Klaus may have been out for a few weeks, but it’s already one of the best Christmas movies in decades. The story feels fresh yet taps into the Santa Claus mythos we all know and love. It also harbors one of the most unique animation styles in years thanks to its mix of 2D and 3D animation. It’s an animated film that may just deserve the artbook treatment more than any other for the year, too. Titan Books has teamed up with Netflix and the creators of Klaus to produce quite a perfect Christmas present for fans of the holiday.
This book is divided into nine chapters with a foreword, an introduction, and a conclusion. It opens easing you into the beginnings of this film and how it sprouted from the mind of Hunchback of Notre Dame and Hercules animator Sergio Pablos. The animation studio in Madrid came from a humble beginning, approaching the animation from a unique direction. Essentially, you learn in this book that Pablos wanted to give animators and artists more control over the work, but they can’t do that with the way the industry works today. Simply drawing a cartoon no longer works due to heavy rendering times and 3D animation requirements. This book details how software was developed to create real-time lighting which added volume to 2D images. Artists could draw a character on the fly and see it interact with environments in a realistic way. Once you learn this and see it in action from the examples, you begin to grow deeper respect for the film and also an understanding of how it looks so unique.
This book moves on from the origins to other staples that set it apart, like eyes and shapes. It then breaks down each character, starting with the lead Jesper who is played by Jason Schwartzman in the film. Author Ramin Zahed does a great job infusing the book with quotes from Pablos, like in this section which features an explanation on why Schwartzman was so right for the part. As the book continues, you learn how Klaus’s design changed over time, why J.K. Simmons was right for the part, and other details about the characters in this world.
Possibly my favorite aspect of this art book is the environments and how they came to be. Stories on how they created such imaginative and unique worlds are detailed well and there are so many great paintings and examples of it here. If you’re a fan of mise en scène you’re going to love the theory and philosophy added to buildings and shapes to help convey a mood and story that was deeply visual.
A reoccurring element in this book are boxed quotes which allow Zehed to add some commentary to pages that may otherwise be only art pages. They are featured throughout the book and always add a bit of detail that is helpful in understanding the production. The art itself is a mix of paintings, CG renderings, and hand-drawn sketches. It’s a great collection of art.
My only gripe with this book is possibly a minor one since most won’t read a book like this from cover to cover, but the technique of adding light and shadow to 2D images is mentioned more than once. It suits the chapters it appears in, but feels like a redundant point as it is brought up in a few different places as if we hadn’t read about it in previous chapters. Likely most folks will hop around when they read this, but it made the reading experience a little less cohesive.
I’m a huge fan of this film, but the art book sold it for me: I want more Sergio Pablos animated films and I want them now! The design, style, and technological achievements made to bring 2D animation back in a 3D animation dominated world is a sight to behold. This is not only a beautiful book, but a promise that animation is going in new and exciting places.