Roger Ebert Home

Book Review: The Art of the Mitchells vs. the Machines

Blockbusters seem to be right around the corner with the release of delayed major films like “F9,” “A Quiet Place, Part II,” and “In the Heights.” It leads to the question of what films from the last 15 months will still be remembered once all of the “big” movies start dominating the conversation. I feel pretty confident that one of the films that will pass the test is Netflix’s “The Mitchells vs. the Machines,” a film that people have fallen absolutely in love with on the king of the streaming services. Directed by Mike Rianda and produced by Phil Lord & Chris Miller, the animated family comedy has much of that energy that still circles the producers’ “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse,” a modern movie that people absolutely adore. When people are discussing their favorite animated films of 2021—or favorite films, period, really—I suspect to see a lot of conversation around “The Mitchells vs. the Machines,” something that works equally for the nostalgic parents who get all the references and their kids who understand the current YouTube culture this movie dissects in a different way. Released this week, The Art of the Mitchells vs. the Machines is an excellent companion piece. The kind of collector’s coffee table book that usually accompanies major theatrical blockbusters. Maybe things really are returning to normal.

The structure of the art companion book isn’t much different here than usual, although there’s less of an emphasis on craft and more on true art. Every character and detail from the film is analyzed through the eyes of the people who made “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” like Guillermo Martinez (Head of Story), Lindsey Olivares (Production Designer), Toby Wilson (Art Director), David R. Bleich (Lead Color Designer), Alan Hawkins (Head of Character Animation), and Mike Lasker (VFX Supervisor). Written and assembled by Ramin Zahed, The Art of the Mitchells vs. the Machines also includes a brief and clever introduction from Debbie Rianda, the director’s mother. It’s a perfect tone-setter for the volume that matches a film that’s about the importance of encouraging relationships between parents and children.

The “Team Snapshots” from the people mentioned above are the best of the book, and the rest is filled with a lot of art from the film itself. I wished there was a little more behind-the-scenes information about the production and insight into its themes and construction, but the truth is that “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” is a visual experience, something that’s filled to the brim with art that often replicates the worldview of its protagonist Katie. It makes sense for the companion book to mimic that abundance of visual pleasures. It’s a fun book for fans of the film to leaf through and remind themselves why they love the movie so much. And it’s a movie that more and more people are going to love every day, through 2021 and beyond.

Get your copy here.

Official Synopsis:

The official behind-the-scenes art book for Sony Pictures Animation’s feature film The Mitchells vs. The Machines

The Art of The Mitchells vs. The Machines gives insight into how the filmmakers behind Sony Pictures Animation’s new movie The Mitchells vs. The Machines were able to bring a fresh, new vision to the screen through concept art, sketches, and early character designs. The book also features exclusive commentary from director/cowriter Michael Rianda and codirector/cowriter Jeff Rowe, alumni of the team behind Emmy Award–winning Gravity Falls, and producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the innovative and creative minds behind The LEGO Movie and the Academy Award–winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

From the humans who brought you the Academy Award-winning Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse and The LEGO Movie comes The Mitchells vs. The Machines, an animated action-comedy about an ordinary family who find themselves in the middle of their biggest family challenge yet. . . . saving the world from the robot apocalypse. No big deal, right? It all starts when creative outsider Katie Mitchell is accepted into the film school of her dreams and is eager to leave home and find “her people,” when her nature-loving dad insists on having the whole family drive her to school and bond during one last totally-not-awkward-or-forced road trip. But just when the trip can’t get any worse, the family suddenly finds itself in the middle of the robot uprising! Everything from smart phones, to roombas, to evil Furbys are employed to capture every human on the planet. Now it’s up to the Mitchells, including upbeat mom Linda, quirky little brother Aaron, their squishy pug, Monchi, and two friendly, but simple-minded robots to save humanity.

Directed by Michael Rianda (Gravity Falls), produced by Oscar winners Phil Lord and Chris Miller, and Kurt Albrecht, and featuring the voices of Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Beck Bennett, Fred Armisen, Eric Andre, and Oscar winner Olivia Colman, The Mitchells vs. The Machines is about embracing the things that make us unique, learning what it means to be human in a world increasingly filled with technology, and holding tight to the people most important to you when the unexpected hits.


Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Managing Editor of, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and GQ, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

Latest blog posts

Latest reviews

Article 20
They Shot the Piano Player
About Dry Grasses


comments powered by Disqus