Book Review: The Art of The Croods
Any movie about cavemen implies evolution. “The Art of The Croods traces the evolution of the comedy adventure movie with over 400 pieces of concept art, character sketches, storyboards and digital paintings, along with interviews with the key animation talent.” (publisher’s blurb)
These coffee-table art books about today’s CGI animated features no longer claim to have anything to do with the making of the movie. They do, of course, but there are no finished screen shots or publicity photographs, or how-we-filmed-it photos dominated by computers and VFX equipment. These 176 pages are all showcases of the original production art by DreamWorks’ artists, broken down by characters and settings.
First there is a one-page summary of the story. The Croods offers no sugar-coated realistic anthropology. It is set during the “Croodaceous” Age, full of fanciful creatures, giant earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions, and it shows one small caveman family (and its future son-in-law) inventing fire and the taming of wild animals all by themselves. The first meeting of Cro-Magnons and Neanderthal man is implied. Caveman Grug and his family of wife Ugga, teenage daughter Eep, younger son Thunk, feral baby Sandy, and ancient mother-in-law Gran, spend every day huddled in their cave, hiding from the giant monsters and vicious predators and diseases and natural disasters that killed the other cavemen. Eep wants more from life, and she meets the implied Neanderthal youth Guy who shows her such marvels as fire and shoes. An earthquake destroys the cave where they have always lived, forcing them out to join Guy in his search for Tomorrow past the coming massive earth shifts that will destroy their world forever. Grug, at first stubbornly refusing to give up the old ways, finally is converted into an enthusiastic embracer of the future.
The art book presents the characters, at first generally and then singly, including Guy’s pet sloth, Belt. The movie conveniently has a small cast, so several pages can be devoted to each character, showing a variety of preliminary designs as well as the final one. This is followed by the cave and the Croods’ jungle world outside the cave – the plants, birds, and animals that they meet; the tundra past that with its completely different plants, birds, and animals (including giant flocks of small carnivorous birds); the coral field; the gorges; the maze where the family splits up and has different experiences; the night under the stars, where the cavemen first see past the world’s dangers into the heavens; and the climactic journey through crumbling cliffs and over flowing lava to the high mountain of Tomorrow that represents the new future. The book closes with an “Anatomy of a Scene”, the detailed making of sequence #2975; the story and layout drawings, modeling and surfacing, character TD (rigging) and animation, crowd duplication, character effects, visual effects, matte painting, stereo 3D, and lighting.