Tag Archive: production design


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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s more likely than not you haven’t heard of Galaxy’s Edge, or Black Spire Outpost, or the remote Outer Rim planet called Batuu.  But you have heard of Star Wars.  Billions have seen that fictional space fantasy galaxy via movies, books, and a TV series.  But far fewer have made their way to Walt Disney World in Florida or Disneyworld in California, and that means a tie-in, real world location event experience is out there that most Star Wars fans haven’t tapped into yet.  That’s where Abrams Books’ seventh book in their concept art library documenting the Star Wars universe comes into play.  The Art of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will take readers where they’ve never been, a world inspired by the artwork of Ralph McQuarrie just as the movies were so inspired, further springing from 11 movies, three series, and dozens of books.  The result is a destination different and new that fans have never seen before.
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Review by C.J. Bunce

Of all the attributes of Star Trek’s Deep Space Nine series, my personal favorite is the art direction.  Because it is a visual account of the production of the show, the new Deep Space Nine Illustrated Handbook is a celebration of the work of key creative visionaries and futurist art designers Rick Sternbach, Michael Okuda, and Doug Drexler, and more.  Reprinting key components from more than 8,500 mail order Fact Files cards published between 1997 and 2002, this attractive, hardcover, coffee table book will provide insight into Star Trek’s outlying, groundbreaking series for a new generation of fans now watching for the first time via Netflix and other streaming platforms.  In this chronicle expect to find everything but a self-sealing stem bolt.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

We previewed Dan Curry’s new look back at his work on Star Trek in September.  The nicely designed full color hardcover, Star Trek: The Artistry of Dan Curry is designed and reads like a true sequel to Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens landmark 1995 book The Art of Star Trek, once the only definitive look at the artwork behind the franchise (we’ve covered nearly all the Star Trek art books since then here at borg).  Like any professional in the art and design fields for a television or feature film crew, Dan Curry had a variety of projects he handled.  This book digs into Curry’s work from 1987 to 2005, basically Star Trek: The Next Generation through Enterprise, where he served as visual effects supervisor/producer, second-unit director, title designer, and concept designer, winning seven Emmys for his effort.

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Along with the hundreds of concept artists and designers that have created the look of Star Trek over the years, including Matt Jeffries, Andrew Probert, Richard Delgado, Ken Adams, Rick Sternbach, Mike Okuda, Greg Jein, Neville Page, Syd Mead, Ralph McQuarrie, and John Eaves (whose book we reviewed here at borg), you need to include Dan Curry.  From The Next Generation to Enterprise, Dan’s variety of Star Trek work has resulted in some of the series’ most memorable moments.  Coming soon from Titan Books, Star Trek: The Artistry of Dan Curry (available for pre-order now here at Amazon) chronicles decades of those key creations, and we have a 12-page look inside below for borg readers, courtesy of the publisher. 

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Review by C.J. Bunce

We’re accustomed to seeing non-fiction tie-in books digging into what makes the big sci-fi franchises so popular.  But it’s only a recent trend that publishers are meeting fan demand by digging into those television series that don’t have the established fan bases and studio support.  Firefly was probably the first series to break out in this way, but publishers are now seeing–thanks to streaming platforms specifically–that fans want more content about their favorite shows.  Following recent books like Jeff Bond’s The World of The Orville (reviewed here at borg) and The Art and Making of the Expanse (reviewed here), the next acclaimed science fiction series has a behind-the-scenes account with Mike Avila’s The Man in the High Castle: Creating the Alt World from Titan Books.

Designed almost identically to the successful The World of The Orville, this look at Amazon Studios’ The Man in the High Castle: Creating the Alt World is both an overview of the series, its characters, its source material, and the creation of its detailed alternate world, and it’s also a visit with the creators behind and in front of the camera that made a complex, highly regarded work of classic sci-fi literature into a compelling benchmark in television storytelling.  As we’ve seen in interviews with Lisa Henson in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance–Inside the Epic Return to Thra and interviews about the Broccoli family in The Many Lives of Bond: How the Creators of 007 Have Decoded the Superspy, this look at the Amazon series provides one of fandom’s first glimpses at Philip K. Dick’s daughter, Dick estate trustee and series executive producer Isa Dick Hackett.  So whether you liked (or not) how the series took portions of the novel, left some behind, and added new bits, Hackett explains the thought process behind the production’s choices.

The book covers the entire series–all four seasons–and is divided into four sections by theater: the Japanese Pacific States, the Neutral Zone, the Greater Nazi Reich, and Alternate Worlds, and these sections further highlight specific components of the series, including characters, locations, design, costumes, props, and music.  There’s even a section on creating the creepy opening title sequence, slightly altered each season.  And stills of the signage, both re-created concepts and alternate history imagery, provide fans the opportunity to at last study them in detail.

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This Friday fans of the science fiction TV series The Expanse get their wish: a fourth season and new studio commitment that may yield even more seasons.  Dropped by the Syfy channel more than a year ago, Amazon Studios is breathing new life into the series, taking over right where the third season left off (check out a preview for the new season below).  Based on the James S.A. Corey series of novels (eight with a ninth in the works), the show has earned a fan following much like that of the Battlestar Galactica reboot, in part because of its similar dark and gritty look at the future of Earth.  And as a bonus, unlike most TV series, The Expanse now has its own behind-the-scenes book digging into the production, full of concept artwork, ship and costume designs, and all the future tech that goes into a visual effects-filled show.

The Art and Making of The Expanse was created by Titan Books editor Andy Jones and Alcon Publishing’s Jeff Conner.  It doesn’t skimp on the photographs, giving fans both a treasure trove of screen images while also showing how those final shots came to be.  It recounts how the series made its way from video game to roleplay game to novels before getting picked up for TV.  Showrunner Naren Shankar and producers Mark Fergus, Daniel Abraham, and Ty Franck tell the whole story with contributions from actors Steven Strait, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham, Cas Anvar, Thomas Jane, and Sadavir Errinwright, production designer Seth Reed, costume designer Joanne Hansen, construction coordinator Robert Valeriote, senior VFX supervisor Bob Munroe, and concept artist Tim Warnock.

Readers will see all the key sets, spacesuits and other costumes, props, designs, ships, ship signage, and more from the first three seasons with a look at the fourth season’s concept art.  Look for layouts on each main character, the major ships and space stations, and a lot more.

Here is a preview of season four of The Expanse, with new cast members Burn Gorman (Torchwood, Forever, The Man in the High Castle), Lyndie Greenwood (Sleepy Hollow, Nikita), Jess Salgueiro (Orphan Black, The Strain), Michael Benyaer (Deadpool, Magnum PI), Chai Valladares (Star Trek Discovery, The Boys), and Kris Holden-Reid (Vikings, Lost Girl), and a new cyborg or two:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Writer Ramin Zahed is back with his next dive behind the scenes of the latest animated films (including Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Missing Link, The Little Prince, and Klaus), this time exploring this year’s CGI version of The Addams Family in The Addams Family: The Art of the Animated Movie.  You might have thought you’d seen it all when it comes to the creepy, kooky, mysterious, spooky (and ooky) family that became a classic to two generations, first as a 1960s television series and later as a 1990s movie series.  What you might not have known was the Addams Family dates back to a New Yorker cartoon from the 1930s.

For the 2019 movie The Addams Family, co-directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan didn’t want to make another version of the TV or film versions in animated form.  So they went back to the source, creator Charles Addams.  In interviews with executives and animators, Zahed explores the source material and concept artwork that inspired the new film.  It turns out Charles Addams created character descriptions for each of the famous characters, Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Uncle Fester, Lurch, Grandma, Thing, and It–it was these descriptions that the character designers used to guide the personality of the new animated version of the characters.

The Addams Family: The Art of the Animated Movie walks readers through each of the above characters, supporting character art designs, a portrait gallery from the mansion, props, vehicles, and setting locations, providing images of the designs artists went through before deciding on the final, with concept art, storyboards, and production art, and inspiration from Charles Addams’ original cartoons.  Contributors from the film include producers Gail Berman, Alison O’Brien, Alex Schwartz, and Danielle Sterling, character designer Craig Kellman, production designer Patricia Atchison, story lead Todd Demong, animation director Mike Linton, and animation creators Rav Grewal, Casey Kirkpatrick, Marie-Eve Kirkpatrick, Laura Brusseau, and Yiqun Chen.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In art director and designer Roger Christian’s book Cinema Alchemist (reviewed here at borg) readers learn how the Oscar-winning set designer changed the way audiences see the future through intentionally distressed sets and props and the clever incorporation of real-world components.  In books like Dressing a Galaxy, Star Wars Costumes, and Star Trek Costumes, readers can see how costume designers create what we think of as the future.  Now writer Dave Addey takes science fiction fans back to visit how visionary filmmakers of classic science fiction used futuristic and sometimes even classic fonts and type styles to convey what lies ahead and in his book Typeset in the Future: Typography and Design in Science Fiction Movies, available now from Abrams Books.

At first focusing on what he believes to be the most pervasive font of the future, Eurostile Bold Extended–used in Back to the Future, Apollo 13, Battlestar Galactica, Independence Day, and hundreds of other films–Dave Addey highlights seven key science fiction films and how they used a wide variety of typeface designs to make us see the future.  2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Blade Runner, Total Recall, Wall·E, and Moon (alas, no Star Wars, possibly because it is not technically science fiction per se) each get taken apart and dissected.  With numerous screencaps, and identification of several dozen font designs inside the films and used in marketing via posters and other advertisements, readers will be surprised what set designers came up with over the past 50 years.

Addey finds some of the fonts made famous in film have filtered into our daily lives as real-world corporate logos–Gill Sans Light, City Bold, Univers 59 Ultra Bold Condensed, Manifold, Futura Bold, Kabel Book, Computer, Micr, Data 70, Stop, Handel Gothic, Pump Demi, Swiss 911 Ultra Compressed, Gunship–these will all be familiar to you even if you don’t know them by name.  With his own pop culture knowledge and sense of humor, he has also built his own framework to analyze the success of these fonts, using manipulation via italic slant, curved lettering, straightening others, adding sharp points, adjusting kern or spacing, creating slices through letters, adding texture, adding a bevel or extrusion, and/or a star field background, although he says no title font has yet used them all to become the most futuristic of all.

Here is a look inside the book:

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By C.J. Bunce

Of all this year’s books we’ve read and reviewed at borg in 2018, more than 100 all told, we’re hard-pressed to find one that matches the beauty of design in The Archive of Magic – The Film Wizardry of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, a new elaborately designed and detailed look at the film, the story, and the production of the new fantasy film from the mind of J.K. Rowling.  Not only is the photograph reproduction quality superb, every page incorporates the style of the film, created by the very designers who made the images for the film.  That’s MinaLima–the dynamic art duo of Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima–who also designed props for the Harry Potter movies as well as a new series of classic book reprints (reviewed here previously at borg).

Writer/editor Signe Bergstrom provides several textual elements that make The Archive of Magic stand out.  She presents the narrative of the story itself in a way that will help moviegoers understand the sequence of events in the densely packed film.  She also incorporates in-world elements, like examining new characters and story elements, and she steps out of the fantasy and interviews the film’s creative staff, writers, and actors, to provide an in-depth guide through the production.  Readers will find final as-filmed versions of costumes and set production, in contrast with The Art of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, which consists primarily of pre-production concept artwork (see our review here yesterday).

The Archive of Magic takes the paper ephemera book tie-in concept that has exploded in the past three years to another level.  Included are several reproductions of paper props that were key to the story, not merely set dressing, but the book also includes tipped-in reproductions of set dressing, too, created by the artists who made the very props seen in the film–for any past Harry Potter universe film replica props like this would sell for at least $10-20 each.  It begins with a deluxe hardcover, magnetic wraparound cover with gold embossed Art Nouveau designs.  Included are Leta Lestrange’s note she finds in the Ministry Records Room, a 3D-lenticular photo identification card for Newt Scamander, a book mark incorporating Grindelwald’s logo on paper stock like that seen in the film, Credence Barebone’s dual-sided birth certificate, Queenie’s postcard from Tina, the Spellbound magazine that incorrectly reports on a Newt Scamander/Leta Lestrange engagement, Nicolas Flamel’s business card that Dumbledore gives to Newt, Butter Beer logo label stickers, six reproduced newspaper pages, and two folded, full-size circus posters.

Take a look at this book trailer produced by Harper Design, and sixteen interior pages from the book:
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Review by C.J. Bunce

For a film inside the giant, magical world of Harry Potter, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald seemed to come and go from theaters with little fanfare.  J.K. Rowling‘s newest world is a bleak one full of darkness, and without her trademark happier, lovable, wonderful bits to echo the Harry Potter universe that draws its fans to this new series.  The spin-off series may suffer from prequel-itis.  Does it indicate that, like George Lucas and his prequels, the bestselling living author might benefit from letting someone else step in to edit these screenplays into a more accessible story for her fans?  The original screenplay to Grindelwald clocks in at a whopping 304 pages, nearly three times the standard, and it may have been simply too difficult for the production to whittle it all down into a cohesive story.  Regardless of what you think of the finished film, it is difficult to deny the amazing level of work that went into the production design.  We’re featuring some great behind-the-scenes books that spotlight the artistry behind the film over the next few days, beginning today with The Art of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, by concept artist Dermot Power, who also penned the predecessor book The Art of the Film: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

The Art of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald showcases the work of fifty-five artists, with notations provided by each creator, including what they were commissioned to draw, what inspired the look, and where the piece belonged in the story.  Art Nouveau inspired much of the film, coupled with a very steampunk industrial look that did not appear in the Harry Potter films.  Highlights include blueprints for stage sets, concept art that influenced the various Paris scenes, the design for Grindelwald’s vial, circus images that didn’t make it into the film, and Newt’s half-flooded basement zoo.

Best of all, Power’s new book gets to the heart of what is missing on the big screen from both Fantastic Beasts films: more images of the elaborate, intricately stylized, fantastic animal creations.  Unlike many “art of” books, the author pulls out far more fully rendered drawings, paintings, sculptures, instruments, 3D set builds, character designs, and visual effects try-ons–concept artwork that didn’t make it into the final film.  He also provides clearer images of the creatures that did make it into the film but were lost in the shadows because of the dimly lit cinematography used in the film, like the ethereal half-animal, half-vegetable Kelpie.

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