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Customer Review

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book - surprised how big it was, but very impressed by it, 14 Dec. 2013
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This review is from: Chronicles: Art & Design (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) (Hardcover)
This is the official book of the art and design of the second The Hobbit movie 'The desolation of Smaug'. It follows from the first book Chronicles: Art & Design (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey). I bought this book for my 17 year old son, who being dyslexic doesn't read books, but loves drawing, dragons and art/comic books (mostly Manga ones) - he also loved the first Hobbit movie. This hard back book is very well presented and well bound with the little bits of cotton on the spine with good quality shiny paper pages, plus it's very substantial at 12" x 10" x 3/4". The book is the art work used to create the sets, characters, costumes and creatures in the movie, and it has over 1,000 coloured drawings and B&W sketches. There's also some interesting text discussing the pictures, but mostly the pages are filled with pretty illustrations. These were most likely specially commissioned with an eye for the book as much as setting the style for the movie, as they are of such high quality. The chapters include: Beorns house, Beorn & his props, Lost in the forest of Mirkwood (flies & spiders), Mirkwood Elf Hunters, Thranduils Halls & Throne Room, The Woodland Realm, Lake-town & its props, Ancient Dale, The coming of Smaug, The lonely Mountain, The Hill of Sorcery, Inside Dol Guldur, and Erebor - Smaug's lair. I've posted a few example pages from the book under customer images.

I particularly liked the drawings of the houses and the towns (not so sure about the rather realistic giant spiders though). All the costumes are typical gothic/wizard fantasy outfits, but none the worse for that. Perhaps some of the pictures of Smaug were a bit dissapointing as we didn't get too many of them (mostly in the last few pages). Apparently it was the film-makers decision to limit images of Smaug prior to the general release of the movie (i.e. spoilers), so Smaug gets his own book, Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon (The Desolation of Smaug) in April 2014, once the main film release in the cinemas is over. But overall it's 226 pages of delightful illustrations and well worth the £13 we paid on preorder (the low price being the reason we bought this Hobbit Art & Design book first). My son loved this book, and the front hard cover is even simulated Dragon skin. So 5*.

The pictures here are only a small selection of the total movie archive of artwork, and more books will appear, but this is intended to provide a good cross-section of all the material created for the film, and we think it succeeds in that. As well as the 'Art & Design' book per Hobbit film, there is also the companion 'Creatures and Characters' book - but we fancied this 'houses and set design' one (which includes many of the film characters and their costumes anyway). Sufficiently impressed, we ordered the first films Hobbit Art & Design book: An Unexpected Journey for £16 and weren't disappointed. I guess these books were inspired by Alan Lee's excellent The Lord of the Rings Sketchbook: Portfolio which presents the sketches and final illustrations for the 1991 'centenary' edition of Lord of the Rings - Lee and John Howe subesquently became the lead concept artists for Peter Jackson's 'Lord of the Rings' movies (2001-2003) and they were consulted to ensure continuity of design in the new Hobbit films.
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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 14 Dec 2013 12:41:52 GMT
Good review. The bit about there being very little about Smaug is another cynical move from the book publisher and WETA though.
See, there is a separate Chronicles book coming out on Smaug on April 1st, 96 pages, also listed on Amazon.com if you want to check. That one will be all about Smaug, and in order to have as many people interested in that as possible, they put very little Smaug in this, the big Desolation of Smaug chronicles book.
Personally I resent such tactics, but at least it explains why there is so little of Smaug in this book, where we had in fact expected to see so much on him.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Dec 2013 12:58:01 GMT
Last edited by the author on 15 Dec 2013 00:04:38 GMT
Charlie-CJ says:
Thanks Calibandar. Did seem a bit odd as Smaug has star billing in the title. In fact there are few nice headshots of him close up and views of him when out and about, but not really any detailed ones of him posing magnificently for the camera. We'll look out for the Smaug Chronicles book (I guess that would be the 'creatures and characters' book?). Thanks again & Merry Christmas.

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Dec 2013 14:25:29 GMT
Be aware that you may be confused about the upcoming WETA books.
The one I'm referring to is not the Creatures and Characters book like they did for the first one. There is a "Cloak and Daggers" volume coming out in July, the size of the DoS artbook you just reviewed. But in the meantime there will also be a special Chronicles book on Smaug, due at the end of March. Here is the link:

Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug)

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Dec 2013 19:56:25 GMT
Hi folks, the author here. Thanks very much for the commentary and critique. :) Just wanted to explain the Smaug book situation as there was certainly no cynical intent on our part. This book (The desolation of Smaug: Art & Design) went to print in July, at which time Smaug and a number of other subjects that featured prominently in the film were still being designed, so we didn't have access to all their material. The filmmakers were also very concerned about imagery getting out early, so the bulk of the Dragon content was withheld for our inclusion. We got as much in as we could and were allowed, but obviously Smaug deserves to receive more attention than that, which is why we came up with the idea of a smaller, cheaper book devoted just to the Dragon, which could chart the full process of bringing him to the screen, including material that didn't exist until December. We're currently trying to get that book out as quickly as possible. It should be available by April and will retail for less than the usual Chronicle books. It will have 96 pages and be devoted entirely to Smaug, much more than we could have ever included in this one. Hopefully together they help paint the whole picture. The books are designed to be a series with as little overlap as possible. Thanks again for reading and commenting, and I hope you enjoy them. :)

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Dec 2013 11:32:32 GMT
Last edited by the author on 19 Dec 2013 21:15:04 GMT
Charlie-CJ says:
Thanks Daniel for the information (and Calibandar for the link to the book), I have updated my review with both as I'm not sure everyone gets to read the comments section. I guess even if they haven't read the LOTR books or The Hobbit or seen the movies, most people will have heard of Smaug the Dragon and the treasure he guards, so he does deserve his own book. I'll resist the urge to call Smaug's book 'Paint your Dragon' (although I see online that author Tom Holt has already used that title). We look forward to receiving Smaug's book when it arrives. Thanks again, and Merry Xmas.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Dec 2013 19:05:55 GMT
Thanks very much! :) That's awesome.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Dec 2013 21:46:54 GMT
Last edited by the author on 16 Dec 2013 21:52:51 GMT
Hi Daniel,

Good explanation. I am looking forward and will definitely get the Smaug book in April, he will get far more special treatment in that book than he would have had here. I did see your description for the Cloaks and Daggers book, also for Keith's reference, it is:

"Covers the costumes, armour, props, weapons and set dressing of An Unexpected Journey & The Desolation of Smaug - photograph & film still based"

One thing that I really wanted to ask Daniel, why is there nothing on the Necromancer's design in the DoS artbook? I found that disappointing. Is there any particular reason for it? Importantly, do you think we will see a significant section on Sauron's design in the There and Back Again artbook in December?

Best,

Calibandar

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Dec 2013 20:28:29 GMT
The Necromancer hadn't been designed yet when we went to print in July. The artwork for him was done later. It's awesome though and we will absolutely be including it in a future book. :)

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Jan 2014 16:51:00 GMT
Bjørn says:
Hi Daniel,

So far I have collected the entire series of these books, AUJ Art & Design and Creatures & Characters as well as TDOS Art & Design and I've pre-ordered Cloaks & Daggers and Smaug: Unleashing The Dragon. I'm enjoying them immensely. I was wondering, are there any plans to release a Creatures & Characters book for TDOS like you did for AUJ? Thanks Daniel
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Charlie-CJ
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Location: England

Top Reviewer Ranking: 61