HomeCultureBooksEditor’s Picks

The art of an inspiring read: Books about film art

The art of an inspiring read: Books about film art

"Art Of" books (books that share a behind-the-scenes look into some of the greatest films, TV shows and video games) are on the rise. George Chrysostomou takes a dive into the genre

Non-fiction readers, film fans and artistic entrepreneurs are going to be inspired by an underrated genre that is beginning to expand its range of offerings. "Art Of" books can be found in all good book stores and are usually located in either the entertainment or arts section.

These fantastic pieces will surely help to motivate a new generation of imaginative thinkers, but they aren’t nearly as well-known as they perhaps should be. So what is an "Art Of" book and why are they so important for the future of the creative industries?

What is an "Art Of" book? 

An "Art Of" book collects together the musings, sketches, doodles and concept art of the world’s leading creators. Whether it’s an animated film, a live-action TV hit, a world-renowned video game or even a theme park, there’s an "Art Of" book that shares the secrets of the production process of every category.

"These books feel like a museum exhibition"

Brands such as Disney, Warner Bros and PIXAR have consistently produced "Art Of" releases with household publishers such as Chronicle Books and Harper Collins. These books feel like a museum exhibition, detailing exactly who created the pieces of art, why they were designed and how those concepts impacted the final production.

Although fans of pop culture will find a great deal to enjoy within those pages, it’s hard to not want to scratch that innovative itch once you start reading. It’s important to note that visual dictionaries and guide books are completely different. They do not act as a walkthrough of the creative process itself. 

What are some of the best?

While readers will have a preference based on their familiarity with the material, there are examples of "Art Of" books that certainly have mass appeal.

Disney’s exclusive The Art Of Disneyland Paris is a fantastic example. The book documents the hard work of the Imagineers who painstakingly put together one of the world’s most famous theme parks. Ride designs, parade concepts and hotel architectural sketches are accompanied by a fascinating history lesson on how the French tourist destination came to be.

Puente de flores, Robert Kondo, Disney's Coco. Image: Jl FilpoC, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Puente de flores, Robert Kondo, Disney's Coco. Image: Jl FilpoC, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Speaking of Disney, PIXAR’s The Art Of Coco is vibrant, visually spectacular and genuinely moving. It makes mention of how the music and culture of the Mexican Day of the Dead tradition influenced the animated hit, from its characters to its phenomenal backdrop. It’s a fantastic display of how PIXAR observed Latin heritage and elevated the movie through an artistic lens. 

Outside of the House of Mouse, The Art of Mondo puts the spotlight on the famous poster designers, who have created memorable artwork for endless classics. The unique and stylised work of the company is highlighted thanks to posters from movies such as Jurassic Park, Godzilla and Kill Bill.

It would be criminal to not also mention The Art of The Lord of the Rings, which acts as a snapshot into a genius mind. The book is a collection of sketches from J R R Tolkien himself as he plotted out maps, runes and settings in an attempt to make sense of his ever-evolving fantastical world

There are too many more to name, such as projects surrounding Broadway greats like Hamilton and Wicked or video game giants like Horizon: Forbidden West. Ultimately, there truly is something for everyone. 

Why are they so gorgeous?

But why are these books more gorgeous than what may end up on the screen? The "Art Of" books ultimately act as a reflection of complete creative freedom. These books are all about risk taking, and throwing ideas at the wall to see what sticks.

The final products will be overly produced and would have passed through many different departments. The entertainment and arts industry is certainly collaborative, but the "Art Of" books are especially useful at breaking down the components and seeing what the concepts were at a fundamental level. 

The anniversary of the making of Toy Story. Image: Ed Bierman, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Toy Story concept art. Image: Ed Bierman, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The artwork is always so beautiful because it is uninhibited. It’s designed to spark debate and create discourse on how to best move forward. The final result might look completely different. But it would never have gotten to the most polished and pristine version without these initial designs paving the way. It’s a peek behind the curtain of some of the most brilliant minds who are obviously excellent at what they do.

It’s also a vision of how their raw emotions look when placed on the page unedited. Ultimately, "Art Of" books are somehow about both the individual and the collective working in tandem. That’s reflected in the art. 

Why are they so powerful?

It’s the emotional intelligence of "Art Of" books that makes them so powerful. They are always going to inspire and that’s not just because of the concepts that have been detailed on the page. It’s also down to the written word. The best "Art Of" books contain well-crafted introductions and captions. They include stories throughout the book, examining what the art meant to the process and the people.

"The best 'Art Of' books contain well-crafted introductions and captions"

Despite many of these books coming from massive companies and studios, there is something very personal about them. The artists spent a good portion of their careers and their lives ensuring that what came out of their physical and digital pens would move someone. It’s hard to not feel engaged with that level of storytelling.

"Art Of" books are a great study of the technical processes that go into making an entertainment product, but they are also an intriguing study of the journey of the crew behind them. That’s what’s so motivational. Real people. Real stories. Real art. 

Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter


*This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you.

This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you. Read our disclaimer

Loading up next...