I’d been forewarned that the art of book for Coraline was not very good, but that didn’t prepare me for the publishing disaster that is Coraline: A Visual Companion. After looking at it in the bookstore recently, I can say with some confidence that this is the single worst ‘art of’ book I’ve ever seen published in conjunction with a major animated release.
For beginners, all of the film stills in the book are pixelated and muddy. I’m not talking just about the full-page frame blowups, even regular-sized images that take up only a third or half of the page look like hell. Beyond the poor image reproduction, they also made an inexcusable editorial decision to print the visual development artwork of only two illustrators: Dave McKean and Tadahiro Uesugi. The book, in fact, neglects to showcase the work of any of the animation artists who worked on the film, including the people who actually designed the look and feel of the movie.
One of the film’s primary character designers Shane Prigmore recently did a post on his blog about working on the film. In that post, he mentions some of the artists whose work shaped the film visually, including visual development artists Dan Krall, Shannon Tindle, Chris Appelhans, Jon Klassen, Andy Schuhler, and Stef Choi, sculptors Kent Melton, Damon Bard, Leo Rijn, Tony Merrithew and Scott Foster, and story artist Chris Butler, Andy Schuhler, Vera Brosgol, Graham Annable and Mike Cachuella. Unbelievably not a single piece of artwork from any of these artists can be found in the book. Instead it is page after page of Tadahiro Uesugi’s work. A lot of it is repetitive because they are costume suggestions that he drew using characters that had already been designed by the artists listed above. The irony is that even fans of Uesugi’s work will be disappointed because of the small print size of his artwork.
For all I know, the writing in the book (and there is a lot of it) may be wonderful. The book, however, is called “A Visual Companion” and on that mark it is a complete and utter failure. I’ve never seen an ‘art of’ book that eliminates the work of every single artist who worked on the film save for one whose work wasn’t even a primary factor in the film’s final look.
I’ve been looking forward to seeing Coraline for a long time and I still am. Unfortunately, with tie-in books like this and the film’s lackluster marketing campaign (the subway and bus stop ads around NYC are a subject for another time), I may be watching the film in an empty movie theater.
(To see a representative sampling of artwork from this film, check out a discussion panel with the film’s key designers on Saturday February 7 at Gallery Nucleus.)