Checking in with Dan Santat . . .

h1 June 10th, 2010 by jules


(Click to enlarge image.)

“…I believe the entire {manuscript} is only 110 words? The text was so simple Mac actually had to give some instruction as to what he meant by almost every line given. So, in this image the line was, ‘looks like I’m going to have to fix this,’ and Mac’s only note was: ‘Make it a situation that is impossible to fix.’ It was very simple and still left me room for interpretation and, hence, you have an oil rig on top of a skyscraper and a No Parking sign next to it as a gag.” — Illustrator Dan Santat

Things are comin’ up very Dan-Santat this week at 7-Imp. You may have seen Tuesday’s post in which Dan shared some of the interior illustrations he created for Andrea Beaty’s middle-grade novel, Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies. This morning, Dan’s sharing a bit more art from that title today, as well as sharing some illustrations from another of his illustrated titles from 2010, Mac Barnett’s newest picture book, which Kirkus calls a “must-have,” Oh No!: (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World), released by Hyperion this month.

{Pictured here is Dan’s own self-portrait, created as the bio caricature for Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies.}

Now, I haven’t seen Oh No! yet. (I can’t get a certain 1999-era Shivaree song out of my head every time I see this title, but I expertly digress.) This is yet another book that falls into the will-post-about-it-sight-unseen category, because I love Santat’s work, and Mac Barnett hasn’t let me down yet either. Plus, I mean just look at these illustrations, people. Yowza! I’m eager to get my hands on a copy.

So, without further ado, let’s have Dan tell us first about the picture book. And then for those of you who love Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies as much as I do, we’ll take a look at some more illustrations from that novel. Thanks to Dan for stopping by…

Please note that you can click on most of these images to enlarge them and see them in more detail.

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Dan: {This sketch below} is the original spread from the dummy book, but {after} the publisher told me how large I could make the book, I actually lengthened the width and letterboxed all the illustrations so that it would look more cinematic. Then I took old movie reels and would screen-grab frames of white from the movie and lay it over the illustrations to replicate the film grain, dust, and scratches. Early on in the project, I was really pushing for the publisher to let me create Japanese subtitles for all the lines in the book, but that ended up getting axed along with many other lines of Japanese, which were originally integrated into the illustrations.

Hence, the end result is:

I tried to incorporate as many jokes as I could into the book. Not everyone will notice them right off the bat, and some are inside jokes. The scene in the science fair shows an exhibit for “Cup of Dirt,” which is a famous bit done by comedian Brian Regan. My good friend and author/illustrator Kelly Murphy told me about her science fair project when I was originally sketching out the book, and she simply told me it was “just hamsters,” so there’s a Just Hamsters exhibit, and the girl with the reddish bowl cut standing next to it is a caricature I did of her off of one of the photos she showed me on her Facebook page. The bald-headed boy in green is her husband who helped me translate the meanings of a lot of the Japanese signs and so forth. (Some of them make no sense for sake of copyright.) The twin Asian Girl Scouts holding the fish tank with the iguana inside is a reference to the twin fairies famously seen in Godzilla/Mothra movies. There’s much more throughout the book. I could go on all day.

Some pages just demanded a comic element in it, because it would require some element of sequencing in order to interpret the line “I have an idea.” Honestly, the solution to this spread could have probably been resolved in maybe three or four images, but I felt that taking the time to show the girl’s every nuance in planning and preparation added a bit of charm to her personality. (This is really the only thing you know about her. You don’t even know her name!)

Bookjacket: This was the first time I actually drew the caricatures in anticipation of what we would look like in a book trailer. Hence my eyepatch:

Blueprint endpapers. A) I REALLY wanted to draw the guts of the robot. B) Again, I thought it would just be a cool thing to do for the book:


I don’t know if a lot of people will notice that the back of the book jacket is also a movie poster that a kid can hang up on his/her wall. Credits went out to Mac, myself, our editor (Tamson Weston), and art director (Scott Piehl). There was an idea for a while that it could be a huge, fold-out 4-foot x 3-foot poster, which is why the early poster sketches are shaped differently. The only issue was that you would then have a huge amount of white space on the other side of the jacket, which I had suggested we have as a template for an elaborate papercraft toy where you could build your own robot, but then it just made everything too complicated, so we just stuck with the regular jacket. Scott was an amazing art director, and he just wanted me to push things as far as it could go.


Sketch one


Sketch one


Final poster jacket


Sketches of the girl


Promo for book

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Thanks, Dan! And, for those of you who like a good book trailer…This one stars Mr. Santat himself and came out a month before the release…

This one came out the day of the release…

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And, as promised, some more art from Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies


Preliminary thumbnails


Second round of sketches




“These are some finals that go with the sketches,” Dan told me. “You can see the comic process. I treated the process much like you would a movie script.”

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And one final note from Dan:

“There is an upcoming art auction associated with Oh No! and Mac Barnett’s Time Travel Mart and the 826LA creative writing program that we put together. We’re doing an art auction, called ‘Eyewitness Reports,’ which we will be doing around August. The idea is that this huge event in the book actually happened, and there were a number of eyewitnesses who saw this event, but didn’t have a camera handy, and so drew what they saw. We’ve invited many artists, such as Mo Willems, Tony DiTerlizzi, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Grace Lin, Sean Qualls, Matt Tavares, Scott Magoon, Calef Brown, and many more to participate in doing their own interpretation of Mac’s manuscript. Each winning bidder will get the artwork, an official police report filled out by the artist, a signed copy of the book, and possibly a t-shirt iron-on or limited edition sticker. (We haven’t decided.) All the proceeds will go towards funding the 826LA creative writing program for kids here in L.A.”

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All illustrations used with permission of Dan Santat, copyright © 2010. All rights reserved.





7 comments to “Checking in with Dan Santat . . .”

  1. Smoking utube stuff, loved it… Need an extra, please call!


  2. I love it. I love it all. I love it all dearly…


  3. Is it safe to assume that the trailer’s newscaster is Dan Santat himself? And, if so, I wonder (with trepidation): what was he really saying under that dubbed translation? And I was really glad he was determined to blueprint the toad’s guts, too.

    Wonderful description of a collaboration. That they collaborated at all, considering the fact that both gentlemen clearly show signs of derangement, is a marvel. :)

    All kidding aside, Oh No! looks inconceivably spectacular. Right up there with Fluffy Bunnies!


  4. D@mn: glad he was determined = glad he was NOT determined.


  5. That is so great! I love all the different aspects of the illustrations and all the thought into promotion, etc. So cool. Now I need to read it!


  6. [...] Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast shows a fantastic array of art and sketches from this book when talking to Dan Santat. [...]


  7. [...] Santat on illustrating Mac Barnett’s Oh No!: (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World) (June 10, 2010):“…I believe the entire {manuscript} is only 110 words? The text was so simple Mac actually [...]


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