Postgraduate Study

Review of “The Art of” books

Yesterday I spend a few hours in the library reading “The Art of” books that I mentioned in the previous post as I hoped to find parts of them relevant to my research. Apart from “The Art of Dreamworks Animation”, “The Art of Disney Pixar Brave”, “The Art of Tangled” and “The Art of Frozen” books, which I all planned to review beforehand, by a lucky chance I also stumbled across “Timing for animation” by Harold Whitaker and John Halas. Even though I have read the book awhile back, I decided to check if there is any relevant information in it as well, to possibly use it later in my research.

My approach for working with these books was rather straightforward – I would find books on films that had horse characters in it, then scan the book to see if there is any chapters dedicated to those characters. If there was not, I would look through the book to see if there is any information or illustrations with horses being supporting characters to one of the main characters in the story (e.g. Hans’ horse Sitron in Frozen). That way I make sure I am able to collect as much of the limited information available to support my research while not having to spend too much time reading through entire book.

At the end of a day I had some worthwhile information gathered from the mentioned books. While overall there was even less data on horse characters than I anticipated, I was still able to collect some details that would give me insight into production process and help me analyse film itself more accurately. I found “The Art of Disney Pixar Brave” and “The Art of Tangled” most useful as it had separate chapter dedicated to the equine characters and, even though they were brief and limited, featured descriptions and comments from the designers (which, at the very least, gave a clear idea of what artists were trying to achieve with particular character design).

Two other books were not as thorough but I was still able to extract some information that I could potentially use to help through my research. “The Art of Dreamworks Animation” had a chapter dedicated to Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, but it mostly focused on use of environment designs throughout the film while not really discussing the characters. However, it did feature some concept art with horses that I found really well captured the essence of the main character as well as the nature of his relationships with others. Finally, “The Art of Frozen” did not have any description or comments concerning horses in the film, but it did present two illustrations of early concept design for Hans’ horse. While the horse’s design evidently been completely redone before the final design featured in the film was created (the concept art shows a light riding horse build while in the final movie Sitron is a draft pony of Norwegian Fjord breed, which is evident of its characteristic two-toned mane), it is fascinating to see how artist intended the horse to be a supporting figure to Hans character – he is introduced as “prince in the shining armor” and his horse shows similar proud and regal features as the rider.

The last book that I managed to scan through yesterday was “Timing for Animators” by Harold Whitaker and John Halas. While the book has a lot of practical information for animating any moving thing or creature, I was pleased to find that it also had a few pages on animating horse walk and gallop. While it only provides a very basic approach, I decided to take a note of it as it might be useful as a starting point when I begin animating.

All in all, while I was disappointed with very limited information available, I was able to gather some data that will be useful in my research. The biggest part of the findings is concept art images and character sketches, but I was also able to find a few comments from artist and producers on what traits where emphasized in character creation and what is character’s role in the story. I believe that this information will not only give me an insight to creating strong equine characters but also help me better understand and more accurately analyse character in the film.


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