Finding creative inspiration can be tough if you don’t know where to look. The animation industry is full of talented artists working on backgrounds, characters, storyboards, and visual development ideas.
One of the largest animation studios in the world is DreamWorks. Their library spans dozens of incredible feature films with memorable characters and beautiful cinematography.
Most of their top selling movies get their own production artbooks for public consumption. These books include rare artwork and commentary from each movie’s production. This artwork can be inspiring to newer artists who wish to break into the entertainment design industry.
For this post I’ve collected the absolute best DreamWorks artbooks full of rare production art. Browse through this collection and be sure to pick up a copy of anything that tickles your fancy.
How to Train Your Dragon
In March of 2010 DreamWorks found a hit with How To Train Your Dragon. The characters were enlivening and the storyline was a breath of fresh air.
Just before the movie was released DreamWorks put out The Art of How to Train Your Dragon. This artbook is 160 pages long in hardcover format with extremely rare pre-production art pieces.
This is really a full color guide to the entire movie from characters to voice actors, environments and custom animation sequences. You get to see the story unfold in visual paintings and drawings that usually never get released to the public.
You even get to see a lot of discarded art and character designs that never made it into the movie.
Then in June of 2014 DreamWorks put out a sequel to the movie which did even better than the original. Obviously the sequel got its own art book with just as much rare concept art.
Both of these art books are fantastic additions to any collection. Whether you’re an aspiring animator or just a movie fan you’ll be thrilled with the quality of these books.
Kung Fu Panda 3
The very first Kung Fu Panda movie was released in 2008 to great success. It gained a rabid following which led to two more sequels being produced.
The third movie came out in early 2016 and got its own book The Art of Kung Fu Panda 3. This book comes with a hardcover print and 168 pages of rare concept art. You also get behind-the-scenes interviews with the movie’s directors, artists, and cast members.
There is a lot of concept art focused on the character concepts and environment paintings. But you also get to see a lot of the animation process which involves storyboarding and story mapping between scenes.
Each section is riddled with tidbits and commentary from the movie’s creators. The color scripts are especially titillating if you’re interested in visual development.
And while I can’t seem to find an artbook for the original movie there is a book for the sequel. The Art of Kung Fu Panda 2 has a ton of animation art and pre-production sketches that’ll knock your socks off. If you’re a fan of the pandas I’d recommend both artbooks.
Shrek Forever After
The original Shrek movie was one of my favorites and I’m sad to see a huge lack in artbooks for this series. The Shrek movie franchise has 6 individual movies dating over a decade of DreamWorks history.
The only artbook I can find is The Art of Shrek Forever After. This is the most recent film in the series and it features all the characters you’ve grown to love. The book spans 144 pages which is just lengthy enough to be worth the price.
Rough storyboards and sketches litter most of the pages. But you’ll also find finished paintings and pieces used for the visual development process. There are lots of detailed concept designs for props in the movie like costumes and background items.
The vis dev team really went hard on this movie and you can tell by the quality of work in this book. Unfortunately I can’t find any other Shrek artbooks anywhere on the Internet. So if you’re a fan of Shrek this is likely the only artbook you’ll find.
But it’s filled with so much cool stuff that you’ll be satisfied even without other artbooks.
This comedy film was released in 3-D and proved to be a hit with viewers. All of the characters are deeply relatable and this book gets into all of their histories and artistic styles.
You’ll find a ton of concept art, character backstories, and animation production art like storyboards. The art style is very fun and maintains the same cartoony illustration design throughout all phases of development.
There are very detailed environment paintings along with detailed commentary breakdowns for animated sequences from the movie.
For an artbook this sure has a lot of animation info to go along with it. Aspiring animators and entertainment designers will appreciate the written content just as much as the production art.
The original Madagascar from 2005 spawned a handful of follow-up movies with the same cast of loveable characters. Although there are 5 different movies in the franchise I only found a couple decent artbooks.
The Art of Madagascar 3 is perhaps the newest and most brilliantly-designed book in the series. It comes with 156 pages of colorful production art which I think looks much better than other DreamWorks artbooks.
Character designs take up about 25% of the book’s contents. Another 25% is taken up by animation art like storyboards and color scripts. Then you get another 50% of environments, props, sketches, and general concept art related to the film’s production.
I’m glad to see more props and environments in this book because they’re not featured prominently in “Art Of” artbooks for movies. Concept artists leaning towards vehicle & prop design may really enjoy the Madagascar 3 artbook.
You honestly can’t go wrong with either book because they’re both the same length with similar artistic styles. But if I had to choose one I’d say the Madagascar 3 artbook has a more unique slant with slightly more content.
Monsters vs. Aliens
In 2009 DreamWorks released an interesting movie called Monsters vs. Aliens. It featured a slew of interesting character designs and very interesting worlds tangled up into a captivating story.
All of this gets crammed into a huge 192-page artbook. You’ll find concept art for absolutely everything including character designs that were cut from the production.
In the “making of” section you’ll learn a lot about the hands-on details of animating the movie. Commentary from artists cover rigging characters, believable lighting and texturing.
This is a super funny book with incredibly creative artwork to go along with producer commentary. If you liked Monsters vs. Aliens then you’ll adore this artbook. It’s also one of the thickest animated movie artbooks on the market so you can expect a lot of cool stuff.
Rise of the Guardians
One of DreamWorks more intriguing movies is Rise of the Guardians. This was released in November 2012 and got its own artbook just one month prior.
The Art of Rise of the Guardians shows all the 2D and 3D artistic assets that went into this ambitious feature film. The book spans 158 pages with a hardcover binding.
Character artwork takes up a good majority of the book. You’ll find rough sketches and final renders for all the main characters. You also get tons of digital paintings for the environments and worlds represented in the film.
If you’re interested in the concept art field then this book is for you. The production art is extremely detailed which can stand as a model to aspire towards in your own work.
In this prehistoric period piece The Croods are a family of cavemen(and cavewomen) living through dinosaurs and harsh climates.
The Art of The Croods gives you a beautifully colorful look into the world, characters, creatures, and props used in this film. You get over 400 individual pieces of concept art from the production of The Croods.
Character concept art is a big piece of this book for both humans and animals. The creature art is especially inspiring because of it’s depth and uniqueness of mixing together different species into one animal.
The environment artwork is also beautifully rendered and colored. Each landscape painting feels alive and shows just how much effort went into the visual development process.
Inside you’ll also get some commentary on the animation and a few interviews from staff members. However this book is geared towards fans of The Croods so if you haven’t seen the movie then you may want to skip this one.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman
The beloved dog and boy companionship found in Mr. Peabody & Sherman captured the imagination of audiences of all ages. This 2014 DreamWorks picture is based on a classic 1960s cartoon series reimagining these beloved characters on the big screen.
The Art of Mr. Peabody & Sherman is an artbook released at the same time as the movie’s premiere. It features concept art from every stage of production including character designs, visual development paintings, background art, and storyboards.
In this 156-page artbook you’ll find rare production art and commentary from the DreamWorks staff who worked on Mr. Peabody & Sherman. The end of the book features a huge Q&A section with the staff talking about technical details of animating the film.
All of the art in this book is glorious and well balanced. You’ll find equal quantities of character art, environment art, props designs and storyboards/color scripts. Environment paintings are included for all the different places they traveled throughout history.
I would recommend this book to fans of the movie and aspiring animators who have never even heard of this movie. There’s so much professional art in this book and coupled with the Q&A it’s a powerful resource for 3D animators.
If you’re looking for a bargain book look no further than The Art of Bee Movie. It’s a typical artbook with 160 pages of concept art packed into a hardback cover.
Bee Movie was first released in 2007 so this book is pushing past a decade old. Because of this you may not have an easy time finding retailers but it still seems to be in stock on Amazon.
Jerry Seinfeld plays a big role in the comedic stylings of this movie. The book features a few commentaries from Jerry himself, along with related quotes from artists and producers.
All of the production art is exactly what you’d expect from a modern animated film artbook. However I wouldn’t say Bee Movie is a smash hit, so I can’t say this book will be perfect for everyone.
If you love the movie or want to learn more about it then don’t hesitate to grab a copy. But if you didn’t like Bee Movie then you won’t like this book. All the interviews and rare artwork will be fascinating to fans but not so much to anyone else.
In the Wallace and Gromit style of animation we have the hit feature film Chicken Run. This first released in June of 2000 along with a book titled Chicken Run: Hatching the Movie.
This isn’t a traditional art book like you’d find with modern movies. But it does contain some production art and photos of the animation studio where Chicken Run was created.
You’ll find a couple interviews with the directors Nick Park and Peter Lord along with many staff members from the Chicken Run movie. In total the book spans 191 pages which is definitely a respectable size for an older animated film.
I’d say this book is geared more towards people who want to learn about how the movie was made from start to finish. There is a good amount of artwork and claymation/modelling included in the book. But you also get commentary, interviews, and peeks behind the scenes to catch glimpses of how this animated feature came together.
Definitely a sweet purchase if you loved Chicken Run. Plus since the book is almost two decades old you can pick it up for bargain basement prices.
Will Ferrell stars in the zany sci-fi/comedy film Megamind. It was first released in 2010 and featured a companion book for film enthusiasts.
The Art of Megamind has 156 pages crammed full of rare production artwork from the animation. The print work is high quality and the hardcover feels very sturdy.
All of the pages in this book are filled with rare production art. You’ll find color scripts, storyboards, environment paintings, character sketches, and props designs for vehicles and weapons. Although the movie does have a preponderance of blue, this artbook has a variety of colorful artistic pieces to browse through.
You’ll find a ton of character sketches for the main cast and even characters that were dropped from the film during production. I’m really excited to see a big focus on the technology designs too.
Concept artists will appreciate the level of detail in this book when it comes to environments, vehicles, weapons, and other related props.
But if you’re not into the movie I don’t think you’ll love the book. While it is very reasonably priced, it’ll be most interesting to animators and fans of the Megamind movie. It may be valuable to concept artists but there are better concept art books if you’re looking for digital art inspiration.
The Art of Turbo is one of DreamWorks’ newest art books released for the 2013 film Turbo. This book features a ton of close-up shots from the production of this animated feature.
Over a total of 150 pages you get to see unique snail character designs, storyboards, color scripts, environment paintings, and concept art for buildings/vehicles. Everything you find in this book will help you understand the animation process a bit clearer.
This is one of the best things about all the DreamWorks art books. You can learn and find inspiration at the same time.
If you’ve never seen Turbo it may still be worth picking up a copy of this book. The depth of content is staggering and there is so much to consume.
Fans of the Turbo movie should definitely pick up a copy.
Puss in Boots
The immense popularity of a side-character in Shrek 2 birthed the 2011 hit film Puss in Boots. This movie follows the adventures of our Robin Hood-style cat friend as he follows fairy tale story lines to clear his good name.
The Art of Puss in Boots covers a big part of the legwork at DreamWorks animation to get this movie through production and into the theaters. Writers and artists worked hard to design an entire world around this character, along with writing a brilliant plot to keep viewers hooked into the adventure.
With this printed collection of Puss in Boots artwork you get 152 pages in a hardcover artbook with some incredible concept artwork. This concept art really helps you understand how such a great movie could come into being.
Countless fairy tales are reimagined in this film and the art direction stays the same throughout each scene. While there’s a big sense of variety to the artwork, there’s also a sense of continuity in the style and tone.
You’ll get a ton of character sketches along with color scripts, storyboards, background paintings, and commentary from various DreamWorks artists. If you love the film and fairy tales then you’ll enjoy leafing through this artbook.
The Art of Home
Exclusive interviews and rare concept art fill the 168 pages you get in The Art of Home artbook. You get all the typical production artwork including storyboards, environments, props, and plenty of character designs.
I particularly like the environments in this book. They’re illustrated beautifully and with great attention to detail. You could use these environment paintings to compare your own work to the quality of professionals.
The artwork in this book will prove inspiring to every illustrator and animator.
The best part is the additional commentary included alongside the artwork. You can read insight from the film’s directors, artists, and voice actors like Jim Parsons who voices the alien Oh.
Print quality is high and this is definitely a sweet companion book to the original 2015 film.
The DreamWorks animation production company was founded in 1994 and has enjoyed well over 20 years worth of captivating animated features. This 20th anniversary artbook features 300+ pages of rare production art from DreamWorks most renowned films.
If you were looking for production artwork from older DreamWorks films then this is a book you’ll want. It includes art from Shrek, Antz, Shark Tale, Road to El Dorado, and The Prince of Egypt(among dozens of other movies).
Since most of the pre-2000 movies don’t have their own artbooks the rare production art in this book cannot be found anywhere else. Most of the artwork focuses on the animation side including keyframes, backgrounds, storyboards, and tons of visual development art.
If you can’t decide on any of these DreamWorks books then the 20th anniversary artbook is a happy medium. It’s packed with a ton of rare artwork from all their best films and it costs the same as any other individual “art of” artbook.
Fans of DreamWorks are likely to find something in this list that catches their attention. If you’re an aspiring 2D or 3D animator I would definitely recommend grabbing one of the lengthier books in this post.
But all of these books are truly the best artbooks you can get from DreamWorks. If you’re looking for other animated movie artbooks I’ve compiled the best choices for Disney artbooks and Pixar artbooks too.