The Walt Disney Animation Studios Artist Showcase is a series of children’s books created by the same talented artists that work on Disney’s latest string of animated hits, like Frozen, Zootopia, and Moana. The series started in 2014 with No Slurping, No Burping! (Visual Development Artist Lorelay Bové) and continued last year with Bug Zoo (Art Director Andy Harkness). The third release in the series shines a spotlight on Animator Bensom Shum with Holly’s Dat at the Pool.
Holly is a hippo who is always brave and fearless, except when it comes to swimming. Her fears are mostly irrational, envisioning the water being so cold that penguins are swimming in it or worrying that a snapping turtle is going to pinch her. But when her sister’s piggy toy falls in, Holly might just find that conquering her fears could lead to the best day ever.
Benson Shum’s artistic style aligns perfectly with Disney’s. The character design of Holly feels like she could swim in the same pool with the Hyacinth Hippo from Fantasia (see what I did there?) or be an extra in Zootopia, connecting both the classic Walt-era styles with the modern generation of animators. Also Holly’s sister, Dottie, has the most adorable strawberry bathing suit in the world (does it come in mens?).
Through Holly’s Day at the Pool, kids can learn to overcome their fears and be brave like Holly. It’s adorable the way she keeps asking her dad “What if” questions about her anxiety over going to the pool. While fear of pools is likely not an issue your kids have, this book is a great tool to start a conversation about things they are afraid of. You can talk to them about being brave like Holly so they, too, can explore new things and discover new favorite hobbies.
In the modern era of Walt Disney Animation Studios, it feels like the animation talent often goes unseen and unnoticed. If you think about it, there isn’t really a modern day equivalent to Glen Keane or Andreas Deja or going even further back, no Ward Kimball’s or Ollie Johnston’s. Through the Walt Disney Animation Studios Artist Showcase, we get to see some of these talented individuals shine on their own. It makes me wish Disney Animation would produce more short subjects as well, since all of these books are very cute ideas and could easily be adapted as short subjects.
Holly’s Day at the Pool is another wonderful addition to the Walt Disney Animation Studios Artist Showcase series. As the first Disney animator to produce one of these books, the style looks more like an animated cartoon than the rest and the action poses are so striking that you can easily see it all coming to life on the pages. It’s great for storytime with kids, but I also recommend it to fans of modern Disney Animation looking to explore more from these talented artists.
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.