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Book Review: Art of Pixar’s Inside Out


Just when I was thinking that this Monday would be as ordinary as the last, I received a copy of The Art of Inside Out, the latest entry in Pixar’s essential “Art of” series, available now from Chronicle Books ahead of the movie’s June 19 opening.

Even if you’ve never touched a Pixar art book before — there must be a few of you still out there — just as soon as you peel the shrink-wrap off of this one, you’ll know that you’re in for a genuine treat.

To start with, the dust jacket, while made from the same material as those of the previous books, is embossed with a delicate faux-leather grain, which adds a sophisticated, tactile feel to the dimensional cover art. (It must be said that the cover imagery would have benefited from more prominent color and less white space.)

If you are wondering who was fortunate enough to be hired by Pixar to provide the written material, the answer is, well, no one. No author is named, since besides a foreword by Amy Poehler (who voices Joy in the film) and an introduction by director Pete Docter, substantial written material is eschewed (there are brief descriptive captions on some of the pages).

Although I’ve enjoyed reading the longer explanatory text in previous volumes, the focus here is, more than ever, on the art itself. After all, these books have never been “making of” production histories but, rather, gallery exhibitions of Pixar artwork conveniently sized for your lap.

At first glance, the concepts from Inside Out seem brighter and bubblier than we’ve ever seen before from Pixar, even when compared to, say, The Art of Toy Story 3 or The Art of Cars 2.

It’s a challenge to pick favorites, but there are a few pages that I keep coming back to.

On page 19, co-director Ronnie del Carmen’s green hued digital-and-pastel of Riley in the memory dump feels, strangely, like a cross between Mary Blair’s designs for Alice in Wonderland and some of Pixar’s own concepts for the early earthbound scenes in WALL-E.

A digital painting by Ralph Eggleston of Riley sitting on the swings under a big, flowing tree (p. 71) reminded me of my own childhood. Eggleston also provides a stunning concept for what I’m guessing are brain synapses earlier in the book (p. 57).

To see a great example of a bold use of color in a small design, flip to page 145 to find a set of digital paintings, provided by Chris Sasaki, of seven brilliant light bulbs set against a black background. I wish I could buy these at Home Depot.

For other another collection of ideas with skillful use of color and shape, this time using a range of physical media (collage, gesso, fabric, ink, paper, spray paint, oil) see Albert Lozano’s minimalist concepts for Joy, Sadness, and Riley’s elephantine imaginary pal Bing Bong on pages 136-139.

When making any film, and especially one as ambitious as Inside Out promises to be, there is sadness, anger, fear, and maybe even disgust for those involved—ideas that don’t work, creative disagreements, the dread of failure—but, as any artist will tell you, there is also joy. And that’s what comes through the most in this book. I can’t wait to see the final product come to life on the screen.