Denise van Leeuwen

Animation Magazine - - RIS­ING STARS -

Cre­ator, Pol the Pi­rate Mouse, Sub­ma­rine

When Sub­ma­rine stu­dio founder Bruno Felix was seek­ing an artist to help him with a pitch for the an­i­mated show Wel­lie Wish­ers, he reached out to Denise van Leeuwen af­ter see­ing her work on­line. “He thought I was a good fit for the project, so I worked with him and we won the pitch,” she re­calls. “I didn’t ex­pect it at all, be­cause I had never worked in an­i­ma­tion be­fore. The task was to adapt the look of Mat­tel’s vinyl doll into a 2D draw­ing style for an­i­ma­tion.”

Grow­ing up in the Nether­lands, van Leeuwen was en­am­ored with Dis­ney clas­sics such as Dumbo and Mary Pop­pins, and loved catch­ing The Won­der­ful World of Dis­ney se­ries on TV. “I didn’t even think that it would be pos­si­ble to work in an­i­ma­tion back then,” she says. “Draw­ing was my hobby and even­tu­ally I found my­self work­ing as an il­lus­tra­tor. Then came this call from Bruno out of the blue, and I found my­self work­ing with so many tal­ented peo­ple on this an­i­mated show. It was a wel­come change from draw­ing in my stu­dio alone for a decade.”

She soon found her­self want­ing to go back the world of an­i­ma­tion, so she came up with the idea for a new an­i­mated show, called Pol the Pi­rate Mouse, which she and the team at Sub­ma­rine pre­sented at Car­toon Fo­rum in France last year. “I had drawn this mouse char­ac­ter for a per­sonal [piece] for the ‘Na­tional Mou­seum’ (Na­tion­aal Mui­seum), where artists share their per­sonal art­work about mice,” says the gifted artist. “Then I showed it to Bruno and I kept draw­ing, and the project grew. Gau­mont An­i­ma­tion is in­volved as well, and we hope to get a broad­caster in­volved as well.”

For now, van Leeuwen is hop­ing to con­tinue watch­ing her im­ages come to an­i­mated life. “In illustrati­on, you just do work on one draw­ing and then move on to the next one,” she says. “In an­i­ma­tion, you have more time to cre­ate a big­ger world, and it’s so ex­cit­ing to see your draw­ings come to life. It’s truly a mag­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence.”

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