It's funny- with so many great animated movies coming out over the last few years, a good number of them don't have very good art books. The Incredibles, one of my top 10 favorite animated movies ever, had an art book that was mostly locations and scenery, done mostly in one style, and had very few pages for character design. The Art of Monsters vs Aliens however, comes packed with all kinds of gorgeous art for every aspect of the film. Character designs, locations, special effects, you name it. I hadn't seen the movie since it came out, but after going through this book several times since I bought it a few months ago, I really want to see it again. While I do tend to like traditional hand drawn animation, seeing that a lot of what's in this book is done with digital paint, it's going to be easy to defend modern techniques against the uppity people who think that art done with computers lacks the heart of the ol' pencil and paper.
The Art of Monsters vs Aliens is divided into several sections: character design, locations, special F/X, The Making of Monsters vs Aliens, and then some concept art that never got used for the movie. I'm more of a character person when it comes to drawing, but every page in this book has artwork that I'd stare at and examine for minutes at a time, no matter how 'boring' it might be (like a simple space ship control room). Usually I'll spend the least amount of time with the location portions of an art book, but that section got just as much attention from me as the characters portion did. A lot of things are covered here and accompanied by very useful text that never gets boring. How they stylized the Golden Gate Bridge while trying to keep it more realistic, the mapping out of Area Fifty-Something: showing every part of the base and then some, the monster prison...I could go on about this for a while. It's that good. A couple of storyboards are featured as well.
The characters section alone is worth the price. There are some absolutely beautiful paintings of Susan done in digital paint, and the only negative thing I can say is that it's such a tease having these pictures here without any prints or posters available like Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon got. Dr. Cockroach's design stayed pretty much the same from the initial sketch to the final product, but Susan's changed a bit over time. The Missing Link had a good story too, as the first few drawings were labeled as being a little too gruesome and scary, but still fun. They mention a lot about how BOB's design seems so easy to do when you look at it, but they had a lot of difficulty animating him and having limits on what he could and couldn't do. Insectosaurus had her own problems, mostly when it came to scale and looking too small in some scenes, but they were obviously able to work it out. There are also pages for the President, a couple of military officials, extra characters, Gallaxhar and more.
All the text that's here is interesting, and it shows that DreamWorks' animators and writers put a lot of thought into making the movie. The fact that they only wanted shots done that they could replicate in real life, instead of zany camera movements, is something I admire.
I'm really surprised that this book isn't going for a lot more money like some others do once they go out of print. Maybe it's just overlooked, or maybe people don't care enough about the movie to give it a shot. Either way, fans of animation in general will get a lot out of this one. I can't stress enough how much I'd love some huge prints of the art here. The portrait of Susan, the Missing Link trying to be a charmer, Insectosaurus vs the alien robot at the bridge, etc. Get this book while it's still cheap, though it's definitely worth the original price and more. If anything, this is the book that really got me into 'Art of' books, and is my standard.