overthere

Last Spring, Disney Press debuted a new series called Walt Disney Animation Studios Artist Showcase. This series is designed to give modern artists at the studio that Walt built a chance to have their personal creations be seen by millions of fans and children around the world through a series of childrens books. The first title was No Slurping, No Burping! by Lorelay Bove. This series, which was the brainchild of John Lasseter, has a sister that debuts on September 23rd called Pixar Animation Studios Artist Showcase.

The first book in this collection is Over There by Steve Pilcher, an Art Director at Luxo Jr.'s favorite place to bounce. I recently attended a presentation he gave at the Walt Disney Family Museum to celebrate the book's release, where he gave a lot of the history behind this project. It's a concept that he first thought about as a young adult, inspired by his childhood backyard in his Canadian home. He created this little shrew named Shredder and knew that his journey involved trying to find something he was missing.

Over There tells the story of an adorable little shrew named Shredder. He lives alone in his home under a maple tree with a pet acorn to keep him company. One day, he sees a shiny object in the distance and curiosity gets the better of him. Shredder sets off on a journey to find out what the shiny object is, but his quest opens a door for him to find the one thing missing in his little life.

At face value, Over There is a nice children's book with better-than-average artwork. Upon a second reading, it's much deeper than that. It's a statement about our inherent need for companionship, which can come in many shapes and sizes. The character designs of the two stars of the book, Shredder and a mole name Nosey, are incredibly appealing. You want to reach into the pages and pet both of them. There's brilliance in the simplicity of the story and the character designs, yet a richness and detail in the world they inhabit.

It may have been unintentional, but there's also a similarity to Walt Disney's Bambi in regards to the way man's influence on the animal world is seen, but man is never shown in the pages. And since this is inspired by Pilcher's backyard, perhaps the human reference is intended to be himself or a family member.

Shredder and Nosey are memorable characters that will leave children asking to hear the story again and adults revisiting these charming pages time and time again. At the event, I had the opportunity to talk to Steve and have my copy of Over There signed, which he did with a little sketch of Shredder. I asked him if he had ever thought of Over There as a Pixar short. He smiled and said he plans to pitch the idea to John Lasseter, so perhaps it's not too much to expect to see Shredder and Nosey grace the silver screen in a few years before an upcoming Pixar film.