Book Review: The Art of The Croods
Each section is filled with full color artwork, with each piece identified by its artist: co-director Chris Sanders; production designer Christophe Lautrette; art directors Dominique Louis and Paul Duncan; character designers Takao Noguchi, Carter Goodrich, Shane Prigmore, Timothy Lamb, Joe Moshier, Shannon Tindle, and Arthur Fong; visual development artist Margaret Wuller; layout artists Christophe Lautrette, Michael Comfort, and Lorenzo Bambino; modeling artists Manny Fragelus, Philippe Brochu, Jeff Hayes, Phil Zucco, and Abraham Meneu Oset; surfacing artists Fernanda Abarca, Robbin Huntingdale, and Ronnie Cleland; rigging artists Mariette Marinus, Sven Pohle, Koji Morihiro, Yukinori Iagaki, and Valentina Ercolani; crowd artists Spencer Knapp and Liron Topaz;lighting artists Gabriel Portnof and Matthew Waters; colorist Tianyi Han; and many, many others. The art pieces range from individual character designs, several to a page, to huge panoramas requiring large fold-outs.
The Croods is filled with “critters”. Author Hueso explains, “Nor could everything be made oversized, which was a natural impulse. ‘The first, easiest thing to say would be something like, ‘It’s a rabbit, but it’s a giant rabbit!’ recalls director Kurt DeMicco of conversations in pitch meetings. That would get attention. But then we realized if all the creatures and atmosphere were giant, the Croods would seem like miniatures and our movie would become ‘Honey, I Shrunk the Caveman’.” (p. 66) The art staff created dozens of fantasy creatures from gigantic to tiny. Those that stand out at all are given humorous names (although they are not used in the movie); from important creatures like the saber-toothed Chunky the Macawnivore, and the ferocious Bear Owl that tries to get into the Croods’ cave, to the creatures that they see in passing such as the blue-furred, long-armed Punch Monkeys, the Lyotes, the Trip Gerbils, the Jackrobat, the Ramu, the Girelephant, the Piranhakeets, the Land Whale, the Turkeyfish, the Fish-Cat, and the Crocopup. Others only in the background are not named, such as Christophe Lautrette’s “Big, Weird Thing”.
Author Noela Hueso, a 16-year veteran at The Hollywood Reporter, conducted dozens of interviews with the production crew of The Croods to write this in-depth story of the movie’s creation. In addition to the text, numerous key quotes are highlighted throughout the book. “We believe there are certain things an audience will expct to see in a caveman film – things we were determined to deliver, including physically powerful cavemen with beginners’ minds, broad action, and fire.” - Chris Sanders, director.” (p. 11) “While the characters and environments have very stylized shapes, they’re unified by the naturalistic textures and realistic animation they share – whimsical creations treated very seriously.” – Kristine Belson, producer.” (p. 21) “The Croods live at the narrow end of a deep canyon – a prehistoric cul-de-sac. It’s a subtle metaphor that illustrates where the Croods are, both mentally and as a species. If nothing changes, they’re at a dead end.” – Chris Sanders, director.” (p. 71) “The movie’s central theme has a great deal to do with the idea of living instead of surviving and the idea of risking instead of always playing it safe.” – Jane Hartwell, producer.” (p, 154)
The Art of The Croods is not an “everything that you could want to know” book about this movie, because it leaves out the “making of” part – the photos of the voice actors, the directors and producers, the production crew at work, and so on. But it really delivers what the title promises; the art of the movie! If you enjoyed The Croods, you have to have this book! If you want to see all the different kinds of art that go into a modern Computer Graphic Image movie, you have to have this book! If you want to see the art of many of the best current CGI animation artists, you have to have this book!
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.