The Fantastic Flying Books Short Flies into Vancouver

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is definitely one of the highlights to check out at SIGGRAPH 2011 this week in Vancouver. The Best in Show Computer Animation Festival winner directed by Bill Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg of Moonbot Studios in Shreveport, Louisiana, is a brilliant mash-up of high and low tech — perfect for SIGGRAPH. It tells the story of a Keatonesque book lover displaced by a twister and hurled into an alternate world ruled by books.

They utilized nearly every animated technique: CG for the protagonist and anything that moved; 2D for Humpty Dumpty like a flip book; miniatures for the library coupled with stop-motion camera moves and rapid prototyping for the thousands of books on the shelves; matte paintings on top of miniature environments when they’re still; and practical shots of dust and debris. There’s even a Zoetrope effect. They used Maya, Nuke, boujou, and Photoshop.

I spoke on Friday with Joyce and Oldenburg. Joyce has two adaptations coming to the big screen: Rise of the Guardians, Nov. 21, 2012, from DreamWorks, and Leaf Men, bowing May 13, 2013, from Fox/Blue Sky; Oldenburg is co-founder of Reel FX.

Joyce said the idea came eight years ago on a flight to New York to visit his dying mentor, Bill Morris, a children’s book advocate at HarperCollins. Morris was one of the last of the grand old gentlemen of old publishing. His love of books certainly shines through in this Oz-like phantasmagoria along with the sense of displacement and hopelessness from Hurricane Katrina that also impacted Joyce.

Ironically, it all coalesces in a work about the curative power of books In fact, as some of you might already know, Joyce and Oldenburg have turned The Fantastic Flying Books into a bestselling interactive experience that’s on the cutting edge of immersive storytelling. In other words, it comes full-circle back to Morris’ philosophy about nurturing books as well as the joy of seeing displaced children absorbed in books that were donated to the shelters post Katrina in Shreveport. I will have lot more from Joyce and Oldenburg.

The Fantastic Flying Books App is available for $4.99 from the App Store on iPad or at  A stand-alone version of the short is available for $2.99 on iTunes or at

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Books, Shorts

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