THE HARBOR LIGHT
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Animator's own faith shines in children's book

By Andrea Barkan, Correspondent
January 18, 2007

Childhood trips to Disneyland from his Ventura County home fueled Eric Walls' love of animation and story.

"I can still remember the first drawing I made of Mickey Mouse when I was 7," said Walls, 39. "My decision to be an animator started with that drawing."

Walls, who attended California Institute of the Arts, now lives in Valencia and works as a Disney animator. Last year, his first personal project - a children's book that he wrote and illustrated - was released.

"The Harbor Light," published by Kregel Publications, tells the story of a lighthouse that must choose between doing its duty and fitting in.

"At its core, it's about being a good example," Walls said. "If we're not who we're supposed to be, others could be hurt by that."

Light was an apt metaphor for Walls' message, which is inspired by his Christian faith. The symbol of a lighthouse fit right in with the Bible verse Matthew 5:14-16, which tells about being a light to the world, Walls said.

"I kind of see this as a ministry to other people and to children," he said.

When Walls was a child, his father, Robert Walls, served as pastor of Port Hueneme's Parkview Baptist Church.

For the message of "The Harbor Light" to have impact, Walls knew that he had to create a compelling character.

"Pinocchio" really captured my imagination as a kid," Walls said. "I completely related with the character and was drawn into his story. I was amazed at how a series of individual drawings could create an emotional connection with the audience.

"That's the most important thing to me about animation or this book - making the character something that people can believe in," Walls added.

Walls originally developed "The Harbor Light" as an animated short film. He approached film studios about development and while they liked his idea, they were reluctant to spend the money. He reconsidered the medium and decided to do a book.

"I'd always thought about doing a children's book," he said.

He finished th book adaption in 2004 and approached publishers. Walls hand-drew each page, then digitally colored his drawings.

Walls works as a computer animator at Disney now, but is still partial to pen-to-paper animation. "There's more of a richness and more of a handcrafted feel to the finished product," he said.

The book initially drew interest from two publishers and took two years from submission to release. By early 2006, it was on Christian bookstore shelves, at Barnes & Noble and online.

Walls said reviews and customer feedback have been positive and satisfying.

"It's great. You work on something that's very personal - you sit inside your house, in a room by yourself, working for months." Walls said. "All of a sudden, it's out there and people from all over the country respond to it."


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