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Illustrator Claire Keane follows her dream with 'Once Upon A Cloud' children's book

Claire Keane comes from a family full of incredibly talented artists. Her grandfather, Bil Keane, created the Family Circus comic, and her father, Glen Keane, was a Disney animator for 38 years, designing iconic characters such as the Beast from "Beauty and the Beast" and Aladdin.

Claire followed in her father’s footsteps, working for Disney on films such as “Tangled” and "Frozen," but she decided not long ago that writing and illustrating children’s books was a passion she had to pursue.

In 2012, Keane left Disney to devote her talents full time to this new endeavor.

This week, her first children’s book, "Once Upon A Cloud," arrived in bookstores. But when Keane spoke with The Frame’s host John Horn earlier this week, we had the unexpected pleasure of providing her with her first look at a final copy.

Interview Highlights:

On the inspiration behind "Once Upon A Cloud":

It came out of nowhere! I was working at Disney as a visual development artist, and I had just had a baby. She didn't want to sleep [laughs]. I started reading about sleep and becoming more and more aware of how important dreams are in our waking life, and this question started gnawing at me: How can I show my daughter all the possibilities that are available to her, if only she were to let go and dream?

At the same time, I was designing Rapunzel's murals on "Tangled," and I had this idea to start painting her dreams. That's when the idea to make this book — about this girl who goes up to the sky and lives in her dream world — came to me.

On growing up in a family of animators/artists:

I've been drawing since forever. The story that my parents always tell is that I didn't start speaking until I was four, because I started drawing at the age that people normally start speaking. I drew a lot growing up, and my dad was always very inspiring and very encouraging. 

I would spend all day drawing princesses and I'd wait for [my father] to come home from work so I could show him all the problems I was having with my drawings. I'd be like, "Dad, can you just show me what's wrong with this?" And in two lines he just knew it. He could show me so easily, and he made it look so easy.

On eventually following her father into animation:

It's funny, because I never thought that I wanted to. I wanted to do fashion design, so I went to Parsons [School of Design] for a year. And then as I went down that path, I realized I was more interested in the actual people underneath the clothes, so then I started going to a graphic design school.

This was all happening in Paris, and actually at my thesis project — a big fairy tale book — at the French school, one of the people on the jury came up to me and said, "Ooh, aren't you embarrassed to be doing all these fairy tale drawings?" And I was telling my dad, "I love doing this so much, I just wish there was a job where I could just spend my life developing what a character would look like, and how she would act or talk, and what her environment would look like."

And he looked at me and was like, "Claire, don't you know that Disney has that? It's called a visual development artist." I said, "Oh my gosh, I want to do that and I want to work on a fairy tale." He said, "I'm developing Rapunzel right now." So I got my portfolio together, and a few months later they started looking for visual development artists, and I got my stuff in there.

On the different satisfactions derived from working in children's literature:

There's something so satisfying about having something physical that you can hold. Also, it's mine and it belongs to me, it's my idea. And there's a much bigger range of stories you can tell with books, whereas in animation there's so much money behind the movies that there's very little risk — the possibilities become a lot more limited.

See Claire Keane read from her book "Once Upon A Cloud" at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena on March 14 at 4 p.m.!