Book Review: The Art of Rise of the Guardians
“Tooth (the Tooth Fairy) is a half-human, half-hummingbird creature, but she could very well be one of the fantastical human forms found in Eastern mythology.” (p. 19) “The artists’ highly creative take on the Tooth Fairy was inspired by the half-bird, half-human gods of ancient Buddhist and Hindu cultures.” (p. 70) The art looks more Persian to me. “In [Takao] Noguchi’s later iterations, Tooth developed peacock-like tail feathers, which made her look like a princess wearing a long, glamorous gown. But the tail is also functional: Not only does it allow her to make quick turns, it also features a pattern of eye-like shapes that ward off predators, just as they do in the natural world.” (ibid.) Most of Tooth’s conceptual designs look like elaborate ballet costumes.
The Sandman’s realm is primarily aerial. “A character as light and otherworldly as the Sandman would naturally feel at home floating in the clouds. It’s from high above that he sprinkles his golden dream dust, creating sweet dreams for children as they sleep at night.” (p. 95) Sandy gets 14 pages of art, segueing into the villain’s chapter. Pitch, the Nightmare King’s color is black. “One couldn’t really pick a more appropriate inspiration for Pitch’s home than the melancholy, sinking city of Venice. The decrepit walls of Pitch’s palace are sliding into the water, and the interiors are covered with mud. Set in one of the most haunting and beautiful cities in the world, this gloomy Renaissance-style lair is a reminder of the dark turn the villain’s life took hundreds of years ago.” (p. 111)
Jack Frost, the final figure, brings The Art of Rise of the Guardians back into light. Jack is the “Guardian of Fun”, representing youthful exuberance and a lack of cares and responsibilities. When the four Guardians of Childhood realize that they are not enough by themselves to combat Pitch, they invite Jack to join them. Who better to be a Guardian of Childhood than the personification of Childhood? But to battle Pitch, Jack will have to accept responsibility, to learn to work with others, to go into danger. Is he willing to do this?
The book’s blurb says, “The Art of Rise of the Guardians is a fascinating look at the ways these artists and craftspeople collaborated to create a stunning CG movie in 3D that will change the way we look at childhood.” That is putting it too strongly. Our images of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman, the Tooth Fairy, and Jack Frost are probably too well-established to let Rise of the Guardians affect them for long (and the Boogeyman is so amorphous that he does not really have a standard image). But you will not forget this movie’s interpretation of them! And for the duration of this movie, you will believe that this is what they really look like.
Fred Patten has been a fan of animation since the first theatrical rerelease of Pinocchio (1945). He co-founded the first American fan club for Japanese anime in 1977, and was awarded the Comic-Con International's Inkpot Award in 1980 for introducing anime to American fandom. He began writing about anime for Animation World Magazine since its #5, August 1996. A major stroke in 2005 sidelined him for several years, but now he is back. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.