Sunday

Donald Johnson and the Marvelous Book Trailer

I brought my children to watch author and illustrator Donald Johnson draw and read from his unique new picture book Magritte's Marvelous Hat. And while the children sat drop-jawed as Johnson made the character appear on a pad of paper in front of their very eyes, it was the adults who asked all the questions afterward.

Publicity geek that I am, I couldn't help but ask Johnson how he promotes his work. To my surprise, he said he'd just made a book trailer. I was surprised, as I assumed that a picture book would be too short for a book trailer.

I was wrong.

The picture book uses a special technique, whereby four transparent pages add a level of surrealism to the illustration as pictured are altered with the turn of a page. A book trailer helps to demonstrate the effect.

The trailer is so polished that I asked Johnson how he'd done it.
I was a film student in grad school (School of the Art Institute of Chicago) so this project was particularly enjoyable to me. Since the book's final art was already in digital form (Photoshop files) it was easy to animate using Photoshop Timeline Animation. I exported the animation to Apple's iMovie 11 (a really intuitive yet powerful movie making program), added some transitional effects and music, but not the titling--that was all done in Photoshop where the choices and quality of typefaces are better. I searched online for a short piece of music that would evoke both the playfulness of the story as well as a sense of Paris in the 1920s, then purchased the rights to use it.My goal was to bring it all together under 2 minutes which seems to be the standard for picture book trailers--and probably also pushes the limits of viewer attention span and file size for streaming. 
It's the third one I've done--and the one I feel from an artistic perspective at least, is the most successful. I think it captures the transparent page turns, the 1920's (movie captioning), and the surreal nature of the imagery--yet doesn't reveal the entire plot. It leaves the viewer wanting to know more. 
I don't have any way to measure the promotional value of the trailer, but it has given me just one more opportunity to remind people that the book is out there and present its themes in an entertaining way.
You can see Johnson's trailer here, or visit him on his website.