Mymcbooks Interview Author Eric Walls
About the Author: Eric Walls’ work is well-known to animation audiences, having had a career in family feature film animation for over 20 years with extensive experience in both traditional hand-drawn and computer animation. He has contributed animation to to many classic films of Disney, DreamWorks, Paramount and Warner Brothers.
Before starting his animation career, Eric attended the world-renowned California Institute of the Arts, where he extensively studied animation, art, story, and film. In his second year of enrollment he received a partial scholarship from Disney.
After completing his studies, Eric began his career at Disney where he helped create memorable character performances in “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” “The Lion King,” “Pocahontas,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” and “Hercules.” During his time at DreamWorks, he collaborated on the character of Moses in “The Prince of Egypt.” Returning to Disney, Eric animated on “Meet the Robinsons,” “Bolt,” and “The Princess and the Frog.” Currently he is expanding his depth of knowledge and skills as a pre-visualization artist on numerous high-profile live action feature film productions including X-Men: First Class and the upcoming Oz: The Great and Powerful. http://www.horizonlightmedia.com/author-biography.html
What is the last book you read? I enjoy reading a variety of subjects, fiction, biographies, and other works. I recently finished reading, “It’s Kind of a Cute Story” by Rolly Crump. Rolly is one of the original Disney “Imagineers” who helped create classic Disney theme park attractions like “It’s a Small World” and “The Enchanted Tiki Room.” It’s a great insight into the creativity that brought these immersive experiences to life.
What was your favorite children’s book? I don’t know how I remember this, but my favorite books as a child were a number of the “Arch Books” like “The Boy Who Saved His Family (The Story of Joseph)” and “Jon and the Little Lost Lamb: The Parable of the Good Shepherd.” They are great retellings of Bible stories with beautiful illustrations. Another favorite book that was a tremendous influence on my artistic development was “How to Draw Cartoons” by Syd Hoff.
What were your earliest memories of writing? My first love is drawing, so my early memories are more vivid in that regard. But I do remember writing a play that my brother and my friends performed for the neighborhood.
By the way, when I was 7, my first “serious” drawing was of Mickey Mouse, and I decided right there that I wanted to be an animator.
Were you encouraged to write or was it something that came natural? I believe I have a natural interest in writing, but it wasn’t until a high school teacher, who required students to keep a daily journal, really sparked my interest and encouraged my exploration of storytelling.
Do you generally get a story idea first or does the main character develop first? When I develop a story, an idea of a message or moral I’d like to convey comes first. Then, I look for a metaphor that can most clearly illustrate that idea to a child.
In working toward illustrating the bible verse, “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only,” I discovered “Silent Sally,” a character who never talks about doing, but jumps at the chance to be a DOER.
What inspired you to write Silent Sally? In telling the story, I wanted to demonstrate that having a quiet personality is not a hindrance in life, and has a worth of its own. I wanted to encourage kids to be themselves, and know they are important. It’s what we DO in life that is essential, not what we say.
How was it like creating character performances on Disney animation, and what is your best one yet? Being a Disney animator was my dream since I was a child, and I was incredibly fortunate and blessed to have realized that dream. All though I don’t currently work directly for Disney, I have fond memories of my time there.
I’ve enjoyed working with many talented artists as a team to help create character performances. Some of the most notable were my first hand-drawn animation in “The Lion King,” as well as work in “Hercules,” and more recently, a career highlight for me, “The Princess and the Frog.” In the computer animation realm, I contributed to “Meet the Robinsons” and “Bolt.”
Are you working on a new book? I have several ideas for future books in various states of development. Several are children’s picture books, and one is a novel for older readers.
What is the most difficult part of writing? Waiting for that “Aha!” moment, the instant that everything you are trying to say “clicks” and becomes cohesive.
Do you write full time or do you still have a day job? I continue my career as a feature film animation artist. The most recent film, of which I’m proud to have been a part of as a “pre-visualization” animator, is “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” in theaters this month!
In my off hours, I enjoy pursuing my writing interests.
How do you react to a bad review and have you ever suffered from writer’s block? I take bad reviews in the context they are written. If the reviewer is obviously serious about their criticism, I try to evaluate their thoughts. Does the reviewer have a point, or do I disagree with their comments? What can I learn from the review?
As far as writer’s block, it happens from time to time, as in any of my creative endeavors. But I try to see it as an opportunity to step back, and evaluate the challenge at hand from a new perspective.
What do you hope that readers will take away from your book? When I develop a story, I have a main, obvious point I want to tell, but I also work hard to weave in other related ideas and observations that the reader can take away upon pondering the story further. Some of the supporting points I explored in “Silent Sally” are selflessness, attentiveness, respect, honor, and humbleness. It’s my hope that I’ve conveyed properly these points to the reader, while at the same time entertaining the child.
Who are some of your favorite authors you would love to dine with? Ray Bradbury, Mark Twain, and a number of others.
What author inspires you the most and why? By far, Ray Bradbury, who passed away last year, is my favorite writer and biggest literary influence. Fortunately, I had several occasions in my life to hear him speak in person. He referred to himself as an “optimal behaviorist,” believing in a proactive, positive outlook in life, doing all we can, with enthusiasm. We can rise beyond our challenges, and make the world a better place for ourselves and those around us.
What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.? I don’t necessarily set a specific schedule or goal. Every story takes on a life of its own, and it’s hard to know how long the creative process will take on a particular aspect. I try to be flexible, but still, it’s important to me to feel like I’m progressing at a timely pace. The important thing is to keep at it.
What advice would you give parents on selecting the right books for their children to read? There are many children’s books that are really about nothing. They can be a lot of fun and silly, but books that can teach a lesson while still being fun, and without being forced or condescending, those are rarer. I’ve strived to strike the right balance in my books.
What advice would you give to new writers? Learn, and DO.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers? When I write, the first audience of my story is me. So not only am I trying to say something, I also need to learn something. With “Silent Sally,” I learned that I need to strive toward becoming the person that Sally is. I fail miserably at times, but the story reminds me that I need to proactively be on the lookout for ways to serve others.
Thank you for this interview.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak your readers!
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My name is Ella Johnson. I started Mymcbooks to promote reading. As a former teacher, I know that making basic education fundamentals interesting to children can be challenging. Education can be fun, exciting and captivating for children with the right learning tools. So my goal is to “make learning interesting and fun” for the children while they learn, by introducing them to fun books with colorful and captivating illustrations.
In 2009, I start the giveaway program giving away free school supplies at random to 2 winners each year. I also started a monthly free giveaways for books and gifts.
August 2010, I extended the free school supplies from 2 to 5 winners at random on my blog and also give away 20 bags full of school supplies to familes in need at Chick-fil-A in Brandon, Florida during their family nights. And in 2012, I beat my that number and gave away a lot of school supplies to needy families. Hopefully, I can continue to do this each year.
In 2011, I started writing reviews on children’s books then giving these books away free on Mymcbooks Blog. I increase the number of books we giveaway free to help support parent. My goal is to give away as many as I can each year. This is also a great way to introduce parents to new books.
Mymcbooks blog is always looking for other ways to give kids free books. So I started Mymcbooks Birthday Library http://mymcbooksbirthdaylibrary.wordpress.com/
My goal is to giveaway at least 300 books to children each year.
Books Given in 2011: 315
Books Given in 2012: 380
Books Given in 2013: 330
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Read Interview about Ella Johnson, http://melangeofcultures.wordpress.com/2011/07/31/interview-with-ella-johnson-founder-of-memorable-children-books-gifts/ Interviewer: Nicole Weaver
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