Creating a pop-up book is like making movie, explains Matthew Reinhart, author of the new book “Disney Princess: A Magical Pop-Up World,” which illustrates key moments from animated movies such as “Cinderella,” “Mulan and “Snow White.”
Reinhart studied industrial design at Pratt Institute and planned to work in the toy industry when he met paper engineer Robert Sabuda who created pop-up books such as “America the Beautiful” and “The Little Mermaid.”
After working with Sabuda on several pop-up projects, he started creating his own. Reinhart's dream list of projects includes making pop-up books about the human body, Marvel Comics characters and Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Here Reinhart explains creating a pop-up book has a distinct process that takes a handmade work and turns it into a mass-market product.
After the manuscript is written, I create an outline of the action or “pops” that will happen on each page — just words really. The next step is cutting/folding/taping together a rough pop by hand — and I may make many missteps before I get to a design I feel happy about.
After I've cleaned up the design and rebuilt it a few times, I'll sketch on the flat pieces of pop and decide how I'll illustrate the finalized color art. Typically I use a technique called cut paper collage with all these special painted papers I create in my studio — a style inspired very much by the masterful children's book author / illustrator Eric Carle. For my “Disney Princess” book, I adapted a new digital technique for this type of art.
Have you ever invented a new folding system to make a pop-up properly work?
I invent new paper engineering for just about every single book I make! My mantra is: "Learn rules. Break rules. Learn new rules. Repeat." Learning new things gets me inspired more than anything!
Do authors typically know what parts of the book they want to make pop-up, or is it a collaborative experience?
That depends on the book project really. I love working with others, like illustrators or writers, because we can inspire each other with our ideas. I usually take on all duties for most of my books: writer, illustrator and paper engineer. Even in those instances, I’m still collaborating with my publisher, including folks like my editor, the marketing team, and designers. A pop- up book is almost on like a movie on a smaller scale - it's quite the production - and it takes many different viewpoints to get it just right. I like the company!!
Your blog displays an appreciation for pop art sculpture. Do you create works with paper beyond the books or would you like to?
I would love to create more paper sculpture beyond my book work, but these days I don't have a lot of free time for it. Too many book projects! Paper is an amazing medium to work with: it's fragile but can achieve strength, flat but with manipulation can gain dimension, commonplace but can be made into something exotic. Hopefully I'll get some time to make some of my non-book dreams come true in the near future.
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