Monday, February 27, 2012

1st Oscar for Louisiana-made animated film goes to William Joyce

Score one for Hollywood South – and for Byrd High School alum and friend Bill Joyce.

The Louisiana-made animated film "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore" -- conceived, crafted and completed by Shreveport's fledgling Moonbot Studios -- won the Oscar for best animated short at last night’s 84th annual Academy Awards.

The beautifully rendered and emotionally rich film is a 15-minute charmer co-directed by William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg.  It is the first film from Moonbot Studios, which hopes to use its success to springboard into the animated-feature game.

I was in Shreveport this weekend and enjoyed reading the news stories in anticipation of Oscar night.  We also looked through our old yearbooks to see drawings Bill did back at Broadmoor Junior High and Byrd High School.

Although it was going up against a strong field -- including the wonderful "La Luna" from animation heavyweight Pixar -- the win by "Morris Lessmore" shouldn't come as an enormous surprise for Oscar-watchers. In a year in which the Academy has shown a taste for cinematic nostalgia, in the form of best-picture front-runners "Hugo" and the silent film "The Artist," Moonbot's lovely and lyrical story, about the curative power of books, fit the bill.

A silent film with a main character inspired by silent-era comic Buster Keaton, it tells the story of a man whose French Quarter-dwelling life is literally blown away at the movie's outset. As he deals with his grief, he finds a refuge in a fantastical library in which the books have literally come to life.

Former New Orleans resident and "Morris Lessmore" producer Lampton Enochs said those literary underpinnings were no accident.

Taking the stage Sunday arm in arm, Joyce and Oldenburg paid homage to the storytellers who have inspired them ever since they were children -- as well as tipping a cap to their Louisiana roots.

"We're just, like, these swamp rats from Louisiana," said an overjoyed Joyce, wearing a jaunty porkpie hat with his traditional tux. "And this is so grand. We love the movies. We love the movies more than anything else. ... We're just down there in Louisiana, where people just keep on trying and keep going, and thank you to the Academy."

Watch a short video about Bill’s Moonbot Studios here…

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