Monday, February 27, 2012

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (ages 6 - 10)

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore won the Oscar for best animated short film last night at the 84th annual Academy Awards ceremony. William Joyce, with his Moonbot Studios, is forging a path telling stories across multiple platforms: animated movies, interactive book apps, and traditional print books. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is an ode to the imaginative power of stories, the magical way that books feed our soul and lift us up from our everyday surroundings. I am thrilled that it was recognized by the Academy.

William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg, his co-founder of Moonbot Studios, have had a long collaboration in film. Here they are accepting the Oscar for The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. Joyce and Oldenburge are currently co-directing The Guardians of Childhood, an animated feature for DreamWorks. Joyce has written picture books and chapter books for the Guardians of Childhood series. The Man in the Moon and E. Aster Bunnymund and the Warrior Eggs at the Earth's Core! have both gotten very positive reactions from my students.

The interactive book app for The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore was a finalist for the 2011 Cybils Book App award. I reviewed it last summer for the School Library Journal blog Touch and Go. I'd love to share that review with you here.
"With a stunning combination of computer animation, interactive features, and traditional picture-book elements, William Joyce and Moonbot Studios have developed an enchanting story about the power of books. Based on their award-winning short film, this production sets the bar high for picture-book apps.

Morris Lessmore, a man who loves words and stories, is swept away to a distant land when a terrible storm strikes. Luckily, “… a happy bit of happenstance came his way…Drifting through the sky above him, Morris saw a lovely lady…being pulled along by a festive squadron of flying books.” The young woman sends him a story that leads him to “an extraordinary building where many books apparently ‘nested.’” It is here that Morris discovers his true home, among the thousands of volumes, each “whispering an invitation to adventure.”

Joyce combines his background as a filmmaker, an illustrator, and an author to create a groundbreaking storybook app. The production flows seamlessly between a combination of media, with effective well-paced page turns. While the short film in the beginning of the app is silent, the writing is graceful and eloquent. In the end, what makes Morris Lessmore a story that readers will come back to again and again is the way it which it affirms the power of books to speak to us and carry us away."

This book app continues to enchant students at our library - ranging from kindergartners through 5th graders. They are drawn in by the blend of animation and the interactive features - it really does strike them as something completely new. And yet they are held by the magic of the story, the way that it strikes a chord so familiar to them, even with this new way of telling a story.

I'm fascinated by the way that William Joyce, author of such classic favorites as The Leaf Men and George Shrinks, is developing his new stories. He released Morris Lessmore first as a film, then an app - and this summer it will be published as a traditional picture book. And I think this will definitely work. These are all intertwined ways of enjoying a story, and children will want to experience the app and the book in different, complementary ways.

You can download the silent film from iTunes, and the app is also available on iTunes. The review copy of the app was kindly sent by Moonbot Studios. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books


  1. Love this post. Just saw the film last night. Plan on checking out the app today.