 2, given that film’s last-minute reshuffling).
Chronicle Books continues the tradition with the recently-released The Art of Inside Out. However, what is most surprising, is how the book is presented.
Though the dust jacket and main titles page tells of a foreword by Amy Poehler (the voice of the character named Joy), and an introduction by director Pete Doctor, the book contains a first-time change for this particular item…the book, has no author!
Instead, Pixar has chosen to give us a book in which the pictures and the artwork speak for themselves…well, along with a few choice comments here and there regarding various pieces of art.
This is both fascinating, but a little disappointing. While I am not disappointed in the lack of art, I was personally hoping the book might have gone into the more in-depth behind-the-scenes format I’m used to. With so many emotions, I likened the film’s “casting process” to being almost like Walt Disney and his guys, picking out the 7 Dwarves for Snow White. There are a few designs for a character named Gloom, but other than that, the book sticks squarely to the main five: Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger.
As well, there are so many ways the story could have gone, in what the film did and didn’t do. I can only hope that somewhere down the line, maybe we’ll get something a little more in-depth regarding the formulating of the film’s story.
I always welcome the chance to see pen and ink, along with pencil in concept art. In the last 5-8 years, the majority of concept art seemed to be all done in digital (which was a little sad to me when looking through The Art of Toy Story 3 five years ago). With this production, it seemed that all manner of medium was used. As well, the book also showcases some of the first collage concept art I’ve seen done by the studio, since the making of The Incredibles.
Oftentimes, the characters are some of the most important pieces of the puzzle, and here, we see a number of them going through different iterations. Much like Honey Lemon in Disney’s Big Hero 6, PIXAR had a tough time trying to crack the nut in designing one of the characters in this film, and that happened to be Disgust. A 2-page spread shows several dozen different iterations, of which 5 can be seen below. I think it’s safe to say that throughout the entire process, it seems that broccoli was the main inspiration for quite a few.
One interesting use of the art, is in how the artists would ‘plus’ the digital models. In one, small post-its have been placed over portions of the poses for Fear. Oftentimes, computer models can have the problem of needing to be pushed further, to make the character more expressive. The few images below, show that with just the slightest of tweaks, the added changes make the character seem much more expressive, and feel like a proper extension. There’s 3 full-page examples in the book, and seeing what was done here, I almost want to see some more “plussing” on what was done.
Though characters do play a big part in the story, the artists also had to figure out how to construct the two worlds of an 11-year-old girl named Riley. On one hand, they had to figure out her exterior surroundings, but the real challenge, was just what the world inside her mind looked like. Numerous pages are filled with concepts, showing just how certain thinking facets could be visualized, let alone the look of the iconic “Headquarters,” where Riley’s emotions live.
Most notable about the look of these worlds, is how simple a lot of the art pieces are. Several of them reminded me a little of the simplicity of the artwork, of former Disney artist, Mary Blair, who is often cited as an inspiration by many artists.
Probably not since The Art of Big Hero 6, have I been a little let-down regarding what one of these “Art-Of” books has contained.
Though The Art of Inside Out showcases much of the great behind-the-scenes art the studio is known for, I also come to these books, wanting to read some interesting stories about the production.
I guess I was spoiled by The Art of Toy Story 3, in which author Charles Solomon got down-and-dirty, in talking about the facets of the story the filmmakers were trying to tell. Then again, Solomon is an animation historian who just pushes my buttons.
The Art of Inside Out’s “show-don’t-tell” approach isn’t a bad thing, but it’s just not what I was expecting, from something that could very well have had plenty of paragraphs,explaining how the filmmakers came to some of their conclusions. When I looked over the book, its format reminded me of the exhibition catalog I bought, for the PIXAR: 25 Years of Animation exhibit that appeared in Oakland, CA, in 2010.
Given the overly-positive vibe many have gotten from the film, I still hope that maybe there’ll be a properly-published work on the exploration and story meetings regarding Inside Out. The concept of bringing emotions and the human mind onto the screen is just too fascinating for me to let go, and I’m sure many other PIXAR and animation fans, will definitely hope something will be released, in which we pick the filmmaker’s brains for more behind-the-scenes material.