Sunday, 29 July 2012

Interview: William Joyce, Moonbot Studios Co-Founder and Co-Director of Morris Lessmore


On Friday I had the pleasure of speaking to the very kind, very friendly and very funny William Joyce, on the phone from Moonbot Studios in Shreveport, Louisiana. Joyce, a co-founder of Moonbot, co-directed their debut short film, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, with Brandon Oldenburg last year. The short was nominated against, among others, Pixar's La Luna (my interview with La Luna director Enrico Casarosa, here), and actually won the prestigious award - one won several times by the incomparable Walt Disney!

William was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule - he's also working on DreamWorks' Rise of the Guardians and Blue Sky Studios' Epic; both based on books of his - to talk to me about several topics. In our extensive 40 minute interview, William talks passionately about Morris Lessmore and its solemn origins, the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and its effects on him, touches enthusiastically on the Oscar experience, Moonbot as a studio and its next steps, as well as working with other studios and how Rise of the Guardians and Epic are turning out.

As per, I'm indebted to - as well as William, for taking the time out of his schedule to speak to me, and for being so friendly - the brilliant people who helped organise it. Specifically, I want to thank Trish Farnsworth-Smith for being so brilliant in setting this interview up.

Check out the interview after the jump break!

A113Animation: Right, to start off with, you’re one of the head-honchos at Moonbot Studios. One of fastest rising animation studios on the planet! Can you describe for us the atmosphere and the spirit at Moonbot?
William Joyce: Oh my goodness. One of the – what did you say, we’re one of the fastest rising animation studios? Oh my God, that was really sweet. What is it like? A sort of cheerful pandemonium. A relentless, gleeful attack on the mediocre.

A113: Have you kind of, you think, got the collegiate spirit?
WJ: Feels that way. Definitely.

A113: Right, and you started off with your first animated short film, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore – a nice lengthy title.
WJ: [laughs]­ Yes, for a short film, yes. Nice irony.

A113: Everybody loves irony.
WJ: Everybody except Fox News.

[both laugh]

A113: Which you co-directed with Brandon Oldenburg. I absolutely loved it; very calm, very touching, serene, nostalgic short film; you should all be very, very proud of!
WJ: I am, I am.


A113: I’ve read in several places that it was inspired by Buster Keaton, Wizard of Oz, Hurricane Katrina, and, obviously, a big love of literature. Can you summarise for us, to you, what the real meaning of the short is?
WJ: It’s like, it’s sort of – the real meaning: that stories can save you. I mean, if I hadn’t seen The Wizard of Oz when I was a kid, I don’t think that I would’ve become a storyteller, so in a way that story saved me. As did dozens of others along the way. They come into – came into my life anyway – at different times. Provided either guidance or solace – or escape. And so it, I wrote it on the way to see my mentor from – my publishing mentor – who had been at Harper-Collins since they were called Harper Brothers. And he’d done it for like 50 years, and he was just a grand old gentleman of the old school publishing. But he was dying, and we all knew it, he knew it. I was just really sad about that. And so on the flight to see him – his name was Bill Morris, William Morris – and this little story came into my head, with that title, sort of just as I sat there flying. And I wrote it on that flight. And it changed very much – that was only 1999. I was able to read it to him, when I got to see him, in his apartment, he was in a hospital bed, and there was no furniture except this hospital bed – and countless books – and one chair. So I got to read it to him, and he was a very dry witted fellow, and he was, I don’t know if emotionally withdrawn is the right way to describe it, but he would hide his feelings. But he was pleased. And particularly tickled by the title. Because he was a small man and very diminutive, so “Morris Lessmore”, I don’t know, made him laugh – and it being a play on his name. So, life got in the way, and I didn’t finish it for a while; that happens a lot when I write these things. And then Hurricane Katrina happened. I live in Louisiana so it affected us a great deal. And in the chaos of that time – and it was the worst experience I’ve ever had, I felt like the glue of government and society and everything just kind of came undone; I mean the federal response was so pathetic, we just sat there day after day going ‘when are we going to get our act together? When is the United States of America going to act like we’re part of it?’ The devastation was just so total and so vast; so much of the infrastructure of so many things was just destroyed. People were just in a state of shock. And, so, I’m part of a state-wide arts organisation, and we just had an emergency meeting and revamped our entire schedule for the year to determine how, so much as we could – you know, we’re not storm troopers, we’re not the coast-guard, we’re artists, so what can we do to help? So one of things besides raising money for just, like, artists, musicians who had lost their instruments, and all that kind of stuff, we had this idea of documenting what we could of what was happening; to narrow the focus to a certain degree. And talking to the people that were displaced, talking to them in the shelters, talking to them, you know, removed from everything they knew and loved and asking them there stories: what happened to you? How did you come to be here? And it was galvanising and moving and life changing, and you could see the sort of hopeless, blank expressions on these people’s faces, recede as they began to tell the stories of what happened to them. And it was almost as though, it was like getting to watch them regain their footing in a way. Just the act of telling what happened, gave them… something back. I think that helped them move on, or start to move on; or to put the spark back in their faces. Just something. The other thing that kind of got me was that were so many kids that were in these shelters – usually they were these huge sports arenas, which could house, you know, 15/20,000 people and cots. But there was all one big room, there no privacy, there was no, nothing that felt like home. And, these kids, these families – some of these kids would’ve been separated from their families or from parts of their families – there was nothing that was familiar in this new existence that they had, no sense of stability or what was going to happen next. They’re in a room with 20,000 other people, and that had to have felt as bleak and as grim as a Grimm’s fairytale. But there were a lot of people, organisations, that came together very quickly, very intelligently, and made sure that these kids had books to read, to, you know, keep their minds off things. And it was remarkable to see, in this, sometimes in these rooms filled with 20,000 people, topped with kids here and there, sitting on a cot, reading a book. All the interruption and alien quality of their new life evaporated, they were in that book, and it was like the book had made a sort of protective cone around them, that gave them a place to escape from the strangeness of their current situation. And I found that a very powerful thing to see. And so that kind of twined itself into the story as we began production on the short film, using the book that I’d written in ’99 as a sort of template. Then we began the short.

A113: Yeah, of course, I think that’s one of the best things that both books and cinema offer isn’t it, it’s escapism. And, as well, the way you told the short, the animation was very, very beautiful as well. It was CGI, but it was a very painterly looking CGI.
WJ: Thank you, thank you very much. Well, a lot of it’s not CGI. A lot of it’s actually miniatures; almost all the sets, all the locations, are miniatures, that we built. And then the characters are CGI.

A miniature being created on the set of Morris Lessmore.

A113: Well, it gives it a very unique look. And I very much liked as well, the traditionally animated parts of it, with the Humpty Dumpty book.
WJ: Yeah, that was nice. It was – we found ourselves trying to find ways to use all our favourite kinds of animation, different animation techniques. And, I don’t know, Brandon [Oldenburg] and I both have this thing about miniatures, since we were both kids. And, I’ve talked with different other animated filmmakers: Chris Wedge, and Blue Sky, and John Lasseter, and Pixar, about, you know, how it would be fun to; why can’t we use miniatures for CGI? Why can’t we combine the two? They do it in live-action all the time. There’s not like a rule, [laughs] there’s not like the animation, CGI rule book, so we decided to give it a whirl. And then, we found that we didn’t have the budget, really, to build a lot of characters in CGI, it’s very expensive to build their models, texture them and do all the stuff – rig them. So, to save money, we had the idea of Humpty Dumpty being this character, and he resides in a book, so actually we can save money if we just do him in 2D, and it makes thematic sense, you know, it makes narrative sense. It’s something we’d love to try, so what’s to stop us? And so, it was a great excuse to get to indulge our smaller, secret animation fetishes.

[both laugh]

A113: Yeah, that’s something that I think’s coming across more and more now in animated films: kind of a hybrid, between CGI and – it’s almost like people are now realising that, it’s not black and white, it’s not this way or this way; you can mix-and-match.
WJ: Yeah, I mean, what’s to stop you? If it makes a convincing reality, then embrace it.

A113: Mm, exactly, and it really sets you apart as well, as something unique.
WJ:
Well, thank you very much. Thank you.

A113: No problem! And, the film, obviously, huge groundings in story and literature; what would you say, personally, your all-time favourite book is and why?
WJ: I just got asked that question earlier – about twenty minutes ago. [laughs]

A113: Damn, I thought I was being original.

[both laugh]

WJ: No, it’s okay. Does it have to be – can I give you two? Okay… it would be Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. And why? Where the Wild Things Are is another story that came along, that set me on the path, I saw it when I was five years old, when it first came out. And, it was the first time I got, kind of, a grown-up’s have a – certain grown-ups – have a job, and it’s to make up stories and draw pictures. And there’s a grown-up somewhere that made this book, and I love this book. It appealed to me on every level, it was artistic, narrative and, I just loved the way he drew. And I loved the monsters, and I loved the Wild Things, and I loved Max – the, you know, kind of Wild Kid, becoming King of the Wild Things, and then finding it’s also good to go home. And, it just totally enraptured me as a five year old, and, but it was the first – I drew, I always drew since I was really small – it kind of, it put the pieces together for me. It made the idea of stories, as something a person can do, it connected the dots. I mean, how people then – the line between fact and fiction was kind of blurry anyway – but that was the first time I went ‘oh, there’s guys who do this. This is a job. I’m going to grow up someday, I’m told, I like to draw and I like this book, so maybe when I grow up I can do something like this. For Gatsby it was probably the language, besides the plot that I adore. I guess, I’m a reckless romantic, the way Gatsby was. But I love Fitzgerald’s prose, and have used it as a – what’s the word I’m looking for? – talisman of taste. There’s prose and there’s bad prose and then there’s what Fitzgerald does, which is amazing prose. I just try to write cleanly and well, and lyrically, it’s what he does. I don’t know that I ever achieve it, but it’s what I aim for. He’s the target.

A113: It’s good to have high standards.
WJ: Yeah, well, you better. [laughs]

Morris Lessmore co-directors, William Joyce (left) and Brandon Oldenburg (right) collecting their Oscars at the 84th Academy Awards. Watch their heartfelt acceptance speech here.

A113: And speaking of high standards, Morris Lessmore was very, very well received; great reviews and word of mouth. You were actually nominated for, and won, an Oscar this year!
WJ: We did indeed!

A113: Which must’ve been absolutely fantastic!
WJ: It was the most fun I’ve ever had without my – let me phrase it better, whoops: it was the most fun I’ve ever had with my clothes on.

[both laugh]

A113: Yeah, because many great animation studio – Disney and Pixar included – started out winning Oscars for their short films. So great footsteps to follow in. And can you just give us an insight into what the Oscars were like and your reaction to the outpouring of praise for Morris Lessmore?

WJ: You know, it’s so - how do you approach a question like that? It’s so vast – it’s sort of like, you sit around, and I’ve wanted to do this since I was a little kid, right? And, I mean I watched the Oscars when I was a kid, I was smitten with books and movies, I was smitten with stories, from the beginning. It was cool just to get to publish books, and extremely satisfying, it was a childhood dream; going to the Oscars and winning an Academy Award just feels even a little more impossible. And, I mean, they’ve only given out – I counted it up – I think they’ve given out 50 Animated Short Oscars, since the beginning of the Academy Awards, and you know, that goes back to 1927. I mean, there are more astronauts than there are people that’ve won short films [Oscars].

[both laugh]

WJ: I was trying to think, what’s the smallest, you know, group of people… like Nobel Prize winners; there’s more Nobel Prize winners, there’s more Marines, there’s more - anything that’s sort of very exclusive. There’s almost as many Presidents of the United States, as there are people who have won Short Film Oscars. So, the only thing I could find is lunar – you know, guys have gone to the moon! [laughs] So, I mean, more people have gone to the top of Mount Everest, I mean for crying out loud! It’s like, getting all the way there and winning, it’s just crazy! The odds are unfathomable. It’s like, you go the beach and you pick out the one grain of sand with your name on it with your name on it, out of, like, trillions; it’s highly unlikely that that’ll ever occur. And then you think about all the people that should’ve won Oscars that never did: Cary Grant, Alan Hitchcock, Howard Hawks, you know, there’s this incredible list of amazing people that didn’t win a competitive Oscar. And we put our hearts into this thing, and every nickel that we could rub together; I mean we basically mortgaged our houses at a certain point, to get this thing and to start Moonbot. So, we put everything we love into it, and everything we hope for, and every dream we’ve got, and every cent we could find. And you just hope that people are going to not throw things at you. But then, no, they liked it, they liked it a lot. And then we got nominated! It was just like oh my god; that was pretty incredible, and that began a long couple of months, before the awards came. So we had two months to be excited, and anxious, about it. And you try really hard, and there’s some truth to it: just getting nominated is a win, and it’s true to me, absolutely, you just feel like a million bucks – or a million Pounds, or a million Euros. But you really do want to win [laughs] you know, there’s no mistake about it. And we spent a considerable amount of time with our fellow nominees, in the lead-up to the big night, and they were very sweet people, and you’re all like ‘I like these people! And gee, I wish they could all win, but… [laughs] I really hope we do!’ And, I liked their films, they’re exquisite films. So, it was so interesting, and Brandon and I decided, we’re going to go to the Oscars, and we’re going to have fun, that is all we can do, that would be sane, the only sane response to the pageantry and the pomp and the tension, is to have a good time. And we did. We ran up to everybody that we wanted to talk to, no matter how famous they were, and we talked to them, and we goofed around, and we had Jedi Lightsaber wars with our commemorative posters that they gave us at the nominees lunch. We just goofed around and had a blast! We snuck Vodka into the Oscars in flasks, so that we were able to try and stay calm and drink Vodka in our seats [laughs] because, you know, we were pretty stoked. So, by the time it came to our category, a friend of mine who had, years before, said “your mind is going to do some very strange things in the several minutes leading up to the announcement of your category. I can’t describe it to you, but you will understand.”, and sure enough, as soon as they got to the Shorts thing, and they were doing their patter, my brain just went some place I can’t describe. I mean, I definitely didn’t feel like I was there, and I wasn’t really hearing much of anything anymore. I was really concentrating on the back of the head of the guy in front of me, and, he had directed La Luna, and he thought he might be it. Since I wasn’t hearing anything anymore, I thought ‘if I see him stand up then I’ll know we’ve lost’. And it’s like, the process of qualifying for an Academy Award starts about a year before that, so for a year our stomachs had been in a knot – an ever tightening knot. So, by the time we got to that moment that they take the envelope, and you can hear it, it’s quiet as – I think that’s when my hearing came back – you can hear them tear the envelope, it was as quiet as any church in there. The tension became – every fibre of my being was as tight as it could possibly be – then when I heard the syllables “The Fantastic”, every atom in my body decided that it was okay to relax. I basically felt that I was no longer a solid, that I’d just became sort of a gas, or a mist [laughs] and I was never quite solid matter again for about a month after that night. My atoms were still kind of loose. So, if that answers your question, which I can’t remember what it was actually now…

[both laugh]


A113: More or less, more or less, yeah. [laughs] You spoke about La Luna as well, I interviewed Enrico Casarosa, whose head you were staring at the back of, a few months ago. Did you like La Luna as well?
WJ: Yes, I did, I liked all the films; I thought they were exquisite. I’d actually worked with Enrico before, at Pixar, so it was kind of – there were a bunch of people that worked on La Luna that I’d worked with, so it was strangely bittersweet, seeing them there, and, you know.

A113: It must have been great though, knowing how good La Luna was, that you got nominated against it and then beat it!
WJ: Yeah, man, like I said, a nomination’s a win. And we’re this little group of people in Louisiana, and it’s the odds of going the distance, all the way from there, is kind of remarkable. You know, you allow yourself to daydream certain things, no matter how preposterous, and that was our dream, and it actually came true. It was remarkable, crazy, and it changed my genetic structure on an atomic, microscopic level, and I never quite will ever – it’s so deeply satisfying that I really do think that there’s a good chance, no matter how old I become, that I will die with a smile on my face.

[both laugh]

WJ: Come what may.

A113: That’s a nice benefit then, I guess, of winning the same award Walt Disney’s won however many times.
WJ: Sure, and actually there’s a study – I read this – there’s a study that said Oscar winners live three to five years longer than non-Oscar winners.

[both laugh]

A113: That’s lovely then, you’ll have a nice long life smiling!
WJ: There you go. [laughs] Thank you members of the Academy for giving me five extra years. Guess I’ll have to pay my dues now. [laughs]

A113: And what’s next for Moonbot then? Obviously you’ve got a few apps out at the moment; but have you got another short on the way? A feature film maybe?
WJ: We have a short we’re almost finished with, and a game for Sony, that we’re deep into, a narrative game – has a book format. And we have a number of books, the book for Morris Lessmore came out, and it’s been the number one bestselling children’s title in the States for the past five weeks. And we have our own imprint, a book imprint, from Simon-Schuster. But everything we’re working on, all our own ideas, we think of as stories for multiple platforms. So we’ll be doing books – by fall we’ll have five books out, at least – and we have a new app, an additional app, that goes along with the Morris Lessmore app and book, that came out just a couple of weeks ago, we’re using a new technology, a kind of new technology, Augmented Reality.

A113: Was that the reading one? Where you point it at your book or something?
WJ: Yeah! And then we have, we’re starting to plan our future as we finish up these projects, and that’ll include future films. We’re being very careful; we want to stay as free as we can.


A113: Yeah, and personally, you, as you say, have written quite a few books! Some of these have been adapted into films. A Day with Wilbur Robinson, Disney made into Meet the Robinsons; you had Robots for Blue Sky, and you’re working on Rise of the Guardians, based on your Guardians of Childhood books, which I think you’re co-directing are you? With DreamWorks.
WJ: I was… and then there was a tragic thing, my daughter became ill in post-production, and we lost her, so I had to bow out of directing at that point.

A113: I’m very sorry to hear that.
WJ:
Oh, thank you. So I’ve been Executive Producing since that, and it’s turned out actually very well. My co-director Peter Ramsey has took on the whole role, and the movie’s magnificent, I couldn’t actually be happier with it.

A113: Yeah, it looks absolutely phenomenal! It looks – I mean, I do, I really love DreamWorks’ films – but it looks like something entirely different for DreamWorks.
WJ: Well, that was the edict, when I came in they were like – several other studios were bidding on the properties at the same time, and I was really just trying to figure out who I thought would really honour the vision and help me expand it. And they were the only place that – because I’d laid out this very ambitious kind of scenario, because I want to do thirteen books that will set up, be apart from, the movie. The books will be about the origins of these characters, how they came to be, and how they came to work together, and how they came to work together against the Boogeyman, against Pitch. And I want the movie to take place like 200 years after the books, and be about how they function now. Because I don’t want people to read the book and then go see the movie and go ‘oh, I like the book better’, and I also didn’t want them to know what happens in the movie. And I also knew that during the progress of film production, a lot of things can change. So I wanted to have a sort of distance, so we were able to invoke the books and use them to help us figure out the world of the movie, but I didn’t want them to be openly competitive to each other. None of the other studios would consider that, and DreamWorks said, ‘we think that’s a magnificent idea. And we want to do something that’s different. And we want to do this, make these characters, these grand, heroic, fantastic beings that you have been conjuring up.’ And so, it was a bit of a leap for both of us [laughs] but they’ve honoured it very well.

A113: Yeah, it looks wonderful. And the year after – 2013, I think – Blue Sky Studios adapting your Leaf Men book, with Epic. How involved are you with that compared to Rise of the Guardians?
WJ: Yeah, it’s about the same, maybe a little bit more, but only, like, in the first few years. I’m a writer, and production designer and Executive Producer on that. And, I did design work and story work on Rise of the Guardians, as well as acting as director for the first two or three years. And, I guess it’s kind of evening out. I’m very excited about Epic too, I saw it again just this past week – I see both movies pretty often, when they’re in production, making notes and stuff. And Epic is just turning out really lovely. And, you know, each studio has a different process, each one has a different kind of character, but they have – I’ll just come out and say it, Blue Sky, their render, their ability to render light is just unmatched. They can just do… God, they can make beautiful images. So, it’s capturing – not to pit one studio against the other – but to try to make this world, this fantastic natural world, look as lush and majestic and up-close; I mean, my God, we’re talking about beings about an inch and a half tall, that fly on Hummingbirds, little warriors, not much bigger than your thumb. To get down on that scale, of things that we’re very familiar with, but to get so close to them that they become, you know, as huge as mountains and skyscrapers; I mean, a tree is as large as… London. [laughs] And to pull it off, and make it look as beautiful as its looking, is just very difficult to do, technically, and aesthetically. So they’re both – I’m very happy, it’s nice, it’s very nice.

A113: It is a very, very beautiful looking film.
WJ: Thank you. And the stories are good, they’re strong.


A113: Mm, Blue Sky’s last film, Rio, I really, really liked as well.
WJ: You know, I haven’t seen Rio. When you work on movies, a lot of time you don’t have time to see them. [laughs] So, there’s a bunch of stuff, I haven’t seen Rango yet either, and I really like Gore [Verbinski]’s work, and I know a bunch of people that worked on it, but I haven’t seen it. One of these days, when I’m not working so hard, I’ll get to actually watch some of my competitor’s work. And, you know, I’m learning, I’m getting better at this, all this stuff came at the right time. I feel like forming Moonbot happened right when I was maybe ready to be able to tell stories on my own like that, with film. I don’t think I was ready yet, I was learning. I mean, that’s the thing about movies, they’re very expensive to print and ship, you know. [laughs]

A113: I don’t think I’ve read an origins story for a film studio yet, where they haven’t almost gone broke in about every chapter.
WJ:
Oh… we’re certainly trying to keep that tradition alive!

[both laugh]

A113: And, if Moonbot make a feature film, would you want to adapt one of your books, or would you want to make it an original story?
WJ: Well, I mean, I’ve written a bunch of new stuff, that nobody’s seen yet, so we’ll be adapting those things. I mean, if somebody came to us with a fantastic story out of nowhere, and we loved it, we would certainly do that. But we’ve set out for a couple of years now, to put together about 10 different stories that I want to tell, one way or another, in novels, adapt in movies, and picture books. And so, we’ll be doing, that’s mostly what we’ll be doing.

A113: Mm, and I think that’s what makes Moonbot very special and very different as well: because you’re storytellers regardless of the medium, not just filmmakers.
WJ: You know, it’s not we intended, but it certainly seems to work for us, and I think it, it sort of makes us adaptable for the way things are going. The opportunities now are becoming much more spread out and vast. And, we’re storytellers and artists first, and so it’s exciting and heady to be able to think in multiple platforms, or multiple whatever you want to call thems, it’s just as exciting and satisfying to figure out to tell a beautiful way to tell a story in an app, as it is to tell a story in a book, as it is to tell a story in a film, they all have their different challenges, and different ways of telling a story, of adapting this thing and making it alive, cool, compelling. There are all these new ways, is what’s kind of exciting. The way we’re looking at is that they should feed each other. The idea of developing a feature, as just a feature, seems kind of limiting. You could develop it as a book, and develop it as an app, and get its – see how it’s working, and see if the designs are appealing. And get it out there, get a sense of people’s response to it, and not just stay cloaked behind a veil of secrecy. Back in the day, Buster Keaton, the Marx Brothers, a lot of those – and Chaplin – they would take their ideas, and take them on the stage first. They’d go and play, evolve those ideas, see how the audience responded to what they were working on, and get a sense of how the story, ideas, the gags and things would work, before they go into production on a film. We’re finding the equivalent of that, you know, now with apps and other technologies. It’s kind of exciting.

A113: Just two more quick questions: are there any more of your books you’d particularly like to see adapted as a film? And by any particular studios?
WJ: I’d love to see a film made of Dinosaur Bob. And we shall see. There have been people, Disney had it for a while, Pixar had it for a while. Now, Pixar’s doing a dinosaur film, which I’m kind of curious about. And I’ve got a couple of other ones that I haven’t finished yet, that nobody’s seen, that I’d like to make into films, one that we control here. You know, from now on, it’s going to be interesting, whatever path we take, but I want us to stay – I don’t want us to get too big at all – I think there’s a way to make these films, with smaller crews and less expensively than the past, there’s a way to do it with a tighter group, you know, 200. But some of the stories that we’ve come up with, are really big; [laughs] $200 million big; DreamWorks, big studio big. And, you know, I don’t know that I want to be in command of one of those behemoths, and I don’t know that I want Moonbot to become that kind of place. I like us to be small and agile, and that kind of production would change that. So, we will be deciding who to work with in the coming years. A lot of studios are going to open to the kind of partnership that we are proposing. And, there are hundreds of good ideas, no matter where they come from, and partners that know what they’re doing, so hopefully we’re capable.

A113: And, finally, what is your all-time favourite animated film?
WJ: Can I give you three? [laughs] Alright… because they’re kind of spread out. The… I can’t remember the name of this thing… The Adventures of Prince Achmed. It was made in 1927, it was actually the first animated feature film, although it’s often not credited as such. And, it was made by a German filmmaker named Lotte Reiniger. And it’s silhouette animation, it’s just one of the most beautiful, enchanting things you’ll ever see; an Arabian Nights story, it shows how little you have to do – it’s called silhouettes, right? You never see a facial expression. You only see these beautifully, beautifully subtle, elegantly crafted silhouettes of Arabian Nights characters, against these fabulous backdrops of silhouettes. And though you never see a facial expression, you understand the emotion of the characters, just as well as you do when you have a fully articulated, million dollar facial CGI rig, and it’s a great lesson in how little you sometimes need to get across everything you need to get across, in telling a story. Then it would be Pinocchio, Disney’s Pinocchio, which is, sort of, I think, the high watermark of Disney’s reign. And the most purest, the truest, the most terrifying, the most beautiful; it just has a primal power that is undeniable, and an aesthetic beauty that’s unmatched. And then probably, in the modern age, it’s Toy Story.

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