Mike Wu’s latest picture book from Disney Press celebrates his career as an animator through the Pixar Animation Studios Artist Showcase, the fourth entry in the series. Henri’s Hats is a charming story about a young boy who connects to his grandfather through an old chest of hats. Like the best Pixar shorts, it’s whimsical and fun with a splash of heart.
Henri is visiting his grand-papa in Paris, who he hasn’t seen for many years. Chasing his grandfather’s dog around the house leads him to the attic and a chest full of hats. Henri’s imagination runs wild as he puts them on, becoming a race car driver, sailor, diver, pilot, and ringmaster. When his grandfather finds him, he reveals that these hats are all ones he wore throughout his adventurous life.
The beautiful theme of Henri’s Hats is put into perspective in the end, paralleling two characters at different points in their journey. Grand-papa is at the end of his, looking back on his career highlights, while Henri is at the start, dreaming of his future adventures. Through his hats, Grand-papa shares a hat with Henri that he never got to wear, one that Henri may have a chance to someday.
Mike Wu has proven himself as an excellent illustration through his Ellie book series (also on Disney Press). His style deviates on Henri’s Hats, looking more like Pixar shorts such as La Luna and One Man Band than his watercolor elephants, which harkened back to Disney golden era and Dumbo. His color stylings are bolder here as well, with hot colors replacing the more pastel palette of Ellie.
A nice tradition that started on the previous Pixar Animation Studios Artist Showcase, the back of the book features Mike Wu illustrating how he came to be a Pixar Animator. Kids and parents alike will feel his passion for animation and connect with him through the films he worked on, including time at Disney on Mulan, Hercules, and Tarzan in addition to Pixar films like Ratatouille, Up, Toy Story 3, Coco, and The Incredibles 2.
The field of animation has changed so drastically, with hundreds of names in the credits for each film when compared to productions pre-1985 where so few names appeared that you got the chance to know them. A personal connection to these talented artists has been lost in many ways as a result, but the Pixar Animation Studios Artist Showcase (and its sister series, the Walt Disney Animation Studios Artist Showcase) gives fans the chance to learn about them and their personal styles.
While Henri’s Hats is a children’s picture book, I encourage animation fans of all ages to give it a read. It’s as captivating and heartwarming as the best Pixar shorts, while being distinctly Mike Wu in its story and design. It’s clear to see that his Animator hat is destined to take him far.
Click here to see more entries in the Pixar Animation Studios Artist Showcase.
Click here to see the sister series, the Walt Disney Animation Studios Artist Showcase.
Click here for more books by Mike Wu.
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.