Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

Winner of the Best Animated Short Film, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a quirky story about the effect of books on our lives. It is a mixture of modern animation, CGI  and silent film. This short film was directed by William Joyce who created the characters of Toy Story and produced by Moonbot Studios in Louisiana. The book adaptation will be released in July, 2012.

Morris Lessmore (who is modeled after Buster Keaton) is sitting on the balcony of his hotel one fine day, writing in his book, when a terrible storm hits. In scenes reminiscent of the tornado in The Wizard of Oz, Lessmore is blown from the building onto a house which eventually lands in a colourless world. In this devastated land, the ground is littered with the pages of destroyed books. Morris has managed to save his book, his memoir, but not before the terrible maelstrom has blown all his words from the book's pages. He sets out along a gravel road (the yellow brick road of Oz) in search of the unknown. Suddenly he sees flying books and a young woman being carried aloft. She has with her a large, thick book with a Humpty Dumpty character on the front. This book flies down to Morris and encourages him to follow it.

Interestingly, the countryside behind Morris is black and white, while the landscape in front of him where the book is leading him, is coloured in rich tones of greens, browns and reds. This technique is used throughout the film as a subtle way to demonstrate the richness and colour books imbue our lives.

The Humpty Dumpty book leads Morris to a large home filled with books of all kinds - a house which is really a library. Morris lives at this library where he cares for all the books. He feeds them their cereal in the morning, puts their "dust jackets" on and also repairs damaged books. The damaged books are brought to life again when he reads them. When people come to the house looking for a book, they are shown in black and white. When Mr. Lessmore hands them a book, they become full of the richness of colours, a subtle suggestion of how books change people.

In the meantime, Morris rewrites his book. The years pass by until one day Mr. Lessmore decides it's time for him to leave. When he does, his portrait is placed on the walls of the library and another young person takes his place. His memoir, once just a lowly book, now becomes a flying one, perhaps hinting that now completed, it has the power to transform others.

This is a delightful short, only 15 minutes long, that will captivate and puzzle you.

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