We have reviewed many incredible books about movies here at borg.com. Beginning with Special Effects: The History and Technique and its master class in film study to the book on movie posters The Art of Drew Struzan, to the recent Syfy Channel Book of Sci-fi, we have discussed a variety of the very best books on films and filmmaking, but also the best books on specific productions that the market has to offer. If you missed them, here are links to some of the best books out there:
- For Star Wars, Dressing a Galaxy: The Costumes of Star Wars.
- For The Empire Strikes Back, The Making of The Empire Strikes Back.
- For Star Trek movies, we discussed the best here.
- For Star Trek TV series, we discussed the best here.
- For The Princess Bride, The Princess Bride: A Celebration.
- For classic Doctor Who, The Barry Newbery Signature Collection.
- For Firefly, Firefly: A Celebration.
Each of these books had great content and a great way of sharing it with the reader, making for an immersive experience for the true fan. And there are even more great books in our review pile, from Raiders of the Lost Ark and even more from Star Wars. Then we laid our hands on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Chronicles: Art and Design, thanks to the folks at Weta. In my view Weta is the best magic and fantasy shop in the world. Where we once were dazzled by the spectacles created by Industrial Light and Magic as the coolest, newest cutting edge movie factory, since The Lord of the Rings trilogy ILM has been replaced by the artists, the painters, designers, sculptors, modelers, costumers and builders at Weta studios in New Zealand. Their elaborate sets, props, costumes, make-up–you name it–in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey made for the most incredible fantasy world put on film. Ever. So it’s awesome that Weta put together a book that not only highlights The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’s wondrous creations, but the actual artists that made it all happen.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Chronicles: Art and Design was compiled by Weta Workshop senior concept designer Daniel Falconer. In itself it has the look and feel of a prop from the film, from its finely tooled cover to its pull-out, glow in the dark Thorin’s map inside the front cover to the three page fold-out of Bilbo’s contract. It’s the first book in a series to cover different artistic aspects of The Hobbit movies. Containing 1,000 images of concept art, sketches, a cross-section of the 9,000 paintings created for The Hobbit, props, costumes, hair designs, and sets, it reveals the vision behind the Weta departments that created them. Unlike any book I have seen before, it has a key code that credits each department, designer, or artist that developed what you see in the photos. Some of these are tried and discarded face applications and wigs, like this one for the dwarf Oin:
Other pages focus on characters’ props, including pencil designs, paintings, and detail that any cosplayer would love to delve into for his or her favorite character, like these hand props for the dwarf Ori:
Other pages show the elaborate costume designs. And all include commentary by the artists who came up with concepts and designs. Production designer and Academy Award winner Dan Hennah sums up why this focus on the artists make so much sense: “Film is a collaborative medium and requires the complete attention of every person involved to find the images that will make the final cut. Each artist is encouraged to bring their individual vision to the project and work it in with others to make a cohesive part of the big picture…. For a fantasy movie to succeed, it must transport the viewer into a totally believable world where Dwarves, Dragons, Wizards, Elves, Goblins, Orcs, Trolls and hobbits all exist in a seamless mix of complimentary environments.”
The book begins with views of Hobbiton, which had to be re-created from The Lord of the Rings in exacting detail and fleshed out for expanded use in The Hobbit. We find Bilbo and his costume designs and concept art for Bag End. It moves on to Thorin and his band of dwarves in comparison art showing final designs down to each dwarf’s boots. Dwarf by dwarf we’re given access to trial shots of each dwarf, all used to develop the final look for the film. Each belt, purse, sword and shield is shown for each character, again, with explanations why one design was chosen over others from Dan Hennah, “3 foot 7” Costume Designer Ann Maskrey, Academy Award Winners Peter King, and “3 foot 7” Make-up and Hair Designer and Weta Workshop’s Design and Special Effects Supervisor Richard Taylor.
The book then turns to the flashback scenes of historic dwarves, of ancient battles and armor designs. We get an introduction to Radagast the Brown, the new wizard we meet in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Two chapters turn to environments chosen, from real life cliffs modified digitally for scene use to a revisit to the elf town of Rivendell. And we get to see up close trolls, stone giants, and goblins, including the thoughts behind the development of the hideous Great Goblin, and a look at the familiar Gollum.
The book showcases the art of concept art directors Alan Lee and John Howe, and work from the several artists of the film’s “3 foot 7” Art Department, Costume Department and Weta Workshop–dozens of creative filmmakers who live and work in Wellington, New Zealand.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Chronicles: Art and Design can be purchased from Weta at their website here. Their second volume, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Chronicles: Creatures and Characters will be published in April 2013 and we will preview it here at borg.com. It can be pre-ordered now here.