Review by C.J. Bunce
To learn what advancements are happening in technical moviemaking, you can always turn to Weta Workshop and Weta Digital. For the latest in cutting edge film work, you need only turn to the latest book on The Hobbit film series from Weta, its step by step chronicle of the development of the greatest dragon in all of fantasy, Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon. As a supplement of sorts to their grand Chronicles series detailing the creative story of The Hobbit, Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon is the first look at a single element of the franchise, peeling back the development of one character in all its tiny details and from all vantage points.
A smaller dimension book at 8×10 inches compared to the double size and thickness of the Chronicles series, this format is well suited for similar spin-off works–perhaps a single book on each race in Middle-earth one day? But like its counterparts, Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon is dense in both text and photos. Every designer, art director, sculptor, modeller, texture artist, and animator that provided new ideas and elements to arrive at the final creature offer commentary about their thought process and their collaboration with others.
And that collaboration is the key theme of this book. Everyone from voice actor Benedict Cumberbatch to Paul Tobin, to John Howe to Marco Relevant to Leith McPherson to Christian Rivers notes the freeing environment that allowed not only Smaug to be built but an entire classic novel to be adapted into three films.
You’ll learn why Smaug went from four legs to two legs, how his eyes were developed, how concept art designers used animals and real biology to inspire Smaug’s appearance, how his scales and facial features changed over time, and his dialect, sounds and movements all came together to give us the biggest and baddest dragon to hit the big screen. You’ll also see how the two halves of Weta–Weta Workshop and Weta Digital–came together to infuse all their ideas to this singular character.
Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon was written by Chronicles author and Weta Workshop Designer Daniel Falconer, and includes a foreword by Benedict Cumberbatch.