A Visit with Ayun Halliday, Dan Santat, Lots of Heinies,
and the Exclusive Premiere of “The Bellyache”

h1 July 8th, 2009 by jules

“No one tries to hide his heinie at the zoo.”
(Click to enlarge.)

Heinies, heinies, heinies. I’ve got a…um, buttload of them for you today. Well, maybe not a buttload. But I do have several spreads to show you from Ayun Halliday’s and Dan Santat’s Always Lots of Heinies at the Zoo, published by Hyperion Books in May, as both author and illustrator visit today to talk about the book. And other stuff. My favorite part of this post is how the illustrator expresses some reservations about his own art for the book, and then—without even knowing what the illustrator has typed—the author proceeds to talk about how much she loves the art and what the illustrator has done in the book. As a bystander and book nerd AND illustration junkie, this is all very fascinating to me, needless to say. But I digress.

This is author, zine founder, and one-time food blogger Ayun Halliday’s first children’s book. And some of you may remember when Dan stopped by 7-Imp last October (right before his son was born); in fact, at that post, he previewed some art from Heinies as well as Tammi Sauer’s Chicken Dance, another forthcoming title he’s illustrated, which we’ll get to in a second here. (If I were more organized, I could have asked Tammi to stop by and say a word or two about Chicken Dance, but maybe she can stop by another day. I’ve seen an early copy of the book, and it’s great fun, thank you thankyouverymuch. That was my lame attempt at an Elvis impersonation.)

But back to the butts. In Always Lots of Heinies at the Zoo, a family visits the zoo, paying particular attention to the animals’ backsides: “From the feathered booty of the cockatoo / To the hairy haunches of the caribou / Some are smooth / And some are shiny / Some are swimming in the briny — / No one tries to hide his heinie at the zoo.” A rear for every deer. A caboose for every moose. Glutes for the newts. You get the idea. There are tons of picture books about zoos out there, but none quite like this. (That is, if you don’t include Michael Ian Black’s and Kevin Hawkes’ very fun Chicken Cheeks, though it’s not set at the zoo.)

Both Ayun and Dan stopped by today to talk a bit about the book, and since Dan sent a good deal of art (which always makes me happy) and since I just had to throw the Pivot Questionnaire at each one of them (how could I resist?), I’ll get right to it. I thank both of them for stopping by this morning, and I’d like to say in advance that, no, I don’t think you’re being sappy at all, Dan.

Oh, and I haven’t dug this out in a while, but for the record, here’s the Perfunctory Curse Word Disclaimer: …Wait. Is it really necessary? After all these years of blogging? Nah. Just remember that I won’t edit anyone’s Pivot curse-word response in any way. Or, well, any other saucy words. If that kind of thing bothers you, consider yourself kindly warned. (I do believe, in fact, that this is the first post in which the word “badonkadonk” has appeared.)

{Note: Most images in this post can be enlarged. Just click to see better.}

* * * Dan * * *

On New Beginnings:

Ah, Heinies. This book holds a very special place in my heart, because it was basically what I defined as a fresh new beginning to my career. Allow me to explain…

When I first started my freelance art career eight years ago, I picked up a job as an artist at a video game company for some stable income. I would go to work by 10 a.m., come home by 7 p.m., spend time with my wife till 10 p.m., and then paint till 2 a.m., and that was my routine for about four years. I don’t think it was as bad as it sounds. I still managed to have the time to do good freelance work and still have a social life. Then in 2005, one of my children’s book proposals was being tossed around Hollywood before it had found a publisher and ended up becoming the animated TV series The Replacements on the Disney Channel. Suddenly, I had even less time to work on my children’s book work, while—on the TV end—I was essentially trying to please focus groups and executives, and it kind of made me feel miserable and insecure. Meanwhile, I was still working at the video game company, and that made me even more miserable. In 2006, my wife and I had our first kid, and then I just fell apart. I was falling asleep in front of my artwork and would wake up in my chair at 3 a.m., realizing that I had fallen asleep the second I sat down to work. So, I decided to reassess my life. In 2007, I left my game job, I left the cartoon show (left it under new management, while I still got paid), and just devoted all my time to children’s books, and Always Lots of Heinies at the Zoo was the first project in my reassessed life where I didn’t have any other responsibilities looming over my head.

Other than being a new father.

On Heinies:

For a short while, I felt my career had taken a turn towards more TV and mass media entertainment, and there was a certain resentment I had with dealing with large groups of committees trying to make a product that tried to please everyone at once. When there are too many people in management trying to get their voices heard for the good of a project, then you, as the artist, start second-guessing all your decisions. I got to a point even on one book project where I was being art-directed by about four or five people to the point where literally all the work was manipulated one way or another, and it was very demoralizing to my confidence as an artist. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything right and I was second-guessing all my choices. All the changes pushed the book deadline back later and later in the schedule, and by the time i was done with it, I was only left with two months to work on Heinies, and I hadn’t even started on the sketches yet.

Title spread from Heinies

Fortunately, the editor at Hyperion was very generous and understanding. The most refreshing thing was that they let me do whatever I wanted without being over-scrutinized, and I just felt like it was a good opportunity for me to try and commit myself 100% in trying to do justice to the author’s words. I actually felt like I had to prove myself all over again, much like when I first started my career. It was as if I wanted to make up for all the rushed art I did that preceded it.

Still, I will admit Heinies was a little rushed, and for that I feel like I owe Ayun an apology, because it really is a charming story. I ended up painting the whole book in about a month after approval of my dummy sketches, which took me about two weeks to complete. That’s a little less than doing one painting a day. This may sound weird, but I found that one of the story’s greatest strengths, as well as my greatest frustration, was in its economy of words. I loved the hilarious text, and I found that the most daunting task was to fit all these animals in this poem into thirty-two pages, while also placing it in a convincing zoo environment. Here’s an example. The hardest page for me to illustrate was:

We have different social customs than the shrew
And the rhino and the giant kangaroo,
For, unlike your average ostrich or emu,
Blithely baring bums is not a thing we do.

Now, the easy thing would have been to do spot art of each animal mentioned, but—by doing that—you would immediately lose the sense of space that defined it to be a zoo in the first place. The difficulty is that just in this one little paragraph she lists FIVE animals, which includes a tiny little shrew that doesn’t exactly get housed in an an environment at a zoo like a rhino or a kangaroo would. Rhinos and kangaroos need big wide open spaces. A tiny little shrew only needs a little cage behind glass. So, the biggest challenge for me was to try and find a way for all these animals to exist in a full page, while also showing the reader that they are in a zoo. I tried to find the best solution I could for the text provided, and my one regret is that I maybe didn’t push the humor as far as it should have gone. One book reviewer, in particular, got on my case about that, and all I can say is ‘Sorry, Ayun.’

“We have different social customs than the shrew / And the rhino and the giant kangaroo, / For, unlike your average ostrich or emu, /
Blithely baring bums is not a thing we do.”

On the Post-Heinies Era:

I’m still very happy with the results of this book, though. Ask any artist how they feel about a project they worked on, and I’m sure they will all tell you there was one piece they wish they could re-do. With exception to my first work, The Guild of Geniuses, I feel like this was the first time the quality of my art wasn’t compromised, due to other obligations (even though I only had a month to paint the final pieces) or from just being exhausted. Now I sort of see my entire body of children’s book work as Pre-Heinies Era and Post-Heinies Era — with the later work definitely seeing a vast jump in improvement. Something came over me after completing Heinies. I feel more compelled to push my work even further than I ever have before.

The faith Hyperion gave in me to do the illustrations definitely restored a lot of my self-confidence as a designer and as an artist. It was the moment I’ll always remember where I finally decided to take the leap into freelancing full-time and gave all the work I did an extra effort I couldn’t usually afford. These days, I try to make every part of the book as much fun as possible. I had suggested we take pictures of our heinies for the ‘about the author/illustrator’ section of the book, and thankfully Ayun was very cool and open in going along with it. Now I make it a point to make book trailers for all my books, regardless of whether they are viewed by the general public or not. Video editing and effects has slowly become a little hobby of mine, and this is the one I did for Heinies:

And here’s yet another goofy video for a contest Tammi {Sauer} and I are throwing together.

This is all sappy stuff, I know.

On Chicken Dance and “The Bellyache”:

This August, Chicken Dance will be released by Sterling Publishing, and it was my first picture book completed right after Heinies. I had so much fun with this book {that} I threw jokes into everything, including our ‘about the author/illustrator’ photos. {Click to enlarge. You know you don’t want to miss Dan’s song titles.}

Carrying on the confidence I got from doing Heinies, it ended up being a very a strong book, and it became the theme for the entire Sterling Fall 2009 Catalogue! They’re making posters (which I need to get my hands on). It gathered some great attention at BEA {pictured below}, and the author, Tammi Sauer, will be signing copies at this upcoming ALA conference.

I’ve never been on a project that was given so much love and attention before, and now I’m trying to ramp up my promotion skills to reciprocate the love they’re showing us. Tammi and I realize that we work extremely well together, and we’ve been putting together this whole online video campaign, which I am not at liberty to share entirely with you all YET. (Timing is essential.) Here is one sample video Tammi and I are doing to promote the Chicken Dance website. At the expense of my dignity, I will give you guys the exclusive premiere:

“The chickens BAWKED and FLAPPED and SHOOK all over the stage…”

“Marge and Lola gazed at the tickets and wiped their eyes. Then, from the top of the barn, a voice crooned — ‘You chicks rocked!’
A rooster swooped to the stage. ‘You had me all shook up.'”

On What’s Next:

In September, the first in a chapter book series I illustrated, written by my good friend Lisa Yee, called Bobby vs. Girls (Accidentally), will be released by Arthur A. Levine Books, and it’s a significant step up from the black-and-white work I did for the Otto Undercover series I completed three years ago.

Right now, I’m wrapping up another picture book for Hyperion called Oh No! by Mac Barnett. This has got to be one of my most favorite projects I’ve ever worked on, and I modeled it closely to the theme of old Japanese monster movies from the 1960s. Hyperion is doing a nifty thing with me where you’ll get to fold the book jacket open so that it will turn into a large monster movie-esque-inspired poster that you can hang on your wall. Early on, I had come up with the idea that all the text in the book would have Japanese subtitles which was shot down — but I think was recently placed back on the table for discussion, according to my art director. (Crossing fingers.)

Click to enlarge these spreads from Barnett’s Oh No!
(I vote for the inclusion of the Japanese subtitles.)

The project I’m most eager to complete is my upcoming graphic novel The Domesticated Four. It will be the first story I’ve written since The Guild of Geniuses back in 2004. I’ve been so busy illustrating other people’s work that I haven’t found time to work on my own. I’ve been working on this graphic novel for over five years now (thanks to being sidetracked by a cartoon show, two kids, and various other projects). A simple word of advice: If you do decide you want to do a graphic novel, make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to work on it.

Other projects in the works that I am illustrating:

  • The Adventures of Nanny Piggins (Little Brown) by R.A. Spratt
  • The Christmas Genie (Simon and Schuster) by Dan Gutman
  • Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies (Abrams) by Andrea Beaty

* * * Ayun * * *

On Writing Heinies:

The book grew out of an observation my daughter, India, made at the Prospect Park Zoo when she was about four years old. She’s one week shy of turning twelve now, so you can see that it was quite a long gestation. Or maybe it was like waiting and waiting and waiting for insemination to take, and then finally, oh blessed day, bing! It does…In my case I was walking home from the gym when the text’s Bossa Nova beat insinuated itself, and I was, like, ‘Eureka!’

Back when I was writing self-mocking autobiographies, I asked my friend, the author Emily Jenkins, how long it took her to pump out one of her board books. She said, ‘Twenty minutes. Of course, it can take years to come up with the idea…’

“The male mandrill’s fanny flashes cobalt blue…”

Unlike the birth of the one who supplied the inciting remark, Heinies’ delivery was swift and near-painless. I went on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree discussion board and asked my fellow travelers to hip me to every animal whose name ends in an ‘oo’ sound. (The Australians were an invaluable source here.) And then I trawled the Internet looking for synonyms for buttocks that weren’t also synonyms for vagina. (I did manage to slip a fanny in there…)

My editor made me change one of the couplets of which I was most proud: ‘The award for hardest butt to crack goes to / the giant Armadillo of Peru.’ Apparently, the brass deemed it too risque to have ‘crack’ and ‘butt’ in the same line. At that point, I was kind of fried. The best I could come up with is: ‘The giant Armadillo of Peru / boasts a butt that’s harder than a bowling shoe.’ I know: It makes no sense. Bowling shoes aren’t particularly hard. Bowling balls are hard. Unfortunately, they don’t end in the ‘oo’ sound. I kind of regret not going to the mat on that one. If you’re reading Always Lots of Heinies at the Zoo aloud to a friend who has not yet learned to decipher words on the page for him or herself, please feel free to substitute the original concept. (Please, Lord, don’t let this admission get me black balled from Hyperion, though maybe they’ve come to regret the change, too. I did a reading with Fran Manushkin, author of The Tushy Book, and noticed that she got to use ‘butt’ and ‘crack’ in the same line. Maybe I blew all my questionably-blue phrasing points with something I said in the first chapter of No Touch Monkey. If you’ve ever come to a No Touch Monkey reading—or given me a one-star-but-only-because-there’s-no-zero-stars-option Customer Review on Amazon—you’ll know of what I speak.)

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised that Hyperion let me keep the line about ‘Ms. Elephant’s got junk in her supplemental trunk.’ Had I known, I might have tried to shoehorn a ‘badonkadonk’ in there too.

On Dan’s Art:

I really love how Dan’s animals are just going about their business. It’s the human visitors who differentiate between body parts, assigning hilarity or lack thereof. The animals are just letting it all hang out. (Well, maybe not all. I’ve always been interested by how non-human performers in kid’s movies are invariably female when long-shots are involved. You know, all those ‘boy’ race horses who are notably pizzle-free?)

I’m pretty optimistic by nature, but if I may allow myself a cynical moment, I can imagine that many illustrators would have been tempted to ham it with the animals. You know, draw the polar bear so he’s winking at the reader as he waggles his big old shaggy booter in the zoo visitors’ faces? Dan’s paintings not only capture the anatomy of the animals beautifully,; he chose to leave their dignity intact. Their facial expressions are true to what they are. I think that’s massively cool.

“The flamingo’s is a bright azalea hue…”

Did I mention that he also made a totally kick-ass promotional video {posted above} featuring real live zoo residents, an organ soundtrack, and many, many well-placed arrows? It would have taken me a million years to pull off such a technological feat, which is why I bless his sweet heiner double.

If you need further proof of the sway exerted by the illustrations, the first official Heinies event was a little soiree for me and Chicken Butt! author, Erica Perl, thrown by children’s reading specialist Joan Kindig. Two of her guests—they had, like, three little kids between them, and one was pregnant-out-to-here—arrived bearing cupcakes featuring all of Dan’s animal posteriors, lovingly rendered in fondant. I was, like, ‘I am never baking again. The bar is set so high I can’t even see it.’ These special treats caused quite a stir. Anyone who got a mandrill wound up with blue teeth. I selected a monkey, and it was delicious! Prior to devouring, the cupcakes were displayed on one of those fancy, tiered racks, and the topmost one was the little pink boy bootie that’s on the back cover. It was just, like, the best thing ever, and the only bad part was that Dan wasn’t there to partake of the tribute!

On Influences:

Spalding Gray is a huge {influence}. I only wish he’d published a children’s book before he left us, because I have no doubt it would have been hilarious, highly specific, and very, very smart.

Of the people who did and do write children’s books, I love love love William Steig. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble? Gets me every time!

There’s a book that our dear friend, Karen, sent the kids years ago, called The Little Mole Who Knew It Was None Of His Business. It’s about this mole who winds up with a mysterious sausage-looking thing on his head, and he goes around to all the animals in the vicinity, demanding, ‘Did you do this on my head?’ and they all offer their reasons as to why it couldn’t possibly have been them, saying, ‘Me? No! How could I? I do it like this…’ (And then there are these descriptions of splashing, green cow patties and little toffee-colored balls, courtesy of the goat, that the little mole finds ‘almost appealing.’) I always looked forward to reading that one aloud. I tend to enjoy voicing animal characters, you know, giving the sheep a little of the old vibrato. All my draft horses sound like I imagine Boxer in Animal Farm sounding. The rabbits click their tongues a lot, an affectation I no doubt picked up from the Disney version of Winnie-the-Pooh. Anything to keep that theater degree from going completely to waste.

There was one time when I was in the back seat with my son, Milo, when he was really little, still little enough to kick up a major rumpus about being strapped into a car seat. Being read to was one of the few things that would take his mind off of his predicament. So, for whatever reason, there wasn’t much of a selection on the floor of the car that day. All I had was this thing about Curious George learning the alphabet. The illustrations were charming, of course, but as for the text, let’s just say Curious George Learns the Alphabet is no Curious George. And I’d already read it dozens of times. So, to keep things fresh for me, I chose to read it in a Ukrainian accent, like I had just come to this country, and was very seriously going about learning the Roman alphabet, via this volume. Milo was content enough, but about halfway through, my husband turned around in front to say, ‘I tire of this.’

Ooh, another children’s author whose work I particularly enjoy is one you’ve probably never heard of…I believe he also illustrated a bit. Dr. Seuss? It’s okay if you don’t know him. Hardly anybody does. I actually didn’t have his stuff when I was a kid, because some jackass told my mother that his work stunted children’s imaginations by doing all the work for them! Have you ever heard such poppycock? I may be late to the party, but I love Dr. Seuss as ardently as if I’d grown up with him. Love Yertle the Turtle for its hubris — and its final lines. Love the humanity of Horton Hears a Who! (Possibly, a more accurate word choice would be compassion, seeing as how he’s an elephant.) Love The Lorax, even though it chokes me up. When the new owner of a building several stoops down from us had the workmen saw down a massive, but healthy, old tree in her yard because it was blocking her view of a more dramatic tree in another neighbor’s yard, I really wanted to print out a photo of the Lorax and shove it through her mail slot. But I chickened out, because not only is that passive-aggressive, but I think it may also have constituted a federal offense. It’s probably too late now, unless she’s reading this, in which case, ‘Howdy, neighbor!’

Oh, and Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, which I had no patience for as a child. I couldn’t stand that things were always going wrong for him and that he was always out of sorts. Now I relate! I have never read The Trumpet and the Swan. Or, for that matter, Dostoevsky.

* * * * * * *

So, after chatting with Dan and Ayun, I felt a very strong urge to toss the Pivot Questionnaire at them. They obliged, ’cause they’re good sports. I think there are even MORE first-ever-to-appear-at-7-Imps in these responses, too. Whew. It’s never boring with Ayun and Dan around.

* * * The Pivot Questionnaire: Ayun * * *

7-Imp: What is your favorite word?

Ayun: “Heinies.”

7-Imp: What is your least favorite word?

Ayun: Three-way tie between “wacky,” “zany,” and “momoir.”

7-Imp: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Ayun: Biting humorous observations that do not spare the observer’s foibles, letterpress, zines, movies with ambiguous or unhappy endings, Chinatown, crazy DIY parades, New York fuckin’ City, graphic novels, old fashioned letters in my p.o. box, Balkan brass, the soundtrack of Urinetown, margaritas, photo booths…I could keep going.

7-Imp: What turns you off?

Ayun: Humorlessness, cleaving to corporate mainstream ideals, punk rock knee-jerk blanket disrespect to individual police officers, imperiously nasty bloggers and Amazon customer reviewers, and beef stroganoff.

7-Imp: What is your favorite curse word? (optional)

Ayun: I try to keep it clean in the zine, yo, but I’d like to think you know what I mean when I say “melon farmer.”

7-Imp: What sound or noise do you love?

Ayun: Balkan gypsy circus wedding music. See “Hop Hop Hop” by Goran Bregovic:

7-Imp: What sound or noise do you hate?

Ayun: Other people chewing.

7-Imp: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Ayun: Neonatal nurse.

7-Imp: What profession would you not like to do?

Ayun: Corporate lawyer / lobbyist.

7-Imp: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Ayun: “I forgive you for not believing in my existence. Here are your unlimited drink tickets. Ernesto Neto’s Anthropodino is permanently installed. You should totally check out our collection of indie films and graphic novels. We give your books to all our friends on their birthdays.”

* * * The Pivot Questionnaire: Dan * * *

7-Imp: What is your favorite word?

Dan: “Please.”

7-Imp: What is your least favorite word?

Dan: “Never.”

7-Imp: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Dan: Music.

7-Imp: What turns you off?

Dan: Arrogance.

7-Imp: What is your favorite curse word? (optional)

Dan: “Fuckface.”

7-Imp: What sound or noise do you love?

Dan: A child’s laughter.

7-Imp: What sound or noise do you hate?

Dan: The sound of a person crapping.

7-Imp: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Dan: Chef.

7-Imp: What profession would you not like to do?

Dan: Divorce lawyer.

7-Imp: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Dan: “Dude, I’m a big fan of your work!”

* * * * * * *

All artwork courtesy of Dan Santat. All rights reserved.

ALWAYS LOTS OF HEINIES AT THE ZOO copyright © 2009 by Ayun Halliday. Illustration © 2009 by Dan Santat. Reproduced by permission of the illustrator. Published by Hyperion Books, New York, NY.

CHICKEN DANCE copyright © 2009 by Tammi Sauer. Illustration © 2009 by Dan Santat. Reproduced by permission of the illustrator. Published by Sterling Books, New York, NY.

24 comments to “A Visit with Ayun Halliday, Dan Santat, Lots of Heinies,
and the Exclusive Premiere of “The Bellyache””

  1. Two things:

    Real men eat cupcakes!

    I want a shiny butt.

  2. Jama, why yes, wouldn’t that be nice! Cobalt blue would be fun, too.

  3. Loved the honesty of this interview. I love Dan’s work and can’t wait to read more of Ayun’s!

  4. Yay! The world officially knows just how much Dan Santat ROCKS!

    Of course as Dan states in the closing credits of the first installment of Dancing with Dan Santat, “Dancing results may vary. Please dance responsibly.”

    Great interview! And, Jules, I have a book coming out with Scott Magoon in December 2010 called MOSTLY MONSTERLY. I’d love to pay a visit. 🙂

  5. DAN SANTAT IS THE MAN!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Kelly: I agree with every part of your statement, and I especially find the honesty refreshing. That, um, Pivot least-favorite-sound response is, um, a first here at 7-Imp. Leave it to Dan.

    Tammi, you’re on.

    Jarrett, Dan’s album cover made me laugh very hard. As well as, you know, THAT DANCING. I love his art in Heinies, and I can’t wait to see those forthcoming titles.

  7. Heinies is SUCH a good word. I love this interview. It made me smile and it was also poignant. Plus, the dance moves?

    It’s hard to get better than this. I am going to go try not to crush on Dan Santat now, or Tammi Sauer either. Her album cover is just so great!

  8. (Shhh! Let’s not tell anyone that I used to watchThe Replacements so automatically recognized Dan Santat’s artwork… That’s just between you and me, ‘kay?)

    The Heinies paintings are beautiful and I totally agree with the decision to leave the animals their dignity, and totally take the humans.

    And I call the armadillo butt. Buffable, yet bowling-shoe hard…

  9. I love this blog because my children are off at college and I so very much miss haunting children’s bookstores with them.

  10. I just fell head-over-heels for Dan Santat AND Ayun Halliday. And frankly, Tammi Sauer is looking pretty great too. What a fun dinner-party of a post this is. My favorite thing is definitely Dan’s album cover.

    Is the only butt that hasn’t been called the flamingo? Hmm. I think I’ll just stick with my own.

  11. Wow – the journey Dan relates is so sincere, frank and open – one of the best things I’ve read in a long time! Thanks so much Dan! Can relate to lots of it. So glad you’re surrounded by supportive people now! That’s awesome. Your work is brilliant!

  12. Dude, I’m a big fan of your work!

  13. Thanks, everyone. And thanks again to Dan and Ayun for stopping by.

    I want to know why Dan can’t be in charge of all the world’s book trailers.

  14. Let me just say that one of the biggest highlights of my year so far was receiving a sketch of Dan’s cover for Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies.

    Dan Santat rocks the known (and unkown Alien Rabbit-infested) universe! Thanks, Dan! And thanks 7-Imps for the fantastic interview!
    Andrea Beaty

  15. Great interviews! Wishing Dan and Ayun all the best!

  16. Dan and Ayun TOTALLY ROCK.
    That is some crazy cool art and sketches, Dan. I’m so glad you quit your day job.

  17. Radical. Love, love Dan’s artwork. I can’t wait to see more dancing video’s!

  18. She could have said:
    The Giant Armadillo of Peru
    Boasts a butt that’s harder than an english yew.

    I only know that because I’ve been finishing a book of poems on trees, including a yew.

    Great interviews.
    douglas fir now

  19. Staggeringly entertaining, uh, “post” hardly does this justice. You know in Ghostbusters when the guy who lives down the hall from Sigourney Weaver — Rick Moranis — when he’s hosting his party of strange folks whose taxes he does, and the ravenous stone beast bursts through the door? For some reason, reading this made me imagine myself as a pizza-delivery guy who showed up 30 seconds later.


  20. Always Lots of Heinies at the Zoo was JUST released here in the Philippines. I read it today and thought it was great – funny and surprisingly informative (about animals)! I burst out laughing when I saw Ayun and Dan’s butts as the official author/illustrator photos. And I now have the urge to run around the house buck naked. But I shall wait till no one else is home and the neighbors are away.

    Ayun and Dan, you are both funny and really cool!

  21. I am in love with Chicken Dance, which I just saw at ALA. It is hilarious and the cover is extremely striking and flawlessly designed! A true pleasure reading Dan’s illustration journey, especially the parts about how he got out of Hollywood and back to creating more for himself (w/ obvious publishing collaborations, of course). I found his honesty so refreshing and inspiring. Plus, it’s amazing that he’s a parent of 2 young kids and manages to be so prolific!

  22. […] few weeks ago, when illustrator Dan “Bellyache” Santat stopped by, he mentioned an upcoming picture book, Oh No!, written by Mac Barnett (writer and […]

  23. […] (and which may have something to do with this post’s title), with the very funny and clever Dan Santat at A Fuse #8 Production. Or perhaps two versions of Dan. Good music is involved, […]

  24. […] [Ayun Halliday's] Always Lots of Heinies at the Zoo […]

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