Have We Reached ‘Peak Art-Of Book’?

It was bound to happen: Chronicle Books appears to have reached ‘peak art-of book’ with the upcoming publication of The Art of Planes. It’s no longer possible for anyone to collect every ‘art of’ book published, and frankly, with titles like this, why would any discerning artist want to?


  • oslaf

    Oh, CartoonBrew, you’re such a card.
    You may want to keep that ongoing discourse about the rightful appretiation of animation artists a tad more coherent, though.

    • starss

      ……. doesn’t Amid sometimes WRITES for coffee table books??? I’d watch what I’d say in this situation.

      • Alex

        Hey, maybe that’s why he’s mocking others’.

  • Chris

    Many talented artists worked on Planes. There art is just as worthy as any other.

    • Steven Bowser

      You have a point. But was the movie made with real passion and care, or was it just a cash-in to make money and toys?
      It’s like a phoned-in knock off that wasn’t made because someone really cared, it’s just for money.
      But I know that the artists must’ve tried at least.

      • Ronnie

        As Neal Adams said- just a few days ago, actually, he was here locally doing a signing- “As a professional artist, whoever I’m drawing at the time has to be my favorite character to draw. Because if they aren’t, how can I pour forth my best effort into my art?”

        • bob

          Neal Adams works in a different industry.

          In the animation industry you don’t have the luxury of choosing your projects.

          • Ronnie

            I was using that as a support for the other view, actually- that even on commercial projects a professional artist can and does do the best they can to pour everything they can into the art.

          • GS

            Yes you do, if you decide to work independently.

      • RCooke

        That is really condescending. Everyone who worked on the “Planes” films are working really hard to not only make a film worth seeing on tight schedules and budgets, but are getting the chance to immerse themselves, because of tight schedules and budgets, in the film making process. They’re the future. Who knows what any one of them will do? They all want to be able to look back at what they’ve done and know they did their best. And this book proves they didn’t lie. The artwork in the book is highly skilled, and often beautiful. And if I was a kid, I’d be eating the movies up. Business aside, they did great work. That’s what this book celebrates.

        • Steven Bowser

          You have to at least admit that the concept of this movie “Planes” only came about to make money. It is cashing in on the “Cars” franchise (which is another cash-grab in my opinion) that only seems to exist to sell toys to kids.
          I’m sure they all worked hard and the art is good in the book, but this is not really an animated movie that we’ll be remembering for years to come. So when they make an “art of” book it’s strange because I don’t think anyone is celebrating this movie except for them. Nobody cares, it’s just “Planes”, a cheap knock-off of “Cars”.

      • Realalien

        It’s called “show Business” if you don’t make money , even if it is in Toy sales then no one works. Funny thing is it was a huge financial hit for the studio.

  • GS

    I find this article a great contrast with the other one about Andy Serkis.

    With Andy Serkis’ comments, the spin on the article was that the contribution of animators working with his mocap data should not be marginalized by calling the entire process “digital makeup”. They’re animators and they should be recognized even if they aren’t doing all manual keyframing.

    Let’s buy into that.

    Now, though, you have an art-book, presumably designed to honor the underlying artistry of a work which, unfortunately, and through no fault of the rank-and-file animators, suffers from poor formulaic sequel-style writing. But the spin here is to bash the book by pointing out how poor the overall film was and therefore it doesn’t deserve the honor of an art-of book. But tearing down the book, it also attacks the idea that there was any redeeming artistic input provided by the animators.

    The only connection I can see between the two is that both articles seem to want to incite some sort of criticism.

    I just don’t see how you reconcile both issues at once.

    • jonhanson

      Right, I have no interest in seeing the movie but the cover looks pretty beautiful. The amazing thing in art school is realizing how many incredible artists end up working on mediocre projects, where some of the best work produced never makes it to the public. So I’m glad to see books like this.

      • GS

        Also, let’s relate this to music.

        I bought the Star Trek: TOS soundtrack boxed set a while ago and some of the best scores produced for TOS were some of the worst episodes, like Spock’s Brain. Also, one of my newfound favorite scores is something Ennio Morricone did for one of the more forgettable spaghetti westerns (Guns for San Sebastian).

        Individual artistic achievement sometimes happens within an otherwise mediocre whole.

  • Copper

    These movies are for kids. You never know, books like this on their favorite movies might inspire them to become great animation artists one day. All the artwork is already produced, I don’t see a reason not to publish it. No one’s forcing anyone to buy it.

    • Copper

      And might I add, I’m sure the art in this book is great and would love to have a copy. I’m not interested in the film, but I know the individual artists worked very hard and are very talented and I would love to support them.

    • http://www.animatorisland.com/ JK Riki

      Hear hear. I agree. WE might not be entertained by Planes (or we may, I don’t know) but that doesn’t mean it can’t still inspire someone. The film that caused my entry into animation was The Great Mouse Detective. It suffered from a wealth of issues, and would probably be picked apart to the bone by the online world if such a thing existed back then, but it made me choose this path for my career. We can be critical of it, as I said it has many flaws, but that doesn’t mean we have to condemn it.

  • http://www.animatorisland.com/ JK Riki

    Wow, that is SUPER judge-y, man. Come on, people worked really hard on this. The artwork inside is very likely outstanding. It isn’t like people who work on subpar films suddenly are worthless. In most cases I find the concept art to be better than ALL films in their end stage, honestly.

    This is really, really harsh. I know you often decide to hold things under a critical eye, but this goes straight to “mean spirited” in my opinion. “Why would any discerning artist want to?” Really? That’s certainly not necessary. Aren’t you trying to get a book published yourself? You think these folks didn’t work just as hard to make something great for an animator’s library?

    • AmidAmidi

      The goal isn’t to produce great concept art; it’s to produce a great film. There’s no point in fetishizing the concept art and placing it on a pedestal when the films themselves are crass corporate cash-grabs.

      • Noela

        I disagree. I’d like to have the ‘art of’ books even if I didn’t see the movie. Even if a film is a “crass corporate cash-grab”, that doesn’t mean the artists didn’t pour their hearts and souls into their craft. You can be angry at the corporate side all you want, doesn’t mean you need to crap on the artists.

      • http://www.animatorisland.com/ JK Riki

        I understand the sentiment, and at the same time I feel like you’re throwing the baby (artists) out with the bathwater (executives) here. This book is likely filled with amazing concept art. The artists who did them probably didn’t get to choose the quality of the final film, budget, or even subject matter.

        Just because a film is bad doesn’t mean it’s all bad. Watching Legends of Oz this past week, there were some great moments/poses/sets. The film as a whole was not good. That doesn’t mean we have to ostracize the people who DID do a good job, just because someone in a suit dropped a ball in early production. Credit where credit is due, and also critique where critique is due. You seem mad at the cash-grab nature of the film. The majority of the people involved in this book and it’s art probably will see very, very little of that cash.

        • jonhanson

          Legends was the first thing that came to my mind, the movie put me to sleep but the concept art at the end was stunning.

        • SarahJesness

          Yep. Even if a movie is lousy overall, often there are at least some talented, passionate people behind them. This is especially the case with artists working on big-budget but poorly-written animated films, where you end up with a movie that really sucks but is pretty to look at.

      • rufus3698

        Counterpoint – Quite a bit of Mucha’s art was advertising posters. Using your criteria, nobody should have collected them – after all the point was to sell coco, not great “concept” art.

        • Axolotl

          True, but I would rather have a nice mug of beer as advertised by Mucha than watch PLANES.
          I’d also rather read the ART OF PLANES than watch PLANES. Art-of books are nice, they show us a glimpse of what movies might be if they were free of the blandifying influences of the suits.

        • GS

          Why not go all the way and mention Warhol’s soup can?

      • Alex

        It feels like what’s being fetishized is the idea of success. Is this movie considered “good”, then yes, its lush drawings of an old man and a boy are considered worthwhile art. If the movie is considered “bad”, then its equally lush drawings of planes are considered “dull”. Winners are adored, “losers” whose films were often not even seen are judged, and meanwhile people wonder why audiences can’t take animation seriously.

      • bob

        Right. The point most people are trying to make to you is: yes the goal is to make a good film, but working in a studio, 99% of the artists don’t have a choice of what they’re working on. The team still has to muster up passion day after day, regardless of if the film sparks ANY artistic interest. Your comments seem a bit ignorant of the process in which films are made (no insult intended). In terms of “fetishizing concept art,” I think it’s more about people respecting artists for their skills. Do you respect Paul Felix less because of the less popular movies he’s worked on? The movie can be trash, but some artists are just plain amazing at doing what they’re paid to do.

        The art of books are specifically for the art … NOT the movie.

        Further, what makes a “film” great? There are a lot of people out there who wouldn’t consider any animated movie a “film.” Is Frozen “great” because it made a lot of money? Not in my opinion, in fact it’s one of my least favorite Disney movies. However, I totally respect everyone who worked on it. And, regardless of what you think… ALMOST EVERY SINGLE MOVIE MADE IN AMERICA IS A CORPORATE CASH-GRAB.

        I’d say your comments are purposefully insulting to ensure you have controversial topics that generate a lot of traffic on your site (or you really are quite distant from the industry you’ve chosen to focus on in your career). Why should we respect those tactics? Where’s the journalistic integrity there?

  • http://salmon-leap.blogspot.com/ Salmon

    Not sure I’m totally on board with the attitude of this post.

    “Planes” may have been awful in conception and perhaps in execution (I didn’t see it so I cannot vouch for its execution) but I think much or all of the blame lies at the top levels of production — studio executives, producers, and to a lesser extent the writing / story team who would have been heavily constrained by the former.

    All that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t interesting production art from the artists at the ground level of production. In theory, the artists at DisneyToon Studios are aspiring to bring their work to a level that gets them to one of the more marquee feature production houses, or to hone their skills to a point when they can open their own studio. They had incentive to make work that looks good. Yes, it’s a shame that this work is done in service to “Planes”, but what if there were amazing examples of color key, or environmental design in this book?

  • AlexanderH

    The pomposity with which this article was written, is further proof of the author’s ego and the extent to which he looks down his nose at that which he deems lesser than. One would hope that the immediate and very one sided response by those that have already posted comments, would prompt an apology for defecating all over the work executed by the talented artists that contributed to pages within this book. Not one artist who labored on this film and whose work graces the pages of this publication, set out to produce something that would not be proud of. They are as “discerning” as any of their colleagues in this industry that we have all worked so hard to be a part of. Shame on you Amid. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, write pretentious articles.

  • starss

    … is this an opinion column, or something you’re basing facts on? Where does it say that Chronicle “reached any kind of peak”? If it is an opinion article, it’s incredibly brief. You don’t go into any clarification. Coffee tables books have been made for years, why didn’t you say anything then?? Is this an exaggeration?

  • JM

    This site has developed into one of the best places for animation news and discovery. Yet every week I consider never visiting it again because of articles like these.

    If you don’t think Planes deserves an art book, why not ignore it instead of giving it press?

    I think we all understand your desire for a platform. But biases aside, everyone here loves animation… and CartoonBrew has such a unique opportunity to be a positive force for growth. In my opinion, the more time you spend lashing out, the more you chip away at your own power. The more you focus on being constructive and celebrating work you admire, the more you help the industry you love.

  • Sam

    I wish the biggest animation site on the internet didn’t frequently
    attack hard-working talented artists within its own industry like this.
    To say no ‘discerning artist’ would care about their work is shameful.
    You don’t even supply any constructive feedback, your comments are just
    outright rude and unnecessarily antagonistic.

    You seemed to like John K’s production work on Free Birds. Just because the film ended up being a mess, would you say no discerning artist should care his work?
    Why do you discredit all the artists who contributed to the production
    of this film, who had no say in the corporate affairs?

    • Realalien

      Well said!

  • https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1742682656 Richard Smith

    And that’s bad BECAUSE?

  • Ronnie

    And even mediocre films can be BEAUTIFULLY designed- again, I think Robots is a great example of that. The writing is, to be blunt, lacking, but I keep coming back to it- because of the art. Because of the character designs, their movements, the backgrounds- it is a visually beautiful film.

  • DangerMaus

    For all of its formulaic writing, I liked watching PLANES a hell of a lot more than “Cloudy with Meatballs 2″. Is it any where near a Disney classic like “Bambi”? No, but it wasn’t as
    shitty as a lot of people are making it out to be. At least with PLANES I felt like I was watching characters that “acted” like adults. That’s more than I can say for CWM2 where the adults all “acted” like 10 year olds.

    I don’t see why the art of this movie is any less deserving of an art book than any other animated film. I like how the editor of this site just disses the work of every artist that worked on this film by sneering at the very thought that their artwork might be worthy of a book. First you complain about the role of animators being minimized by people like Andy Serkis and then complain when the work of artists on a film you deem below your refined taste gets highlighted in an art book. It actually starts looking petty.

    • AmidAmidi

      I grew up at a time when ‘art of’ books were a new phenomenon. Films like “An American Tail,” “Little Mermaid” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” never had accompanying art of books when they were released. Now, with ‘Planes’ having its own book, it suggests that every single film being put out by a major studio today will have its own book, regardless of whether the film stems from an artist’s vision or a corporate decision to extend a franchise. That’s what ‘peak art of book’ means: that there simply cannot be any more ‘art of’ books than are being published today. Expect a crash in printed ‘art of’ books in the next 5-10 years, and a shift to digital formats for ‘art of’ titles.

      • Fried

        The novelty of sharing the behind-the-scenes artwork and giving the artists just a tiny bit more exposure has run out? What?

        Is it the fact that we have to pay to see bonus art rather than a gallery on Tumblr? If that’s the case, then can’t many of your own books just be posted on Wikipedia and we shouldn’t have to pay for those novelties either?

      • DangerMaus

        Okay, I can see where you are coming from when you put it like that. The initial article didn’t read that way. I’m sorry but it came across as a petulant complaint that a “subpar” movie got an accompanying art book.

      • Jon

        Why wasnt that in the article? Why did you decide to go the lazy route post something essentially useless other than to let us know a new art of book is coming. As ive posted before on this aste…if you have more to say… Then say it and let the debates commence with your full intentions. Im sure many would still disagree with you but at least you just made a coherent hypothesis and as a collector of art of books for the last few decades ive often thought that myself and id hate the day it all goes digital…but it will (or it wont and the books just wont be made)

  • Hey Now

    “…with titles like this, why would any discerning artist want to?”
    I would assume, because there’s some insanely good art within. Is that not reason enough?
    I yearn for the day when we finally reach peak click-bait.

  • Mister Twister

    Wow…

  • Floyd Norman

    Since I had a stack of material from the UK film makers on my desk I tried to interest Disney in a Making Of Book on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” because I saw this as a landmark production. They had zero interest.

  • AmidAmidi

    Joris – As I understand it, the majority of ‘art of’ books fall under the rubric of vanity publishing. The books are bought and paid for by the movie studios, as part of their marketing budget. Whether they have big sales or not is unimportant because their purpose isn’t sales—they are being used as advertising. Basically, the books are like mini-billboards to remind people about the film. Print runs on these books have declined significantly in the past 20 years, and with the demise of brick-and-mortar bookstores, the books are not as effective anymore as advertising. Couple that with the fact that the information in these books is heavily edited and rarely an accurate ‘making of,’ and you might have a different perspective on these books.

    • BoonyTuesday

      I think the first point you made is excellent, but you lost me on the second point. Art books are not required to go into great detail about the ‘making of’ a film. The focus is the art, hence the name.

  • http://www.animatorisland.com/ JK Riki

    I still would like to own all of them (even if that makes me some sort of “lesser artist” as the post implies). So eventually I would be buying one. And the same could be said for other Art Of books for features, this doesn’t take the place of another (for example I’d snatch up an Ernest and Celestine Art Of book in a second).

  • Emile

    You know quite a bit about blunt snarky writing, right ?

  • JM

    Don’t overreact, just a bad choice of words. I do agree art form or medium would be more appropriate. Either way, should be read “help animation, which you love”

  • Ben

    Haha oh snap. Robots blew.

  • Gerard de Souza

    Without bashing Planes, I’ve said ages ago if I’ve seen one art-of book, I’ve seen them all. I only buy the books if I extremely like the movies. Incredibles was the last art-of book I bought.
    But they’ve been making these books about any 3d movie for years now. Robots anyone? Hmmm, Amid?

  • AmidAmidi

    Blue Sky had only done one feature at that point—Ice Age—and I thought it was a solid first effort. My thinking was: “Young studio with decent first film+Bill Joyce=Promise.” Little did I know. That was my first book though, and I haven’t made that mistake since, like when I was offered “Art of Bee Movie.” Nowadays I turn down 100% of ‘art of’ books.

    • bob

      I think it’s really interesting that you critique studios when they go after money (in order to stay alive as a business) rather than purely trying to make honest artistic efforts. Yet you have made your entire career piggybacking off of other people’s art. You sometimes seem to be a microcosm of the corporations you hate. You have very little hands on industry experience (one year many years ago right?). Where is your art? Where are your individualistic, genuine, SUCCESSFUL, well-respected creations? Or is your art limited to critiquing the industry from a safe distance? The questions are serious, please direct me towards anything that could enlighten me to your own artistic merits.

    • One of many animators

      “Art of Tangled”, “Art of Kung Fu Panda”, Art of Rio (1&2)”, “The art of Dreamworks Animation”
      You are missing out on fantastic books. I find it pretty disappointing that you now reject 100% of art books based on one edition you disliked. Certainly considering the fact that you are an author and I HOPE a fan of animation.

      What would happen if I picked up “Art of Robots”, decided I didn’t like it and then ignored “Cartoon Modern: Style and Design in 1950s Animation” solely based on you yourself as an author? Do you honestly think that is fair?

      Since you stated you now avoid all “Art of” Books. What exactly is “The Art of Pixar: The Complete Color Scripts and Select Art from 25 Years of Animation” published in 2011 by….Amid Amidi.
      That was 3 years ago, 7 years after “Art of Robots”.
      Why do I bring it up…because you said “100%”, not 90% but 100%.

      You run this site, you post the articles, so make sure what you state is 100% accurate. This site is one of the best sources dealing with Animation. Do not let it slip and become some thrashing media site!

      Have some empathy and appreciation for the artists. Without them this site wouldn’t exist in the first place.

      • AmidAmidi

        You misread what I wrote. I wrote that I reject offers to WRITE art-of books.

  • Philip

    Rene B makes a good point. I’d add that the word “artist” can be a distraction here, as it often is. I enjoy Hollywood movies from the 30s and 40s even though many were formulaic and hackneyed… in part I just enjoy the level of craft that the studio artists — craftsmen — put into them. (“Craft” and “craftsman” are not dirty words.) I saw “Planes” because my son wanted to and although it was disappointingly formulaic I’ve seen much worse. Both the movie and (I assume) the book can be appreciated on the level of craftsmanship, in a world where not all commercial entertainment provides even that.

  • Chicken McPhee

    Why? Because the concept art is PRETTY. GOOD ARTISTS work on these unpalatable movies.