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‘Bear and the Smiling Blue Moose’
by Sky Danley
A hunter bear meets a moose in the woods and they become friends. (13 words)
A hunter bear meets a moose in the woods and they become friends. When the bear must go home, the moose needs a new friend. (25 words)
A hunter bear out hunting meets a friendly moose. The moose is so friendly that the hunter abandons his gun and instead just hangs out with the moose, playing games and having fun. Soon, the bear has to go back home, so the moose is looking for a new friend. (50 words)
A hunter bear meets a gentle moose who is looking for a new friend to play with. The moose is so friendly that the hunter decides to totally stop hunting. Instead, he hangs out with the moose in the woods, playing games, having fun, and enjoying nature. After the fall colors change, it’s time for the bear to go home, leaving the moose all alone in the woods. The moose is sad because he again does not have anyone to play with, so he is looking for a new friend. He invites whoever is reading the book to become one. (100 words)
‘Little Kit’s Driftwood Adventure’
by Sky Danley
A piece of river driftwood carries a young raccoon on a floating river adventure into a bayou, where he meets three new friends who help him get back home. (28 words)
A young raccoon named Little Kit can’t swim and is terribly afraid of the river running past his cottonwoods home. When land developers start capturing animals, he jumps away from his mother and onto a piece of river driftwood that scarily takes him downriver into a bayou, where he meets a friendly pelican, alligator, and green water snake. They teach him to swim and guide him back to his mother and his cottonwoods home. (74 words)
A young raccoon named Little Kit can’t swim and is terribly afraid of the river running past his cottonwoods home. When evil land developers suddenly appear and start capturing all the animals, including his mother, Little Kit jumps away and lands on a piece of river driftwood that carries him downriver on a scary adventure. The river eventually turns into a bayou, where he meets a friendly pelican, alligator, and green water snake. They teach him how to swim and guide him back to his cottonwoods home, where Little Kit rescues all the animals saves the cottonwoods from the land developers. (101 words)
Author Portrait and Bio
Sky Danley was born in the ordinary town of Peoria, Illinois — ordinary because Hollywood producers famously ask, but how will it play in Peoria? Raised in the midwest, Sky attended Purdue University, earning a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering. After completing a NASA contract for computer modeling of jet engine air flow, Sky entered and served as a commissioned officer in the United States military, where he earned his wings as a USAF Pilot. After the Air Force, Sky flew as a Captain for the legendary Trans World Airlines (TWA), an airline once owned by the famed Howard Hughes, whose Hollywood connections forever christened TWA, The Airline of the Stars. Sky, however, was drawn back into computer modeling, but instead of modeling air flow, this time he started modeling visual effects for the film industry, and shortly thereafter, became particularly interested in using computer modeling to visually convey stories. Following this new story interest, Sky enrolled at Harvard University, earning a Master’s Degree in Film and Studio Arts, writing his thesis at The Walt Disney Studio, where he documented and catalogued the creation and practices of Walt Disney s original story department, which emphasized the visual over dialogue. Sky continues this story interest today, currently running a media production company specializing in visual story development, with a particular interest in stories that encourage today’s youth to let their dreams soar…
1. What inspires your work?
While studying film as a graduate student at Harvard University, I was authorized unfettered research access to the The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank California, including all their archival documents and artwork. At the time, I was studying the concept of story creation, particularity interested in the creation of children’s’ stories, and over the course of a year at the studio, I completely rebuilt the original Disney Story Department processes from its inception to after Walt’s death in 1964. I was amazed to see the intellectual depth the department went to in developing a systematic yet originative story creation process, to include psychoanalysis. Over the years, Walt’s story department fine-tuned its system to perfection, culminating in Mary Poppins and Jungle Book. When I inquired as to why the studio abandoned the system after Walt’s death, I quickly learned they likely didn’t even know they once had such a spelled out ‘system process,’ and they immediacy placed all related story documents off limits, treating them as if they were Disney’s secret Coke formula, which is interesting in that at least Coke still used their formula. As a story person, I greatly admire the artistry and intellect of Walt’s original story department, having never seen anything close to its depth since, so without a doubt, that original department is what mostly inspires my story work.
2. When you write books for children, do you have a specific goal in mind, aside from telling a story?
Absolutely. The children of today will be the leaders and inventors of tomorrow. My undergraduate degree is in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, with a minor in rocket propulsion. There are three fathers of Rocket propulsion, a German, Russian, and an American. All three were inspired to enter and invent the technology of rocketry from fiction books they read as a child. Two of them had read and were inspired by Jules Verne’s ‘From Earth to the Moon’ and the other by H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds’. So a couple of fiction books changed the course of technological revolution. That’s pretty powerful.
In my case, my goals are pretty simple: to teach the young readers to remain optimistic, even in despair, and to always keep their inner wonder alive because dreams do become reality, but only with a lot of hard work, resilience, and perseverance.
3. Where/when do you first discover your characters?
I’m an artist at heart, and all good artists are great observers. All of my characters come from the experience of observation. The cottonwoods and bayou characters in Little Kit came from my serving in the United States Air Force in Mississippi, where during my free time, I volunteered as a math tutor at the local public high school. I taught the students algrebra, and they taught me southern culture (I came from the north). The Little Kit characters all came from observing these children and listening to their stories.
The Bear and the Smiling Blue Moose characters actually came from an observation in the cold war, when I flew a military jet based out of Loring AFB, Maine, that had a moose painted on its tail. I once flew this “Moose-tail” plane out to intercept an aggressive Russian Bear bomber that was flying very close to the America coast, transitioning from Russia to Cuba, and when we got close enough, we waved at one another, the Russians waving out of their cockpit and me waving back. It wasn’t what one would expect from fierce adversaries, but there we were upon meeting one another, waving across cockpits. As context during the cold war, as Air Force pilots, we would sit on ready alert, ready to take off on a moment’s notice to destroy Russian should the President so order, and the Russian pilots doing the same thing, ready to take off and destroy us if ordered. It was insane. I believe they appropriately called this “alert” doctrine MAD, an acronym for Mutual Assured Destruction. I remember each week we’d get an intelligence briefing pretty much describing the Russians as evil, but I often wondered if their pilots weren’t a lot like us, with families like we had and the same desires to pursue happiness. They were probably getting intelligence briefings describing us as evil. And that time in the air was the only time I ever met them, through a wave. So that’s where the Moose and Bear characters came from, the two military airplanes meeting in the sky, my moose-tail plan and their Russian bear bomber, on this one day. The book’s story an “Imagine” genre about abandoning insane aggression and instead becoming friends, a story that is relevant in most worlds.
4. Did you have particular age groups in mind when the illustrations for ‘Bear and the Smiling Blue Moose’ and ‘Little Kit’ were being conceived?
I have very fond memories of reading to my children when they were young. We particularly liked reading the Bill Peet picture books. Bill was a story man in the original Disney story department, and he drew such wonderfully artistic visuals to accompany the stories. The visuals in my two books, Bear and the Smiling Moose and Little Kit, are designed as very simple yet very artistic, which I believe appeals to the younger reader. Additionally, they both have little sideshows going on in the pictures that the astute child can observe and follow, such as the three birds, the squirrel, and the four ants in Smiling Moose. If you notice carefully, these birds and ants are on every page and transform into bedroom objects in the final page, showing how a child’s imagination works. These are tricks I learned from the original Walt Disney story department, tricks to capture and hold the child’s attention.
5. Did you imagine that a child would read your books independently, or be read to?
Both. But I really like the idea of a parent reading to a child. There’s some serious bonding going on there. It’s truly a wonderful, magical experience, both for the adult and the child. Additionally, children must learn to read, and when my children learned to read, I noticed they did much better when there were good visuals replicating the text, reinforcing the text, so I believe these books will be very good for the learning reader. That said, nothing would make me happier that to know that an adult and child were sitting down and reading this book together, bonding through the story.
6. What senses do you hope to engage the most in your readers?
The primary senses I wish to engage in all of my story telling are the emotions of fear and hope. Additionally, I want to engage a sense of wonder, a sense of optimism, and a sense of right and wrong.
7. How do you market your products?
Because of the scalability traits of the internet, it’s becoming easier and easier for an artist to directly reach the consumer through the internet, which allows more control over the products, and in my case, more control over the Sky Danley dream. More control allows greater potential of vision. It’s actually a similar business concept as to why Elon Musk refuses to take SpaceX public, because once he does, once he gives away some power, in this case to the stockholders, his dream of soaring to Mars is much harder to pull off.
8. Are you interested in writing for other age groups? Anything in the works?
Yes, middle grade, writing a sci-fi book about a group of three 14-year-olds who live in a dystopian future where AI has taken over and suppressed civilization. I believe in this project more than I’ve ever believed in anything in the world. I absolutely love it, am so into it.It’s going to be awesome.
9. How did you fall into animation?
That’s a long story. I started computer modeling after college while working for General Electric and NASA, creating and analyzing computer animations of airflow through a jet engine. I was subsequently a grad student at NYIT computer graphics lab (which some would argue was the birthplace of Pixar), then I studied film at Harvard, and finally I became quite proficient while a student at the Gnomon School of Visual Effects in Hollywood. It all gave me a unique, well rounded basis.
10. What sparked your idea for The Flying Moose?
I wanted a story that would subliminally teach children how to invent. Teaching that to succeed in anything, you must overcome adversity, overcome people trying to stop you. In The Flying Moose, a moose inventor must overcome the banker bear, who is trying to stop him.
11. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced bringing your projects to fruition?
There’s presently a shortage of pilots, and I do fly commercially on a limited basis. There’s something creatively stimulating about sitting up there in that cockpit, looking out that wrap around view, watching all the tiny little structures and elements go zooming past. Although part time, it still takes a lot, so I find I don’t have enough time in my days to complete all the ideas I envision.
12. If you could let people know anything else about you, what would it be?
In addition to story, which is my number one passion, I’m also an aerospace enthusiast. When I was young, my father worked as a computer programmer for the company that built the Apollo Space Program’s onboard navigation computer, the flight computer used during the moon landings. I subsequently earned a degree in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, served in the military as an Air Force pilot, and later flew as an airline captain. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent so much time up in the sky, looking down from a different perspective, ironically just like Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry who was also a former military and airline pilot, that I have such a sense of wonder.
13. Why won’t you answer a question 13 just because it’s 13.
Oh, you say it’s just superstitious nonsense? Tell that to the Apollo program. And don’t even ask why I verify before every flight that I’m not carrying a Lincoln penny.