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!

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