Review: The Art of Legend of the Guardians: The Owls Of Ga’Hoole

Directed by Zack Snyder (300), Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga-hoole did not fare particularly well at the box office or in critics’ columns. We’ll leave the reasons for its middling success to Rotten Tomatoes, but one thing’s for sure: the visuals weren’t to blame.

Marshaling over 500 artists, Sydney-based Animal Logic was responsible for designing, developing and executing the film’s richly detailed world in meticulous, stereoscopic detail. The film is breathtaking, and it deserved its AACTA award for Best Visual Effects.

Birds of a Feather

Animal Logic’s challenge was not an easy one. Non-ornithologists like myself have a tough time discerning between whole orders of birds, let alone spotting the unique characteristics that define a single species. For the film, Animal Logic not only created 15 distinct species of owls, they imbued each character with defining physical traits that expressed their unique personalities.

Rightfully proud of their work, Animal Logic has released a book chronicling the creative process behind the film, The Art of Legend of the Guardians: The Owls Of Ga’Hoole.

The Ups…

The Art of Legend of the Guardians includes everything you’d want in such a book: storyboards, exhaustive character designs, lush matte paintings, lighting scripts, color studies, costume designs and extensive commentary from the crew of artists that brought author Kathryn Lasky’s best-selling series to the screen.

Not quite as large as a coffee table book, the book’s landscape format and roughly A4 page size does allow for some beautiful full-page imagery. If it was any larger, it’d be unwieldy. It’s a well-constructed edition printed on heavy stock with a satiny finish.

As valuable as the imagery are the insights from Animal Logic’s artists regarding their decision-making processes as they shaped the film’s characters. When possible, their choices were rooted in the biology of real world creatures.

To create the benevolent snake character of Mrs. Plithiver, Don Ezard explains, “Thankfully, in real life, the blind nest snakes are a soft pink color, so we could use this coloud scheme while being truthful to the reality of nature.” Poetic licenses were taken, of course, but the team felt obliged to start with nature and work from there.

…and the Downs

Several times throughout the book, artwork gets lost in the gutter (where the two pages meet in the spine). It seems as though the book was laid out without a consideration for just how disruptive this could be.

At $50 US (plus international shipping), this is a costly addition to your library, and there’s not a digital version available.

Bottom Line

If you’re at all interested in production design, character design or the art of animated filmmaking, this book will find a happy home in your library. The level of detail and amount of thought that went into every creative decision is evident on every page. This is not a technical book — you won’t find wireframes of compositing breakdowns — but you will find scads of breathtaking imagery and inspiring process work.

The Art of Legend of the Guardians: The Owls Of Ga’Hoole is available exclusively through the Animal Logic website. 

About the author

Justin Cone

Together with Carlos El Asmar, Justin co-founded Motionographer, F5 and The Motion Awards. He currently lives in Austin, Texas with is wife, son and fluffball of a dog. Before taking on Motionographer full-time, Justin worked in various capacities at Psyop, NBC-Universal, Apple, Adobe and SCAD.



Book reviews, NICE!


Owl of Ga-hoole *chuckle*



Rajesh Kumar

its awesome.. i m think to buy it..


Great review! Eric Guaglione – head of animation at Animal Logic was a featured speaker at our annual event – motion – when this movie was released. We did an advance screening of Legend of the Guardians along with Q&A with Eric . The artistic talent that went into this movie was amazing. If the book reflects any of this, I’m sure it will be a great success. Thanks for the post!

motion 2012


truly wonderful book. I’m glad I purchased it!

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