Friday, December 10, 2010

15. Movie Magic. Three Books.

Harry Potter: A Pop-Up Book Based on the Film Phenomenon, illustrated by Andrew Williamson, paper engineering by Bruce Foster, Insight Editions, $34.95, all ages, 12 pages. Flying off shelves since its November release, this lush pop-up puts the drama of Harry Potter films into 3-D scenes you'll want to get lost in. Illustrated by the lead concept artist on all eight Harry Potter films and engineered by the creator of this year's A Christmas Carol: A Pop-Up Edition, the book feels not only wonderfully familiar -- matching up with film footage we've grown to love -- but has a cinematic quality that doesn't often appear into pop-ups. Warm, glowing colors and deep shadows replicate the lighting effects around Diagon Alley and Hogwarts (one of the most dramatic pop-ups, towering above the book with spires and minarets). You feel instantly swept into the drama and want to stick your head down into the locations of Hagrid's Hut and the Forbidden Forest, as if somehow you could shrink to fit inside.

There's also a sense of the impending in every scene. As you open pop-ups for the Triwizard Tournament and a clash between Harry and Lord Voldemort, you feel like the action is only on pause and could start all over again. Sprinkled among five main pop-up are smaller, charming surprises: lift one flap and the red jaws of a howler open to deliver a message or peer into a cage to see Harry's snowy owl, Hedwig. Fun movie facts and three small movie posters add to the magic and by book's end, you're ready to look at it all over again. This is a book you'll be tempted to display open on a shelf.

Disney's Alice in Wonderland: A Visual Companion, by Mark Salisbury, with a foreword by Tim Burton, Disney Editions, $50, ages 9 and up, 256 pages. Fans of renowned director and producer Tim Burton won't want to miss this spectacular inside look at the making of the movie, Alice in Wonderland. Packed with every snippet of artwork you could imagine, the book shows not only stills from the movie, but behind-the-scenes footage, concept artwork, movie stills marked with editing notes, set and costume designs as they evolve, and interviews with Burton and The Mad Hatter himself, Johnny Depp. Every so often, eye-popping photographs are overlaid with quotes by the movie's creators and actors talks about scenes or each other. The most intriguing part of the book is all the artwork that was created to guide the animation -- gorgeous sketches and paintings that never appeared in the film, for which, without this book, we might never see. One of my favorite photographs shows a series of clay heads used to make the prosthetics that give the king's court its facial distortions. Though pricier than most books, this is one that will be treasured long after your child grows up.

The Art of Megamind: Bad. Brilliant. Blue., by Richard von Busack, with a foreword by Will Ferrell, Insight Editions, $39.95, ages 9 and up, 156 pages. Now that we all think of DreamWorks's big, blue 3-D superhero as Megamind, consider this: We could be calling him, the villainous "Oobermind." In this fact-filled visual movie companion, readers learn how the master of all villainy came to be -- and get an inside look at ideas and art that were left on the drawing board. Busack walks us through the evolution of Megamind from a suave meanie in a safari suit to an industrious underdog with a ridiculously big head. Before settling on his classic bald-villain look, artists tried out a massive banana head and smokestack head with beetle brows, but realized quickly neither fit his image as a fashion plate, "lovable egomaniac" with style. Every page is filled with concept art and storyboards that explain how the story and characters evolved, and what might have been, including art for alternate endings. Along with descriptive chapters on the main characters, Busack shares how locations were created, from Metro City, with its Vegas architecture yet everyday feel, to Megamind's lair, patterned after the tool-littered garage from the TV reality show American Chopper. My favorite behind-the-scenes story? How Minion transformed from a goofy, knob-nosed sidekick in aviator goggles to a gorilla robot with a fish in a fishbowl for a head. Fans of the movies will devour every factoid and delight in listening in on artists at work.

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