New book highlights Pixar's fantastic art

A new book, "The Art of Pixar" highlights the early artistic work behind the "Toy Story" and "Finding Nemo" studio's many hit films. Through hundreds of colorscripts and concept imagery, we get a glimpse at some of the early thinking on each film.

This is one of dozens of concept images and hundreds of colorscripts from the new book, 'The Art of Pixar.'
Ralph Eggleston

If you're a fan of Pixar's many wonderful movies--and who isn't?--you've no doubt spent years caught up in the studio's terrific storytelling. But you've probably also been glued to your seat again and again by Pixar's terrific artistry.

Now, you can dig deep into the history of that work. With the new book "The Art of Pixar," Amid Amidi takes us inside the creative process behind Pixar's long list of hit films--"Toy Story," "Finding Nemo," "Monster's Inc.," "Ratatouille," "Wall-E," "Up," "Cars 2," and so on.

The book has two sections. First is 177 pages of what are known as colorscripts--"a series of very small, postage-stamp-sized images--each from a different scene in the story--all connected together, like a filmstrip," as Pixar studio head John Lasseter puts it in the book's forward.

For years, Pixar has put out an "art of" film for each of its films, featuring a few of the colorscripts, but as Lasseter points out, there's never been room to show more than a few. "So I'm very happy that this book has finally given us the chance to share all the colorscripts produced for the studio's films, in their entirety," Lasseter wrote.

Writing about the colorscripts for Pixar's original feature film, "Toy Story," Lasseter waxed sentimental in the forward for "The Art of Pixar." "It was absolutely fascinating to see Woody's journey unfold in the colors of each image. They range from the warm, comforting light in the introduction to Andy's room, to the darkness that sneaks into the film as Woody's jealousy takes over, to the night scenes showing Woody and Buzz fighting as they try to get back to Andy's, and finally to the warmth of the Christmas lights we see when everyone is reunited at the end of the film."

In truth, paging through the hundreds of colorscripts, you find yourself lost in visual storytelling, even when some of the imagery doesn't seem as familiar as it should. The artistic styles vary considerably, and in many cases, don't seem at all like what ended up on the silver screen. Yet behind all of that is the emotional heart of each of the stories.

The second section of the book is dozens more images, this time conceptual art for each of the films. These are bigger, and each frame tells a story on its own, free from the constraints of trying to blend in with any other images, as is the case with the colorscripts. These can be literal frames that later ended up in the movies, or they can be more abstract. Yet, the emotional heft of seeing, say, Wall-E alone on top of a rocket ship as it heads into the void of the Milky Way is heart-wrenching. So too is the feeling you get when you see a 2007 image for 2010's "Toy Story 3" of Woody sitting alongside a sleeping little girl.

There's nothing quite like watching a Pixar film in a theater alongside hundreds of fellow moviegoers. But taking your time with a book like "The Art of Pixar" is an unexpected and essential adjunct to the experience. It's a path through the minds of the artists, and as a result, a look inside at the characters, scenes, sets, and environments that shape the many movies that together form Pixar's enviable collection.