War Horse on Your Coffee Table: A Lavish New Book Details How–and Why–the Film Was Made

The dramatic title page sets the stage for many beautiful spreads to follow.

Every once in a while, a book comes along that belongs not in your barn, not in your truck and not even in your office. Not on a shelf, either. No, this book belongs on your coffee table, or maybe in the waiting room of a  vet clinic or tack shop.

If you don’t have a coffee table, you might want to go buy one so you can open this large-format book out flat and turn the pages, one by one.

Over the years, this blog has been the champion of the story of War Horse, from the very time it opened as a play in London in 2007. We support the “horse” in War Horse, and want to know everything we can about the horses in the film, the play and the real war horses of World War I.

warhorsenews GOLD logo SMALLWe had a “Making of War Horse” book about the play, which explained the puppets.

And now we have a rich velvety guide to the making of the motion picture. You can get lost in the photos, they’re so large and so deeply inked. And you will, believe me.

When director Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks Pictures authorized a beautiful coffee table book about how the film was made, there was no question that it had to be worth a look.

What I wasn’t expecting: that I’d keep looking and looking and looking at this beautiful book.

The oversized (12 x 9″) book is printed in color, with massive full page photos taken during the production of the film. It is hardcover, with thick, high-quality paper and dust jacket.

War Horse: The Making of the Motion Picture has several forewords–including one by Steven Spielberg, one by producer Kathleen Kennedy, one by original author Michael Morpurgo and one by screenwriter Richard Curtis. Spielberg’s is especially compelling, as it offers insight into why he chose to translate the story to the screen.

After these formalities, you meet 21 cast members with a portrait of each in costume. They’re arranged in the order in which they appeared in the film, for easy reference.

Then the book reveals its heart: the story of War Horse and how the cast and crew collaborated to get it onto film. As always the natural scenery of Devon, England is dazzling in color, just as the dreary, unnatural scenery of The Front, No Man’s Land, and the trenches are monochromatic and foreboding.

The story of War Horse is told in three sections:

Part 1: Joey’s Journey—A visual retelling, along with script excerpts and filmmakers’ comments, of the journey taken by Joey, the war horse and his beloved Albert, from the striking verdant countryside of Dartmoor, Devon, to training in the British cavalry, to trench warfare in France.

Part 2: The Making of War Horse—An insider’s glimpse of the movie-making process highlighted with fascinating insights from the international cast and the crew about the casting, locations, costumes, horse training, and much more.

Part 3: The History of War Horses—An illuminating section on the role of horses in battle, illustrated with iconic images from history, vivid drawings, paintings and photographs.

The book has stills unseen or seldom seen shot during production. Some are stretched across two huge pages, creating a mural effect. (© Newmarket Press | DreamWorks Pictures photo)

There are also beautiful sketches of set designs from the art directors  and even storyboards of how scenes like the barbed wire entrapment were sequenced.

Is it a Hollywood book? A history book? A horse book? Or all of these? I think this book is what you want it to be. It’s an enhancement of your experience viewing the film (or, one day, the DVD) and a tribute to the artists, the actors, the technical geniuses, the land and especially the horses who moved you then, and will again, with the turn of every page.

War Horse: The Making of the Motion Picture was published December 27, 2011 by Newmarket Press. Format: Hardcover; trimsize: 12 x 9; pages: 144;  full color throughout. Cost per book $35 plus postage and handling; Ages: written for adults, with some technical references, but I think a horse-crazy teen would do fine with this book. And love it! Click here to order your copy!

Photos in this post © Fran Jurga and Equisearch.com, still images from the film and shown on pages are property of Newmarket Press and DreamWorks Pictures. No use without permission.

Be brave! Entrench yourself in WAR HORSE NEWS on the web: 1) Bookmark WarHorseBlog.com; 2) Grab the RSS feed; 3) Follow @WarHorseNews on Twitter; 4) “Like” the War Horse News page on Facebook; 5) Circle War Horse News on Google +. Leave your questions and comments here on the blog and we’ll try to help you! WAR HORSE NEWS is written for moviegoers, horse lovers and history buffs by horse-specialist journalist Fran Jurga and hosted by Equisearch.com.

War Horse: Ever Wondered What It Would Be Like to Go to a Royal Premiere in London?

Let’s go along with War Horse News’ mysterious foreign correspondent, our friend Sam Lane. She’s on the ground in London and her lens and her eyes are wide open. Sam was able to arrive early in Leicester Square on Sunday, and photographed the preparations for the Royal Premiere of War Horse at the Odeon Theatre, as well as the arrival of some of the stars and the most special guests of honor. Let’s go!

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There was no question which moving was showing at the Odeon on Sunday night! (photo © Sam Lane)

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War Horse posters in London used the horizontal four-fold movie poster format instead of the vertical format usually seen in ads and in the USA. It looked like 100 or so of them were attached to movable barricades for a block or so in front of the theater. (photo © Sam Lane)

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Roll out the red carpet! A city block's length (at least) arrived in vans. (photo © Sam Lane)

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Not just any old red carpet for the stars of War Horse! (photo © Sam Lane)

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Who was the first star to arrive? It was Joey, the War Horse himself! (photo © Sam Lane)

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"Joey", a.k.a. Sultan, an Andalusian who was one of many horses who played the star in War Horse, was escorted by Tom Cox of Devils Horsemen stunt riders. Dan Nedrous of Devils Horsemen was one of the assistant horsemasters of the film. He was in the background, on safety duty. (Photo © Sam Lane)

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Right, I can't explain the bit either. War Horses can adapt to anything! (photo © Sam Lane)


War Horse Equine Artistic Advisor Ali Bannister had her share of fans behind the barricades: her mother was there to watch her daughter and her artwork on the red carpet--Ali had to do the makeup on Sultan (he played Joey in the trenches scene in the film) before he walked the carpet. It was a fun night for everyone! (photo © Sam Lane)

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The man behind War Horse: American producer/director Steven Spielberg arrived at the theater and walked own the red carpet right to Joey and greeted him first! (photo © Sam Lane)

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War Horse star Patrick Kennedy gave autographs to fans on the barricades. He played Lieutenant Waverly in the film, although he pronounces it "Left-tenant". He's as charming offscreen as his role was onscreen! (photo © Sam Lane)

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War Horse star Benedict Cumberblatch has the best name in show business. He's quite a star in Britain, and War Horse earned him a lot of American fans, too. He played Sherlock Holmes in the BBC production that is currently showing in the USA on PBS Masterpiece. (photo © Sam Lane)

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Who doesn't have a soft spot in his or her heart for the artistic officer Captain Nicholls from War Horse? He was played by Tom Hiddleston, whom you might recognize as Loki from Thor or from PBS Masterpiece's Return to Cranford series and many other films and shows. (photo © Sam Lane)

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The guests of honor at the War Horse Royal Premiere were members of British military units associated with Prince William or Prince Harry. The evening was a fundraiser for their foundation that aids servicemen. (photo © Sam Lane)

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Servicewomen guests at the War Horse premiere were the modern-day counterparts of the World War I troops portrayed so well in the film. (photo © Sam Lane)

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The guests of honor were essentially the hosts, as well. War Horse made the Duchess of Cambridge (the former Kate Milddleton) shed a tear, according to Steven Spielberg. Here she is arriving with her husband, the Duke of Cambridge--Prince William to Americans. (photo © Sam Lane)

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Photographer Sam Lane at home after the premiere shows off her treasures: one of the posters from the barricades--removed with permission of a policeman, and a scrap of the War Horse red carpet that was a gift from the carpet-layers. Well done, Sam! (photo © Sam Lane)

Be sure to visit Sam Lane’s Flickr stream to see more photos from the premiere night. And to read her account of what happened that night, her Posterous blog, Living in London 2012, has all the details in the first person! Sam is a rising star photographer in the big city who has a very horsey background as daughter of a well-known horse veterinarian. She has her horse eye out in London and we expect she’ll be a great connection during the Olympics.

There’s nothing like a foreign correspondent, especially a fearless one who knows and loves horses! Thanks, Sam!