Sketchbook Stories :: Dan Santat


I met Dan at the first SCBWI Conference I ever went to. I actually had to “call in sick” from my job to attend. It was so totally worth it and I’m betting Dan thought the same!

I vividly remember Dan’s work standing out from the pack at the portfolio review. A group of us snuck out to the balcony and peered over the ledge to see what the judges were looking at. They spent the majority of their time flipping thru his portfolio!!

We were all very envious when Dan was invited into Arthur Levine inner circle and offered two book deal on the spot. (and when I say “we” what I really mean is “I” ;-) It was pretty AMAZING!! And something most of us just dream of. Really though, it couldn’t of happened to a more amazing artist. Dan has a great sense of humor that is matched by his technical skills and strong personal vision. Pure Awesomeness!

Dan now has over half a dozen pictures books to his name (including some of my favorites: Always Lots of Heinies at the Zoo, and Chicken Dance ), and a stellar client list that is longer than my arm.

Here is Dan’s Sketchbook Story ::

DS: I thought I’d share the process of how the characters on my show The Replacements came to be.

DS: The idea came from an old comic book. The sections where you can buy disappearing ink and exploding pens and so forth. I thought it would be a funny idea if a kid could order new cool parents to replace the uncool ones that you currently have. I liked the idea of being able to choose your own parents as a foil to the old saying of “you can’t choose your parents” etc. and that’s essentially how the idea came to be. 


DS: The idea was originally going to be a children’s book idea where a little boy is tired of his parents rules of wash behind your ears, eat your vegetables and the sort. So he orders cool parents to replace his old ones who when are replaced are unnoticing of their removal as if they were just furniture. The dad is busy reading his newspaper in his easy chair and the mom is busy talking on the phone.

DSThe original idea for the father was a Mexican Wrestler named El Papa and the mother was a cowgirl named Cowgirl Annie. When I was asked to pitch it as an animated series Disney had mentioned that they wanted ‘hipper’ parents, and so, I changed them out to a daredevil stuntman and a British secret agent.


DS: It really is a no brainer to their inspirations. Dick Daring was modeled after stuntman Evel Kinevel and
Agent K was modeled after Emma Peel from the old TV show The Avengers. (Someday I will convince my wife to be her for Halloween)


DS: The kids were a bit different. Originally Todd Daring was the older brother and his sister Riley (who was Zoe at the time but changed because of Britney Spears sister’s show Zoey 101) had been flipped. Riley was to be the older sister and Todd was the younger. Reason for this is because Disney is rather girl-centric in terms of their show demographic and so they wanted an early teen girl who girls could relate more to.


DS: As development went on we revised and refined the characters. Mike Moon did an amazing interpretation of my characters which blew me away and I found myself compelled to go in his direction and we ended up
with a healthy balance between the two.


DS: The Replacements ran for approximately 3 seasons between 2006-2009. You can still find it on ABC and Disney Channel.


DS: Riley is named after the Executive Producer’s niece.


Interview with Dan Santat from Elizabeth Bird on Vimeo.


Here’s where you can find Dan ::

website ::

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