While major studios like Disney and Pixar have produced dozens of unique animated films there are some other production companies to choose from.
Not many small studios ever make blockbuster hits. But we have seen quite a few come out of Blue Sky Studios. Their first major success was Ice Age in 2002 and they have since grown at a steady rate with a few other noteworthy films.
Almost all of their movies have been accompanied by related art books. These books are full of rare production art from the animation process. You may not recognize the name Blue Sky Studios but you’re sure to recognize the films they’ve produced.
If you’re looking for offbeat “art of” animation books then this post will catch you up to everything available from the Blue Sky Studios animation library.
Undeniably their most popular movie, Ice Age put Blue Sky Studios on the map. The first movie was released in 2002 and has since had numerous sequels.
The Art of Ice Age is a hardcover art book that was actually released in 2016, more than a decade later than the first Ice Age film.
It’s a beefy artbook with 240 pages of rare production artwork from every major Ice Age movie. It has storyboards, character art, environments, props, and animation effects that show how the movies were created.
This single artbook covers all four movies starting from the first Ice Age in 2002 all the way up to Ice Age: Continental Drift in 2016. The book also has sneak peek previews from the 5th movie Ice Age: Collision Course.
After flipping through this book and checking out the artwork there’s no way around it: this artbook is perhaps the best publication of all the Blue Sky Studios’ artbooks.
The production work is incredible and you get lots of commentary scattered throughout the pages to help you understand the animation process.
If you love the Ice Age franchise this book is a must-have item for your bookshelf.
It’s full of rare production artwork that animators will drool over. Plus it contains over a decade’s worth of artwork from a series that keeps pumping out new movies which continue to draw in new fans of all age groups.
Rio & Rio 2
The first Rio movie came out in 2011 with a sequel following in 2014. Right around this time Blue Sky Studios partnered with Titan Books to release The Art of Rio & Rio 2.
In this one book you get 192 pages of production artwork spanning both Rio films. All the environment art follows closely with reproductions of Rio de Janeiro and gives the viewer a real sense of the Brazilian landscape.
All the other concept art in this book focuses on a variety of content. You’ll find character designs, environment paintings, props, vehicles, and other visuals made for the two films.
The book’s layout is surprisingly spacious considering there are two movies packed into this one book. Every piece of artwork is gorgeous and the visual development pieces are full of color.
Even people who didn’t enjoy the Rio movies would enjoy the artwork in this book. Granted you may not spend money on this book if you hated the Rio movies(and rightly so).
But if you’re interested in animation you can learn a lot by flicking through these pages and checking out the artwork in this huge Rio compendium.
The Art of Robots is one of the older artbooks from Blue Sky Studios. The first Robots movie came out in 2005 so this art book was released just prior to the movie.
It’s only 144 pages but it packs a lot of concept art into those pages. Just looking through the vast amount of production art will leave you in awe.
Blue Sky Studios has the directors and writers/artists in this book explaining the animation process. You can read through what it was like making the Robots movie and learn a bit about the process along the way.
The artwork is mostly all raw and true to the nature of concept art. You’ll find a lot of background paintings and character designs along with rough pencil sketches. There are some 3D sculptures if you’re interested in that too.
Some pages even have side-by-side paintings along with reference photographs so you can see how the artists made their color selections.
Again I feel like Blue Sky outdid themselves in this book. It’s certainly one of the better artbooks to pick up and study if you want to learn about the animation process.
One of Blue Sky’s newer films is Epic, the unique tale of a typical teenager’s not-so-typical magic journey. The movie was released in May 2013 with the art book published just one month prior.
The Art of Epic is another hardcover art book with 144 pages of beautiful production artwork.
Many of the character designs stand out because you get lots of costume designs to compare them with. You’ll also find tons of creature art for the forest critters and insects.
Environment paintings take up another big chunk of the book. The paintings match the tone and feel of the movie with just the right color choices.
Lots of staff members who worked on Epic contribute their thoughts in small writeups throughout the book. This way you get to learn more about the process while gazing at the beautiful illustrations.
I’d say this is definitely one of the better art books for modern animated films. However you’ll really enjoy this book even more if you’re a fan of Epic.
The Peanuts Movie
We all know and love Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts which has survived decades of media including comics, TV and film animation.
The Peanuts Movie is Blue Sky Studios’ newest film. It was released in November 2015 along with a beautiful artbook.
If you have any love for the Peanuts characters then you’ll enjoy this book. Blue Sky worked hard to transition these characters into a 3D environment that felt believable and aesthetically pleasing. You get to read interviews with the directors and artists who talk about redesigning these characters to fit into a 3D world.
You’ll also learn about the actual animation process and the differences in storytelling between comic strips and the big screen.
Naturally there is also a ton of production art to browse through. But it’s mostly focused on the character designs rather than the backgrounds.
If you’re a big Peanuts fan or if you just love animation this book will not disappoint.
Blue Sky Studios Official Artbook
The last book in this list isn’t based on a specific movie, but rather the entire history of Blue Sky Studios. This 300 page hardcover coffee table book shares artwork from all the major animated films across the history of Blue Sky Studios’ growing library.
But this book is more like a time capsule than a modern artbook. It dates back to artwork created in 2002 on the first Ice Age movie. You’ll get never-before-seen concept art for characters and environment paintings from all the Blue Sky films.
You’ll also get rough sketches and conceptual ideas for characters that were tossed before production. Plus there’s a ton of visual development work that digs into the mood, tone, and history of each film.
And you’ll get to read insights from the animators, writers, and artists who worked on all these animated features. Commentary gets into the gritty details of story design, character design, thematic writing, and the technical aspects of visual animation effects for the big screen.
If you have any interest to learn animation the Blue Sky Studios artbook is a must own. You’ll learn a lot about professional animation and you’ll learn a bit of the history surrounding one of America’s niche production companies.
Fans of all these movies really can’t go wrong with any book. They’re all fantastic and they all offer something unique in regards to artwork and animation style.
But if you were to only pick one from this post then the 300+ page Blue Sky Studios artbook is a great choice. The company started with a staff of 15 and quickly grew to employ 150+ artists, writers, directors, and other talented creatives who have shared over 10 years of incredible animated stories with the world.