Bug Zoo

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  • Bug Zoo
  • written and illustrated by Andy Harkness
  • published by Disney Hyperion (2016)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

The Walt Disney Animation Studios Artist Showcase books are a new discovery for me, and I wonder how I missed them until now. They’re conceived as a series of original picture books that put the spotlight on individual artists working for Walt Disney Animation Studios, and there’s apparently also at least one title in the Pixar Animation Studios Artist Showcase series. (Which went immediately onto my wishlist.)

Bug Zoo features artist Andy Harkness, who worked as an in-betweener and layout artist on Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Lilo & Stitch, and Brother Bear. Andy currently works as an art director for Walt Disney Animation, and this is his first children’s book.

I think it’s safe to say he’s set a high bar for himself, straight out of the gate. This book is eye-poppingly gorgeous.

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The story is about a little boy, Ben, who loves all kinds of bugs and decides to go out and catch a whole bunch of them. He wants to open a bug zoo and has dreams of becoming a main attraction in the neighborhood. But no one is coming to see his bugs.

He tries to attract people, but none of his efforts pay off. It isn’t until he captures a beautiful luna moth and see it cramped up in its jar that he realizes what he has to do.

Ultimately, the book has a beautiful message and drives home an important point about happiness, respect, and conservation.

But the art that’s splashed across the pages? Phenomenal. Harkness used a unique approach and sculpted most of the elements (such as the bugs and jars) in clay and then digitally manipulated them to various extents. It lends a remarkable look to the images – one that is truly unique and crazy beautiful.

Disney has solid gold in these Artist Showcase books, and I sincerely hope we get to see many, many more of them. And kudos to Andy Harkness for this one; I also hope we get to see many more books from him.

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(Disclosure: Disney Hyperion provided me with a review copy of this book. All opinions remain my own.)

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