Harvard Marine and Disney artist team up for children's book
Editor's note: David R. Dixon is an Iraq War veteran and served as a AH-1W pilot on the 31st MEU in Okinawa in 2009.
An attack helicopter pilot and a cartoon illustrator - not exactly who you might imagine as business partners. Although at first this seems like an unlikely partnership, Major David R. Dixon and artist Phil Jones recently published their first book together, Goodnight Marines, and it has already been nominated for the 2016 James Webb Award for Distinguished Fiction from the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation.
"My wife and I were discussing having children in 2014, and as we searched online we had trouble finding children’s books for Marine families,” Dixon said.
So he wrote a compelling poem and engaging story, but he needed a talented artist to bring his idea to life. At the time, Dixon was stationed in Tampa, FL at CENTCOM Headquarters.
“I knew the Ringling School of Design near Sarasota was one of the top schools in the country," he said. "After admiring Phil’s portfolio online, we met up for coffee to discuss the plan.”
Dixon is an AH-1W Cobra pilot currently stationed with 4th Marine Aircraft Wing in New Orleans. He deployed twice to Iraq, once to Japan, and also served on the USS Boxer and USS Essex as part of the 15th and 31st Marine Expeditionary Units. Dixon began writing and publishing while a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and then at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. His first book, Call in the Air, won the 2014 Distinguished Poetry Award from the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation.
Dixon’s vision for this project was to develop a world-class children’s book about about the culture and traditions of the Marine Corps.
After meeting with Phil, Dixon knew he had found his man. Phil Jones has been an artist for over 30 years, including a position at Disney Feature Animation where he worked on films such as Tarzan, Mulan, and Lilo & Stitch.
Jones is also a Desert Storm Veteran, having served with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
“From the moment I met Phil I was confident this would be a great partnership,” said Dixon. “Phil’s experience as a war veteran and Disney artist gave him all the tools to make this project a home-run.”
In the book, a young child gazes proudly at a photograph of his father - currently deployed to Afghanistan. The father stands watch over his combat outpost underneath the very same moon (with an Eagle, Globe, and Anchor) that shines on his son. The child's room is adorned with toy tanks, planes, radios, and trucks that he plays with to feel connected to his dad. Then, as the child goes to sleep and says goodnight to his dad and all of his military memorabilia, the toys come alive in his vibrant imagination and the audience is taken on an adventure that teaches about the culture & traditions of the Marine Corps.
“We are just getting started,” Dixon said. His ultimate vision is a series of military children’s books for each of the services, entitled Goodnight Troops. But for now, Dixon and his wife say they are enjoying reading Goodnight Marines to their daughter Juliette, who was born in January 2016.
The book is available in hardcover and digital versions on Amazon.com.
Visit the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/goodnightmarines/