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My Friend Moose’r McDan
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)
by Sky Danley
A floating river log takes a young raccoon on a scary adventure into a bayou, where he meets three new friends who help him get back home. (27 words)
A young raccoon named Cocodrie can’t swim and is terribly afraid of the river running past his cottonwoods home. Avoiding a gunshot, he jumps away from his mother and onto a riverbank log that takes him downriver on a scary adventure. The river eventually leads 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. (75 words)
A young kit raccoon named Cocodrie can’t swim and is terribly afraid of the river running past his cottonwoods home. When evil poachers suddenly appear and start capturing all the riverbank animals, their gunshots startle Cocodrie. He jumps away from his mother and lands on a riverbank log only to be taken 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 Cocodrie rescues all the riverbank animals from the evil poachers. (100 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 Walt Disney Archives on Disney’s main studio lot in Burbank. I was studying the concept of story creation, particularity interested in the creation of stories for children, and over the course of a year at the archives, 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 mechanical yet originative story creation system, to include psychoanalysis. Over the years, the 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 system, 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 goals are to teach them to remain optimistic, even in despair, because good does always triumph over evil, and to always keep their inner wonder alive because dreams can become reality, but only with a lot of hard work and resilience.
3. Where/when do you first discover your characters?
I’m an artist, and all good artists are great observers. All of my characters come from the experience of observation. The cottonwoods and bayou characters in Cocodrie came from my serving in the United States Air Force in Mississippi, where during my free time, I volunteer tutored math at the local public high school. I taught the students math, and they taught me southern culture (I came from the north). The Cocodrie characters all came from observing these children and listening to their stories.
The Moose’r McDan characters actually came from an observation in the cold war, when I flew a military plane 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, and when we got close enough, we waved at one another, the Russians waving to us out of their cockpit and us waving back. It wasn’t what you 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 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 intelligence briefings 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. So that’s where the Moose and Bear characters came from, the two military airplanes meeting in the sky on this one day. It’s an “Imagine” story about abandoning insane aggression and instead becoming friends, a story especially relevant in today’s insane “school shootings” world.
4. Did you have particular age groups in mind when the illustrations for My Friend, Moose’r McDan and Cocodrie 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, My Friend, Moose’r McDan and Cocodrie, 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 Moose’r. If you notice carefully, these birds and ants transform into bedroom objects in the final page, showing how a child’s imagination works. These are tricks I learned from the original Disney story department 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. It’s truly a wonderful, magical experience when an adult sits down and reads to a child, both for the adult and the child. Likewise, 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, 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. Why did you choose to self-publish?
Until recently, because of barriers to entry, self-publishing wasn’t a good option. You needed a publisher’s connections to reach a substantial audience. But as we drive farther into the information age, these barriers to entry are reducing at a rapid pace. For example, at this year’s New York BookExpo, they have created a stage on the show floor dedicated to independent publishers’ authors and editors.
It’s becoming easier and easier for an author to directly reach the consumer, so there’s no real downside. On the upside, self-publishing allows me to retain full control over the Sky Danley dream. It’s actually a similar business concept as to why Elon Musk refuses to take SpaceX public, because once he does, the dream of soaring to Mars is over.
8. Are you interested in writing for other age groups? Anything in the works?
Yes, tweens, 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 else in the world. It’s going to be awesome.
9. How did you fall into animation?
I started computer modeling after college while working for General Electric and NASA, creating and analyzing computer animations of airflow. I was also 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. That to succeed in anything, you must overcome adversity, overcome people trying to stop you. In Flying Moose on the Loose, the 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?
I don’t have enough time in my day 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 an engineering 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, 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 in story.