Pixar recently marked the 25th anniversary of the release of its beloved film (and franchise), Toy Story. A renowned all-ages romp that remains close to the hearts of millions worldwide, Toy Story was also the first fully computer animated feature film, thus positioning Pixar as the most innovative animation studio in the world, a title some would argue still applies today. It’s fitting then, to look back on the studio’s history and genesis, in the form of The Art of Pixar. In its revised and expanded edition, the collection gathers the complete color scripts of its feature films produced over the last 25 years.
Focused almost entirely on visuals (as it should be), the book has few words among its pages, though it does begin with an earnest foreword from Ralph Eggleston, director, production designer and one of the few artists at Pixar who has worked on a feature film from beginning to end. When he joined the studio in 1992 as art director of Toy Story, the task of setting the tone for a film made entirely of computer animation was daunting, with striking the right notes for the film’s color and lighting — the emotional core of the story — being especially crucial. Color scripts map out the emotional beats of a story, helping all involved in the animation process understand the vision as a whole. The ones Eggleston would develop, which “planned out scenes on long stripes of black paper with chalk pastel, [as] a kind of ‘stream of consciousness’ map of color, value, and visual drama” would prove integral to the film’s direction and making as a whole. Though color scripts were not invented by Eggleston or Pixar, the studio would go on to become the first to create a color script for each of its films, yet again influencing the animation industry at large.
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That first color script for Toy Story is endearing in Eggleston’s childlike approach. Done in pastels, it has a children’s book quality with its soft blues, bubblegum pinks, and warm yellows, only turning bleak and muddy when something sinister occurs. Eggleston’s drawings are simple, borderline crude, but this just adds to the charm and speaks to the studio’s then-status as a relative newcomer that was doing things slightly differently. Toy Story 3’s color script, on the other hand, done digitally by Dice Tsutsumi, is far longer than Eggleston’s initial script and even Jim Pearson and Bob Cone’s half-finished color scripts for Toy Story 2. There’s more of a punch to the tones, the blues are sharper, the yellows richer, the sinister moments even more pronounced with calculated lighting. The sequence where the toy gang faces incineration burns bright on the page in flaming oranges and reds, the sense of near-peril palpable.
Much in the same way, the color script for Finding Nemo (2003) feels all encompassing, as Eggleston uses pastels once more to set the tone for the underwater adventure. You’d assume there were only so many ways to employ the color blue but Eggleston constantly surprises, from the flooding light aqua of the sea’s surface to the dark indigo depths of the sea’s ocean’s floor, all inter-spliced with the popping oranges, reds, greens and pinks of the sea life that live below the surface.
Lou Romano’s digitally produced color scripts for The Incredibles (2004) and Up (2009), are a delightful contrast to Eggleston’s pastel work. Though The Incredibles would be Pixar’s first film to have human protagonists, Romano doesn’t put much emphasis on the fact, instead employing abstract, geometric shapes and zingy colors inspired by ‘60s pop art. The landscape format of the book is most appreciated here, allowing color changes to sweep across the page In Up, as well, the wide formatting is a plus, as the heart-wrenching opening sequence unfolds across each spread, beat by emotional beat. Much like in the film itself, words aren’t needed to express the story there.
Additionally, The Art of Pixar features color scripts from other hits like Cars (2006), Ratatouille (2007) and WALL-E (2008), right up to the studio’s most recent films Coco (2017), Onward (2020) and Soul (2020). The tome doesn’t leave out its renowned shorts either, spotlighting films such as 2015’s Sanjay’s Super Team (Dir. Sanjay Patel, color script by Paul Abadilla) and the heartfelt Bao (Dir. Domee Shi, color script by Rona Liu) which won the Academy Award for Best Short Film in 2018. With over 20 films in Pixar’s catalogue, 200+ awards under its belt, and four films among the top 10 highest-grossing animated films (all grossing over $1 billion worldwide), it’s no wonder The Art of Pixar is packed full with history as much as with the art itself. Much like the Pixar films we return to again and again, this is a book you can put down and pick back up, only to fall in love with animation all over again.
The Art of Pixar: The Complete Colorscripts from 25 Years of Feature Films (Revised and Expanded) (Chronicle Books), with a foreword by Ralph Eggleston and introductions by Sharon Calahan and Harley Jessup, is now available on Bookshop.