Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Two Hobbit Movie Books: A Twosday Twofer

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Chronicles: Art and Design
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Chronicles II: Creatures and Characters

Written by Daniel Falconer, Published by Harper Design in conjunction with WETA.

This is a beautiful pair of books, not only to look at, but simply to hold in your hand and brush your fingers over their embossed covers. They are lovely artifacts, as might be expected of items produced by WETA, the crack design team responsible for developing the look of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings movies, and now his Hobbit films as well. These books chronicle how every detail of The Unexpected Journey was created, refined, and signed off on, from the mug in Bilbo's hand to the look of each dwarf to the last pus-filled bubo on the Great Goblin's face. Picture after picture of beautiful art made by pencil, paint, and computer is revealed with each flip of a page, and we get to see the might-have-beens for every new character and place as people like Alan Lee and John Howe and a score of others strive to pin down a precise vision of how things would eventually be shown. Background stories and ideas that helped bring peoples and places alive for the designers and actors (things not necessarily shown or mentioned in the film) are revealed in the text.
I found the first Chronicles: Art and Design especially delightful, as it contained both a full size, detachable copy of Thror's Map and a completely readable two-page printing of Bilbo's contract with Thorin and Company. Chronicles II: Creatures and Characters has nothing comparable except a size chart in the back, showing the comparative scale of everything from a Rock Giant to a Rhosgobel Rabbit. It does have more intrinsic interest, however, as it deals more with people and less with places and things.

A rather expensive set at about $40 a volume, but worth it to the fan, I guess, and at some places (such as SFBC, where I ordered mine) available for a little less.

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