Monday, 24 June 2013

Review: The Art of Turbo by Robert Abele

Publisher: Titan Books
Format: Large hardcover
Released: June 11th, 2013
Rating: 9/10

Amazon summary:

What do you get when you cross a snail with the Indianapolis 500? If youre DreamWorks, then the result is Turbo, an upliftingand gear-shiftingstory about the ultimate underdog. Packed with breathtaking images that showcase the artistry of the industrys top talents, The Art of Turbo gives readers a close-up look at the process behind the new CG-animated feature.


"Turbo represents all characters who have preposterous dreams." 
- David Soren, director of Turbo.

The Art of Turbo is yet another brilliant movie book brought to us by Titan Books. They've had a cracking year for animation art book releases, including The Art of Rise of the Guardians and The Art of Epic, and The Art of Turbo is like the icing on an already-perfect cake. It boasts a very funny foreword by Turbo voice actor Ryan Reynolds and an insightful preface from director David Soren, who talks about some early challenges facing the film and how he approached the project.

Turbo is a new animated feature film produced by Dreamworks, released in the US in July and in the UK in October. It tells the story of Turbo, a snail with big dreams and aspirations. He wants to win the Indy 500 race - an IndyCar race in Indianapolis and one of the most prestigious motorsports events in the world. Obviously Turbo is small and painfully slow, as all snails are, but a freak accident and a molecular makeover changes all that and suddenly makes his dream a super-speedy possibility! If that's not enough to make you want to see the film, I don't know what is.

The Art of Turbo is full of fantastic, lavish art from both the concept and final stages of the process. There's a large focus on the characters to begin with, of the human and snail variety, and this particular chapter features my favourite piece of art: a full page image of Turbo himself, by Dominique R. Louis (see above). I found this section to be among the most interesting, because it goes into great detail about how they got Turbo just right. I never thought designing a snail could be so hard, but the team had to factor in how to make him likable, cute and friendly. I think snails are cute anyway, but I know lots of people who don't, and who perceive snails as simply slimy horrible things that should be squashed. I never, ever kill a snail - in fact, I move them to a safe place if ever I see one - but I now understand why the filmmakers faced such a challenge in making Turbo the kind of protagonist that an audience will warm to and root for. I think they've done a great job with the little orange guy!

Turbo's transformation is covered in great detail with a three-page foldout section and accompanying text. Changing his DNA by way of a run-in with nitrous oxide is a believable way for it to happen, and director David Soren describes it as "our version of the spider bite in Spider-Man". A great comparison, I think! Turbo's snail friends and racing opponents are also covered in this book, and are all equally as cute, especially Chet, a skeptical purple snail with a giant brown shell. The racing snails have intimidating names like Whiplash (the leader) and Burn (the only female member) and are so well designed to set them apart from the normal snails. They look like they mean business.

The film's locations also play a big part in this book, with their designs being the main focus. From the Tomato Plant where Turbo works to the Strip Mall where a snail race takes place, everything is covered in colourful detail. There's even a whole chapter dedicated to the human race cars and vehicles that feature in the Indy 500, all painstakingly recreated for animation. They all look stunning, and I'm excited to see how they look when small snails are in their midst.

The final chapter in The Art of Turbo is titled Building a Sequence, and is a feature I'm familiar with from reading other art books. This one breaks down Sequence 950: Snail Race, and goes through each stage of creating the scene, from storyboards to layout to colour keys and final frames. It's my favourite part of the book after the chapter on characters and provides a fascinating insight in to how an animated film gets made. I tip my hat to the people who make these films - the sheer amount of time and effort it takes is phenomenal and I really don't know how they do it. I'm very glad they do, though!

For anyone interested in animation, Dreamworks or even snails, this book is a must-read. The concept art alone is worth the price tag, but the added detail and information from the actual people involved is what makes it really special. I can't wait to meet Turbo and see him on the big screen in October, and I'm pretty jealous that the US folk get it before us. Turbo is the story of a true underdog, someone you'd never think could realise his lifelong dream, and I think that his inspiring tale will resonate with audiences everywhere, young or old. So, here's to Turbo - the fastest snail that ever lived!

The Art of Turbo by Robert Abele. June 11th 2013, £24.99, Titan Books.
Copyright: DreamWorks Turbo (c) 2013 DreamWorks Animation, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

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