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Holly Housen: Children’s TV writer

CDN's weekly community profile

Holly Housen holds an illustration by Butch Hartman and a DVD of “The Garden” — an animated show they wrote for — on April 5 at Cornwall Park in Bellingham. (Finn Wendt/Cascadia Daily News)
By Cocoa Laney Lifestyle Editor

Holly Housen (they/she)

Age: 27

City: Bellingham

Lived here for: 4 years

Originally from: Worthington, Ohio

Notable: Writer for children’s shows including Butch Hartman projects “HobbyKids Adventures,” “The Garden” and “The Big Blue Book,” and upcoming DreamWorks/Netflix show “Mighty MonsterWheelies”

How did you get your start as a TV writer?

“Danny Phantom” was a big inspiration for me to become an animation writer. And so when I knew that that was what I wanted to do, it was honestly being in the right place at the right time.

Butch [Hartman, animator and creator of “Danny Phantom” and “Fairly OddParents”] had just left Nickelodeon to pursue his own projects with his own studio. And I was able to go out to California and intern for him before my senior year at Vassar. And during that internship, he was staffing for “HobbyKids Adventures,” which was a show on YouTube, and I was able to write on that show during my senior year.

Animation, and really entertainment in general — it’s a unique career in that there’s not necessarily one path to get to where you want to go. And you might even end up somewhere that you weren’t expecting. But for me, it was just really incredible to immediately start writing on animated shows.

What cliches have you noticed in children’s media, and how do you avoid that in your own writing?

I never want to talk down to kids. I believe that kids can be included in almost any conversation — with, you know, a few obvious exceptions. But when I write media where I know the target audience is kids, I try to write this in a way where anyone can walk away and learn something from the themes in the show — but also, kids don’t feel like they’re only being shown perfection, meaning they’re seeing characters who feel human, even if they’re animals.

A character can be a great role model without always making the right decision immediately … Any time that I have the chance to bring that sort of raw emotion into my work, that’s very important to me.

Tell me about a project or episode you’re proud of.

There’s an episode of [Butch Hartman’s series] “The Garden” that I’m particularly proud of. It’s called “Finding Joy,” where the two main characters — Lenny Lion and Lucy Lamb — they’re at a competition called “Amazement Today,” where they are going through a hedge maze to find a prize.

Lucy wants to win the prize for Lenny because it’s an action figure of his favorite superhero … But throughout the episode, Lucy sort of loses the fun in the process because she’s so worried about over-analyzing everything, and making sure that they’re making the right decisions all the time. It ends up being a very powerful moment for her when she realizes that, you know, it’s OK to just trust the process! And what is meant for you will come for you.

How have your own life experiences influenced your work?

I have had a lot of realizations about my identity in the past two years. I came out as bisexual in 2022. I did not have very much representation growing up … and it’s just, I naturally have a sense of being that I think is less black-and-white than I expected.

I try to approach anything I write with a sense of openness and fluidity that I think has always been there and that has influenced me, but has recently become more apparent why that was. … I’ve always looked up to characters who are going through similar journeys as me, or journeys that have to do with finding and embracing more authenticity and vulnerability.

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