Books We Love: April/May 2010

The Art of How to Train Your Dragon

By Tracey Miller-Zarneke

[Newmarket Press, $40]

Although the arrival of yet another ‘art of’ book, detailing the craftsmanship and artistic vision that goes into the making of our favorite animated movies, doesn’t exactly qualify as earth-shattering news these days, it still manages to bring a smile to many toon-lovers’ faces. This month, we get to drool over some 350 development artwork, character designs, story sketches and gorgeous concept art from Dean DeBlois and Chris Sander’s beautifully mounted DreamWorks feature, How to Train Your Dragon. Penned by animation industry veteran Tracey Miller-Zarneke, who also did similar tomes on Kung Fu Panda and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, this 160-page hardcover offers unique insights into how the team at the studio joined forces to bring Cressida Cowell’s popular book to animated life.

This handsome volume is nicely divided into chapters about the dragons, the Vikings and their worlds, but it’s best to simply let the magical art of visionaries such as Nicolas Marlet, Simon Otto, Zhaoping Wei, Pierre-Olivier Vincent and Dominique Louis wash over you like a refreshing shower. As always, we recommend that you the experience the movie first, then enjoy the art book as a memento of the cinematic experience. And keep it out of the reach of the kids and family pets. Like any treasured work of art, you’ll want to keep the pages of this book in pristine condition.

Ramayana: Divine Loophole

By Sanjay Patel

[Chronicle Books, $29.95]

Veteran Pixar animator Sanjay Patel has brought a completely original and refreshing new spin to the ancient Hindu epic Ramayana. Ascribed to India’s first poet Valmiki, this epic dates back to 4th century B.C., but modern audiences will have no problem connecting to its captivating story set in a fairy tale world of god prince Rama and his wife Sita, who is kidnapped by a demon king. Patel, a truly gifted animator and storyboard artist, whose many credits include The Simpsons, Ren & Stimpy, Monsters, Inc., A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Rataoutille, The Incredibles and the upcoming Cars 2, has done a truly magnificent job of illustrating the tale, giving it a whimsical, colorful spin while preserving its timeless roots. After savoring this volume, you may also want to check out Patel’s previous work, The Little Book of Hindu Deities (Plume, $14) which is equally captivating in its own right.