Sunday, 20 January 2008

Book Review: To Infinity and Beyond! The Story of Pixar Animation Studios

Today I'm reviewing something different. It's a book, but its not a novel or a comic. It's more like an encyclopedia of sorts, or rather, a biography not of a man, but an entire company.

But it's not just any company, mind you, it's the Pixar Animation Studio, which is defintely MY favorite film studio like, evar. So when I saw this book sitting on a shelf in Kinokuniya with a blue 20% discount on it (which meant I saved almost RM50 on it), I just... could.. not.. resist... sigh.

Anyway, let's just see what this book has, shall we?

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Title: To Infinity and Beyond! The Story of Pixar Animation Studios
Author: Karen Paik (based on interviews and research by Leslie Iwerks)

Synopsis:
What synopsis? It's a book about the rise of Pixar Animation Studios from a tiny breakaway little Computer Division to the mega-successful computer-animation film studio it is now, with stories of how they built the company, and how they made the films from Toy Story to Cars (this book was done before Ratatouille, I presume).

What I Liked:
  • It's Pixar!
  • It really inspired me.
  • Lots of cute and cool little pictures of the movies!
  • I love the movies, so I loved reading about how they made them as well
  • The layout and the way its written is not boring like other such books.
  • Doesn't go into too much technical details like I expected it to
  • It was fascinating to see how the company progressed
  • They included the production of the animated shorts as well, and not just the features.
  • Did I mention it's Pixar?

What I Didn't Like:
  • First few chapters about how they built the company was a bit slow, I kept wantingto skip to the part when they start making movies.
  • Could have been more up-to-date, especially with Ratatouille being Pixar's first self-funded movie and all.
  • I wished there was more in-depth and detailed elaboration on the actual making of the movies themselves, and not just the usual 'story is king' and general top-of-surface issues alone.
  • I couldn't help thinking that the image painted of the company was TOO squeaky clean at times...

Summary:
This ain't a novel you read to sleep at night or for your leisure, but to my surprised, I was more engrossed with this book than I have with any other fiction novel or fantasy in the past two months. I think it harks back to the times when I used to pore through atlases and encyclopedias to find out about stuff.

This being Pixar, a subject I'm genuinely interested about, it was more engaging to me than the usual 'encyclopedia' or 'biography'. I loved all their movies, so I enjoyed reading about them in the book, and I was really intrigued and inspired by all the 'characters' in it, especially John Lasseter himself. Now THERE'S another name to add to the list of 'people I really want to interview'.

All the pretty pictures and concept drawings of the movies also helped, and to tell the truth, I'm a real sucker for nice big glossy pictures in encyclopedias, so that was another plus point for me.

Sure, it's just a book, and they usually gloss over the ugly bits of the company in these things, but as it is, it's still an inspiring read for me. It may not be as squeaky clean as the book makes it out to be, it still somehow inspired me to think about what I'm doing right now, to be a bit more creative in my thinking and writing.

To me, it's not just another boring book about just another successful company - it's also a book that company that is fueled by the sort of creativity and imagination that I aspire to achieve one day.

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