The Art of the Polar Express, by Mark Cotta Vaz delves deep into the pre production of the world's first CG Christmas movie, from the artwork of the original book, to lush digital art, and insights into the process by director Robert Zemeckis and lead actor Tom Hanks.
This book is an amazing read for lovers of animation, Christmas and not least, locomotive nuts!
The film's complete use of motion capture technology has been controversial, but did you know that it was only one of several choices (others including doing the whole thing in live action, or a combination of live actors and CG)?
How about that the film had a costume department that made all the clothing you see in the film?
The pre production design in this book is just stunning, and reminds you that everything you see was created by incredibly talented humans, using computers as tools, not computers themselves. There's more than computer modelling in here. Portraits of characters, storyboard scenes and architecture were all done as if on an easel.
The artwork in this book is incredibly atmospheric, and the pictures of The Polar Express itself will thrill any train enthusiast.
It also boasts spectacular landscape paintings, by production designer extraordinaire Doug Chiang who first rose to prominence designing the universe of Star Wars Episode One. Although the CGI is cutting edge, the heart of the movie's design seems firmly planted in yesteryear. The North Pole's transport vehicles have more than a hint of Jules Verne about them.
It's by no means a perfect movie, but it is a wonderful rich book. Some of the production art is so beautiful you will want to have it enlarged and hang it on your wall.
If you have read the Art of the Incredibles, also by Cotta Vaz, don't miss out on this one, since in many ways it's a much better book.