Directed by William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg (co-founders of Moonbot Studios of Shreveport, Louisiana) comes a short film with a mouthful of a title: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (2011 short… here is a link). The short is influenced by a strange combination of The Wizard of Oz, the silent films of Buster Keaton, and the experiences of Louisianans after the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina. It is dedicated to Joyce’s 18-year old daughter Mary Katherine Joyce, who died of a brain tumor the year before.
When a hurricane strikes New Orleans’ French Quarter, Morris Lessmore finds himself in a dreary, black-and-white world that is soon punctuated by the colors made possible by a team of flying books and a lady flying along with them. Soon after, Lessmore enters a library of these flying books and an rewarding experience of a lifetime for him is only just beginning. Its fusion of both traditional and computer-generated animation styles fits with the short film’s celebration of artists long-gone and an individual and a society’s renewal after a terrible loss.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore was nominated for and won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short, beating out what many saw as its closest rival for the prize: Pixar’s La Luna.
On a personal note… I remember seeing this in a theater in Santa Cruz, California that was showing packages of the nominated animated and live-action short films. I attended these screenings of the nominated animated and live-action short films twice (once in 2012, again in 2013)… and this is still the only short that elicited tears from me and a gasp of “wow” when the credits rolled. If anything, it speaks to this short film’s power and its unmistakable heart and emotion.
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