Two New Books You Gotta Get: “The Toy Story Films” and “Sketchtravel”

This is the story of Pixar, John Lasseter and three of the most important animated features of the last 20 years. It’s also one of Charles Solomon’s best books – and that’s saying something. The Toy Story Films: An Animated Journey is one of those oversized art books – loaded with great graphics that alone would be worth the purchase – in which the text is equally important (and possibly more significant) than the images accompanying it. Solomon begins with the story of Lasseter at Disney and his journey to into CG, Lucasfilm and ultimately to Tin Toy, the short that inspired the Toy Story films. Three chapters detail the making of the Toy Story films in-depth (and lavishly illustrated with production art and photographs I’ve never seen before – a photograph of John Lasseter holding his childhood Casper The Friendly Ghost doll on page 45 is worth the price of this book alone). A chapter called Buzz and Woody in Limbo goes into the years between Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3, when the characters were part of TV’s Buzz Lightyear of Star Command and the ill-fated Circle 7 version of Toy Story 3. His final chapter on the making of Pixar’s triumphant Toy Story 3 brings the book full circle and cements Pixar’s place in animation history.

I didn’t see this one coming – it’s one of the best animation books of the year (and this is a pretty good year for animation books). It compliments the other books on Pixar’s history with ease, by focusing on three of their greatest films with new insights and fresh perspective. Hayao Miyazaki penned an affectionate Foreword, John Lasseter explains how personal these films are to him in the Afterword. This one’s the real deal, a great read – and I sincerely urge all of you who collect animation history to get it. That goes double for you Disney, Pixar and Toy Story buffs.


Charles Solomon also pens the Introduction for Sketchtravel, an exciting book project just published by Chronicle Books. French Illustrator Gerald Guerlais and Pixar art director Dice Tsutsumi passed a sketch book to over 70 artists around the world over the past 5 years. This book reproduces the artwork collected and tells the incredible story behind the project. It’s a gorgeous collection of material and great way to celebrate the artists represented. These include Hayao Miyazaki, Frederic Back, Bill Plympton, Enrico Casarosa, Bill Pressing, Peter DeSeve, Ronnie Del Carmen, Glen Keane, Nicolas Marlet, Mike Mignola, Lou Romano and many many others. It’s truly inspirational stuff. Highly Recommended!


  • Mark Mayerson

    I haven’t read the book, so this isn’t a comment on the book’s quality. However, it’s strange how certain animated films get fetishized. Snow White (two books coming soon) and Toy Story have been turned into founding myths for two artists and their corporations. While these films are historically important, I think the continued influence of theses films has been a bad thing for animation as a whole. If you step back and look at all movies, worldwide, these films are much less important than artists and fans make them out to be. While they are both starting points, their gravitational pull has stopped the industry from traveling much beyond them.

    • Taylor

      First animated feature….and first cg animated feature….Tell me again how those aren’t important?

      And elaborate on how said importance (which is relative) has limited the medium at all.

      An instance when an artist or exec said “Let’s not do that, look at Snow White!”

      • Taylor

        As soon as I submitted that, I realized my phrasing on “first animated feature” was incorrect. I was excluding the cutout/silhouette films preceding Snow White. I’m aware. Just covering that base before it gets jumped on in here.

      • Great

        English 101 fail:

        “While these films are historically important” – so in this sentence the author has stated how he actually does think these movies are important!

        ” their gravitational pull has stopped the industry from traveling much beyond them.” – in this sentence the author is inferring that because these movie are so big they tend, everyone hopes to get to that “starting point” because of their almost “mythological” status, when:

        “If you step back and look at all movies, worldwide, these films are much less important than artists and fans make them out to be. ”

        As in, stop putting the toy story on a pedestal.

  • http://Twitter.com/JenHurler Jen

    That Toy Story book looks wicked. I am slightly hesitant though. The on-again-off-again rumors of a fourth film prevent me from fully diving in. History has unfortunately taught me this. Whether it was buying all the Lion King DVDs only for a boxed set to be announced, or (a trap I didn’t fall for) buying the red Harry Potter: Page to Screen (which contained movies 1-8pt1) only to have the blue version (containing 1-8pt2) be released a bit later. This Toy Story book does seem very distinctive though.

    The Sketchtravel book seems like a roster to everyone’s animation all-star team. What a charming way to have so many idols on one place. I’m so glad this made it over from France. If people haven’t seen Dice Tsutsumi’s trailer for this project I suggest heading to the Sketchtravel site and taking it in.

    • http://www.amidamidi.com Amid

      When a film is the 8th highest-grossing movie of all-time, you can rest assured that there will be a follow-up. Prepare for Toy Story 4, 5 and onward until they stop earning money for Disney.

      • http://youtube.com/user/Mesterius1 Mesterius

        Unfortunately, this reasoning is all too plausible. I have a feeling that right now, people inside Pixar are fighting against another Toy Story film being made, while the corporate suits at Disney are fighting for it.

  • Justin

    I will definitely ask for the Toy Story book for Christmas! I can’t wait to read it!

  • http://www.stevenmatarazzo.com Steven

    I just ordered the Toy Story book, looks awesome! I have two Toy Story art books, one from the 1st film and one from the 3rd film. I don’t recall there being an Art of the 2nd film, although I may be mistaken.

    Anyway it’s not a bad price for the book considering it covers 3 films and apparently has a lot of new information in it.

  • Chuck P.

    How many books do we really need on Toy Story? Seems like cash grab.

    As time passes, the Pixar films’ art and visuals have become less and less impressive. Look at Boo from Monster’s Inc. http://images2.fanpop.com/images/polls/246000/246963_1244080930356_full.jpg
    She almost reaches Shrek levels of ugliness.

    I would much rather see Charles Solomon do a book on vintage Disney. Unlike Pixar, those old Disney films’ art and visuals look even more beautiful and impressive with the passage of time and are better than pretty much everything done in feature animation over the past 30 years .

  • Val

    I’ve been wanting to buy that Sketchtravel book for ages, but the only version available was in French! Guess the English version is finally out. Can’t wait to order it, it looks like such an amazing book and mission.

  • Anthony D.

    Note to self: Get Toy Story book for my birthday. ;)

  • Ryan

    Sketch Travel is and has always been an awesome project.

    As for yet another Pixar, Lasseter, Toy Story, “the Good O’l Days” Coffee Table info/art book. I seriously ask and ponder if this one gives any mention or nod to Jim Henson’s 1986 Christmas special, The Christmas Toy regarding Toy Story’s conception… because seriously…come on John.

  • Taylor

    I was lucky enough to flip through the original Sketch Travel copy when it came through Bill Plympton’s studio. Really amazing work. Definitely picking up a copy of that puppy. Thanks for the heads up.

  • http://home.earthlink.net/~ironybread Taylor Jessen

    I transcribed Charles’ interviews for this one, and can confirm it will be a must-read. His interviewees did not hold back. (Ed Catmull in particular. Hoo boy.)