Thursday, 8 August 2013

Review: The Art of Monsters University by Karen Paik

Publisher: Chronicle Books
Format: Large hardcover
Released: July 1st, 2013
Rating: 9/10

Amazon summary:

Featuring the concept art that went into the film's creation; from character studies and sculpts to colour scripts, storyboards and more, The Art of Monsters University also includes behind-the-scenes interviews with the film's many artists. 


The Art of Monsters University is yet another fantastic Disney title published by Chronicle and is one of my favourite art books of the year so far. It helps that I really loved the film and all its various art but, even if I wasn't an existing fan of the film, this book would still have been on my must-read list! There aren't many companies out there doing better work than Pixar, and this book hammers that point home.

The Art of Monsters University starts off with a preface by John Lasseter and Pete Docter and a foreword by director Dan Scanlon, complete with college photos! For me it's always interesting to hear from the people responsible for these films, because there's so much information and trivia there. These two pages by themselves offer insight and behind the scenes access, so imagine what the rest of the book is like!

This book is split into eight main chapters, excluding the preface and foreword. These chapters consist of: Introduction, Inspired, University, Greek Life, The Scare Games, Field Trip, Camp Teamwork and Epilogue. Each section is full of concept art and is accompanied by small amounts of text on each page. Introduction starts by explaining why and how Monsters Inc. ended up with a sequel and the challenges that it presented. There's a comparison between the characters, colours and sets of Monsters Inc. and Monsters University, which highlights main differences and shows how Monsters University has been made to look like it takes place in the eighties. It's all very interesting stuff.

The next chapter, Inspired, introduces one of my favourite characters: First-Grade Mike. He's so little and cute and he has a brace to emphasise how young he is! There's a fantastic piece of digital art by Jason Deamer that shows Mike's whole first-grade class of monsters in all their fantastical shapes and sizes. Mike's in the middle of them - the smallest of the lot! There's also storyboards covering certain sequences, all of which are instantly recognisable to anyone who's seen the film.

The rest of the book is a brilliant easel of digital and painted/drawn art, all of which is worth looking at for hours on end. There are also pages dedicated to the maquettes that were made, as well as character line-ups, a guide to the various fraternities and a valuable insight into how the film actually made it to the big screen. One of the coolest things I've learned from reading the book cover to cover is that the character of Dean Hardscrabble originally started off life as a male, and there's concept art to prove it! The team scrapped the whole character and started again, proof that the guys at Pixar will do anything to get their films right.

There's so much included here that it's just impossible to cover everything, but it's a fantastic book and one that is essential for any fans of Monsters University or Pixar. I'll be revisiting it again when I've rewatched the film on Blu-ray later in the year, just so I can pick up on anything I missed the first time. I hope other film enthusiasts enjoy this book as much as I did - it's a gem, just like the film itself!

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