February 27, 2012
SMU alumnus William Joyce ('81) — along with Brandon Oldenburg — won an Oscar at Sunday night's 84th Academy Awards for Best Animated Short Film for "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore."
Joyce, who received a Distinguished Alumni Award from SMU in 2004, has created an enchanting world of whimsy and adventure in his award-winning, best-selling children's books, films and television. Read a Q&A with Joyce from the SMU Magazine about the time of the DAA. Joyce earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from SMU's Meadows School of the Arts in 1981, with a major in broadcast-film and minors in art and journalism.
Two other SMU alumni — Stewart Mayer ('97) and Jason Hess ('99) — also had a hand in the production of the "Mr. Morris Lessmore." Mayer, who received a degree in cinema-television, is the inventor of the camBLOCK robotic camera system, which helped the film’s creators achieve what they describe as “a hybrid style of animation."
Mayer and camBLOCK operator Jason Hess, who earned a Bachelor’s in communications from SMU in 1999, spent a week filming the charming miniature environments constructed at Moonbot Studios. The sophisticated camBLOCK system “allows cameras to move in ways that can’t be done manually,” providing fluidity and accuracy, explains Mayer. Animated characters were later composited into the shots.
“Having the film nominated for an Oscar is amazing; it is a real validation that hard work and passion really can make a difference,” says Mayer. “Everyone went above and beyond for the film. That combination of dedication, along with Bill and Brandon’s vision, created a beautiful film.”
"Mr. Morris Lessmore" Story Line (courtesy of the official website):
Inspired in equal measures, by Hurricane Katrina, Buster Keaton, The Wizard of Oz, and a love for books, “Morris Lessmore” is a story of people who devote their lives to books and books who return the favor. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a poignant, humorous allegory about the curative powers of story. Using a variety of techniques (miniatures, computer animation, 2D animation), award-winning author/illustrator William Joyce and Co-director Brandon Oldenburg present a hybrid style of animation that harkens back to silent films and M-G-M Technicolor musicals. “Morris Lessmore” is old-fashioned and cutting edge at the same time.
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