“Bring me…the Bookworms!:” Del Toro’s notebooks, cult movie art and the Land of Ooo
Books are often the source for some of the greatest film and television adaptations, but flip the scenario and it can be said that movies and TV can also be among the greatest sources for books. Behind the scenes nonfiction offers a peak behind the curtain of the dream factory. Art books often enhance a reader’s perspective of film and television. Companion books do both, expanding a reader’s attachment and understanding of the source material while giving a glimpse into the detailed world building of its creators. This past month, three books, Guillermo Del Toro: Cabinet of Curiosities, Crazy 4 Cult: Cult Movie Art 2 and The Adventure Time Encyclopedia have each improved on the visual experience of the films and shows they celebrate.
Guillermo Del Toro: Cabinet of Curiosities
Guillermo Del Toro is one of the most imaginative filmmakers working today. He is influenced by everything from Lovecraft, Universal Horror and Poe to comic books and Disney Imagineers. Each of Del Toro’s films contain finely crafted worlds where detail and substance support an art form that is at once transporting and familiar. In Cabinet of Curiosities, a new book from Harper Design, the creativity of Del Toro is explored through unprecedented personal access and testimonials from his friends and admirers, themselves among the most creative writers, filmmakers and artists. It all culminates in a breakdown of each of Del Toro’s films, supported by pages from the personal notebooks he used to design the characters, worlds and finite details of each.
Cabinet of Curiosities begins with a forward by James Cameron, another visionary filmmaker who compares Del Toro’s notebooks to the codices of Da Vinci. Del Toro truly is an artist, so in many ways Cabinets is an art book. Each vivid, colored illustration is beautifully captured with transcribed text and magnified detail. From Cronos to Pacific Rim, every film is represented with insight and imagery. Even unproduced films Del Toro hoped to get off the ground are represented, including his hopeful adaptation of Lovecraft’s epic At the Mountains of Madness.
Part art companion, part behind the scenes biography, Cabinet of Curiosities is one of the most fantastical, beautifully produced books ever written about a filmmaker. Interviews with Del Toro and passages written by Neil Gaiman, Alfonso Cuaron, John Landis, Mike Mignola, Tom Cruise and others represent the artist with great adoration. The books best moments are the stunning pictures from within Bleak House, Del Toro’s California home that appears as more of a film museum than domicile. A huge Frankenstein head, life size and lifelike sculptures of Lovecraft and Jack Pierce, props from his films and a room devoted to Disney’s famed Haunted Mansion attraction are just a few of the artifacts that clutter the home with magic and wonder. To have such detailed insight into the life and creation of one of films greatest visionaries is truly unprecedented and awe inspiring page after page.
Crazy 4 Cult: Cult Movie Art 2
LA’s Gallery 1988 bills itself as the #1 destination for pop-culture art. Their flagship show is the yearly Crazy 4 Cult series which showcases art created by some of the most exciting artists working today. The theme for the show each year is favorite cult films. A slew of amazing works come out of the Crazy 4 Cult show, highlighting the gamut of popular as well as lesser-known cult films from Ghostbusters to Harold and Maude. This show truly has something for everyone, and because of its diverse success, Crazy 4 Cult was captured in not one, but two books collecting the best pieces from the show. Volume 2 of the series, Crazy 4 Cult: Cult Movie Art 2 was just released with 176 pages of vibrant artwork for film fans of every taste.
With a forward by Gallery 1988 fan Seth Rogen, Cult Movie Art 2 opens up to a collection of paintings, drawings, sculpture and pop art spanning over 80 years of cult movie history. A Shining inspired cover by N.C. Winters, stunning Alien inspired space landscape by Mark Englert and photos of an intricate Willy Wonka bust by artist Eric Price are all captured in vivid detail. Represented through the art are the films of Lynch, Tarantino, Anderson and more in rich detail recalling favorite scenes and characters through each artist’s unique vision. Artistic license and nostalgia are the keys to Crazy 4 Cult’s success, which sees both on-the-nose reenactments and new interpretations in the creative celebration of each film. Titan Books has done an incredible job compiling one of the greatest collections of pop-art any tried and true fan of cult film should have in their collection.
Pop Art fans should also check out Scott Campbell’s Great Showdowns: The Return, another new book from Titan and Gallery 1988.
The Adventure Time Encyclopedia
Adventure Time is one of those rare shows parents can enjoy alongside their children. It’s a goofy, post-apocalyptic tale of optimism that manages to hide some worthy themes behind a cast of obnoxiously brilliant characters. Why shouldn’t it have its own encyclopedia?
The Adventure Time Encyclopedia written by Martin Olson and released by Abrams is a work of wonderful and quirky fiction. Constructed with a playfully surreal layout, the book presents itself as a guide to the fictional land of Ooo written by one of the shows most sinister characters; Hunson Abadeer, Lord of Evil. There’s all manner of goofy detail throughout the book, including the “going backwards forward,” a preface written quite literally in reverse. Handwritten notes from Adventure Time’s key players Jake, Finn and Marceline also appear on each page, offering personal insight in the form of notes scratched into a library book.
Adventure Time works so well because its fun. Without taking itself too seriously, the show has opened itself up to a diverse fan-base undefined by gender or age. The encyclopedic aspects of the book include expected background and maps about Ooo as well as bios for even the minor cult characters including the living handheld videogame BMO and the bitter, living lemon-drop, the Earl of Lemongrab. Strangeness prevails on each and every colorful page of this celebration of the most colorful animated series currently on TV.
“Bring me…the Bookworms” will be a new monthly feature of the Hey You Geeks column, reviewing new books that span the spectrum of geek culture.