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‘The Art of Ferdinand’ review: Beautiful, well written, and enlightening

If you’re a lover of animation or movies in general check out this book.

Out this week in movie theaters, Ferdinand aims to dethrone the number one movie in theaters which just so happens to be Pixar’s Coco. There’s a secret weapon when it comes to Ferdinand and it’s not the fact that it’s based on the classic children’s book from 1936. No, it’s the animation crew, who have been part of films such as Rio and Ice Age and have lended their insight into making this film in this week’s release from Titan Books. It’s a book not only perfect for fans of the film, but for those interesting in the art design of a major motion picture.

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So what’s it about?

The official summary reads:

Set in the fabulously colorful world of modern-day Spain, Ferdinand is the story of a gentle giant who is nothing like you would expect. Ferdinand’s life of leisure on the family farm is disrupted when he is taken to a school for fighting bulls, where his kind and peaceful manner is at odds with that of his compatriots. With the help of a neurotic goat named Lupe and a team of crazy hedgehogs, he gains the courage to remain true to himself, whilst mounting a “great escape” to bring his new friends back with him to the home he loves.

Why does this matter?

It’s too early to tell if Ferdinand will be a smash hit, but this book makes you have to wonder if it’s well timed and perfect for audiences today. The main character is a unique bull who goes his own way. He deals with bullying and must overcome great conflicts in order to be himself. It’s the perfect sort of film in a day and age where bullying is prominent.

Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?

If you’re a fan of animation you’re going to love the amount of detail and art they jam pack into this book. There are many pages of multiple character designs ranging from facial expressions and emotional states lined up side by side to show the various looks. Environments are given an entire chapter to show how important Spain and its vistas were to the production. 90 pages are devoted to character design with about 30 devoted to environments. The remaining pages go over vehicles, Madrid specifically, colors, textures, and the arena. It makes sense so many of the pages are devoted to character since they are the lifeblood of an animated film.

The director and art team chime in quite a bit in this book too. With some art of the film books, you get mostly pretty pictures with little description, but the director helps explain the approach of everything. This gives the images in this book more meaning and a greater sense of what it takes to create an entire world for the big screen. The art shown here is varied too, from 3D renderings to pencil sketches or shots from the animation itself.

While reading this book I learned a lot, especially about texture hierarchy, shape language, and a thing called the color script. When you watch an animated film it’s easy to take for granted what we’re seeing since so much of the visual style is seamless and instantly understood. This book helps explain subtle elements like shape language that go a long way in adding character depth to the look and design. A texture hierarchy is also delved into, which helps explain how the viewer’s eye is drawn to specific areas on screen and to subtly convey the importance of a shot. Finally, the color script is explained which goes into how color continuity and the harmony of lighting is developed after everything is created. Since these movies aren’t created in linear order, the lighting and color need to be adjusted to pull everything together and make the film seamless. I have of course not delved into these three elements as well as this book does and I recommend checking out the book to learn more about them if these topics interest you.

It can’t be perfect can it?

Rarely do I read a film art book and not get a good handle of the plot and story, but that in fact happened with this book. Its focus on character and environments and not sequences or scenes definitely makes this a good read for those avoiding spoilers. That’s certainly a pro, but if you’re reading this after seeing the film you’ll be disappointed to find sequences aren’t outlined at all. Actors aren’t chiming in either — of course, this is an art of the film book so why would they? — but it would have added a bit more color.

Is It Good?

What an excellent art book. You will come away from this book with new knowledge about animation, design, and simply how movies are made. It’s also filled with many beautiful pictures and the voice of the director is incredibly strong. If you’re a lover of animation or movies in general check out this book.

Is it good?
An art book that is beautiful and informative.
Excellent art with various sketches of backgrounds and characters
You'll learn something about filmmaking reading this
The director contributes a lot to the book
Lacks detail on sequences and scenes, but maybe that's not the point at all
Buy Now

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