THE ART OF DREAMWORKS' HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
by Linda Sunshine
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
The Art of Dreamworks' How to Train Your Dragon 2, is, as with most art books tied in to a specific movie, a book with a relatively limited shelf life. While the film is in theatres, and perhaps when the film is released on home video, the book is of interest. This is really too bad, because The Art of Dreamworks' How to Train Your Dragon 2 is an excellent book about the making of the film.
Animated films frequently have a lot of gorgeous images in the animation, however the images go by too quickly for the audience to see the detail of those pictures. A book like The Art of How to Train Your Dragon 2 gives fans the opportunity to fully explore the artistry that went into the film. Not only are the pictures presented, but the text, by Linda Sunshine, points out the detailed work that the viewer might want to look for as well as provide explanations for the decisions that led to the final art looking the way it does.
The book is divided into chapters to allow the reader to explore the world of How to Train Your Dragon 2 in stages, focusing first on the familiar characters that were introduced in the first film. This section also allows Sunshine to discuss how the characters were aged between the films to remain true to the appearance fans were familiar with, but still make the characters look as if time had passed.
Once the familiar is examined, Sunshine uses the sections on the new characters and places to explain how the art was designed to remain in line with the first film while at the same time giving them a unique appearance. Partly this is done by showing preliminary sketches of the creatures, places, and props, as well as their final format, as well as the descriptive text. In addition, while things in the film may go by too quickly, or be too dark for the details to resonate with the audience, on the page, the details of spots, scales, or textures in general are much more noticeable and the reader can take the time necessary to fully appreciate the artistry that has gone in to the film.
The text of the film also provides tantalizing glimpses into how a modern animated film is made, so different in many ways than a traditionally drawn animated film, but also so similar. Nevertheless, The Art of Dreamworks' How to Train Your Dragon 2 is not designed to be a lesson in film-making and Sunshine does not go into too much details, mostly discussing the film-making process in terms of character and scenery design, and thus only whets the appetite.
For as beautiful and detailed as the book it, its audience is essentially limited to those who are already fans of the How to Train Your Dragon films. Sunshine's text adds to the depth of those movies by explaining the thought behind the character and location designs, although it doesn't add to the story or the mythology of the series. Nevertheless, it is a gorgeous book that offers wonderful insight into modern animated cinematography.