The Art Of Finding Nemo

Jerry Beck reviews The Art Of Finding Nemo, a book featuring the many conceptual drawings that developed Pixar Animation Studio's next feature film, revealing the talent and artistry behind the scenes.

© Disney/Pixar.

© Disney/Pixar.

If you have any doubts about Pixar's status as America's top animation studio, with The Art Of Finding Nemo author Mark Cotta Vaz has assembled a new book filled with ample evidence certainly supporting that claim. This new volume profusely illustrates where today's top animation talent has migrated. Pixar may be the leading creator of computer-generated motion pictures, and its staff of character designers, storyboard cartoonists, production painters and inspirational artists are clearly the best in the field.

And this book celebrates them all in a visually delightful package that entertains and educates its readers with a behind the scenes look at Andrew Stanton's excellent new movie. Now, not one image in this book is actually from the finished motion picture, which will be released in the U.S. on May 30, as this is about how a story visually comes to the screen. Told mainly through first person interviews with key personnel, the book explores the visual development of the film's major sequences with fantastic production artwork of all varieties.

Marlin (left), a frantic father whose son Nemo has been unexpectedly taken from his home, enlists the aid of a friendly-but-forgetful fish named Dory (right) in his rescue mission. © Disney/Pixar.

Marlin (left), a frantic father whose son Nemo has been unexpectedly taken from his home, enlists the aid of a friendly-but-forgetful fish named Dory (right) in his rescue mission. © Disney/Pixar.

If you're a fan of underwater cartoon settings and characters (as I am) be it SpongeBob SquarePants or The Incredible Mr. Limpet, Disney's Merbabies or Fleischer's Educated Fish you know that the amazing world under-the-sea has always stimulated animators' imaginations. Amazing acrylic paintings, pastel sketches, pencil studies and charcoal renderings fill this book, accompanied by the artists' words explaining the thought that went into the story, settings and visual tone.

Ralph Eggleston's superb color keys and Bruce Zick's amazing pencil designs take center stage, but outstanding contributions by Geefwee Boedoe, Peter Sohn, Ricky Nierva, Peter de Seve and Carter Goodrich will dazzle your eyes. Producer John Lasseter and writer-director Stanton contribute forewards and they are quoted throughout the book, along with staffers Ronnie Del Carmen, Sharon Calahan, Lee Unkrich, Dan Lee, Eggleston and others, shedding insight on the artistic process.

It looks like Pixar, that takes 2D's squash and stretch and applies it to 3D like no other studio, is back with another spectacular film. How can you beat expressions like this? © Disney/Pixar.

It looks like Pixar, that takes 2D's squash and stretch and applies it to 3D like no other studio, is back with another spectacular film. How can you beat expressions like this? © Disney/Pixar.

The volume is a great way to preserve this rarely seen production art, and the book's layout lets the visuals tell the story. Anyone trying to match what Pixar accomplishes on a regular basis should study this book to understand the artistic effort, trial and error, and just plain fun, that goes into creating an animated classic. It's a huge team effort and this studio has assembled a winning team.

Those of us who study animation's history have envied the stories we've heard and read of Disney's golden age that period between the mid-1930s and early '40s when it was a dream studio filled with incredible talents pushing the envelope, creating classic films that were as artistically true as they were popular and entertaining.

That studio and era live again at Pixar.

Need further proof? Pick up this book.

The Art Of Finding Nemo by Mark Cotta Vaz. Forwards by John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton. San Francisco, California: Chronicle Books LLC, 2003. 160 pages. ISBN: 0-8118-3975-3 (US$40.00)

Jerry Beck is an animation producer and cartoon historian with a nifty Website at www.cartoonresearch.com and a new book, Outlaw Animation, due out this spring from Harry N. Abrams.

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