The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
directed by William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg
When the short first started I thought, “oh great. A Katrina spin on the Wizard of Oz. No wonder they won an award.” I continued the watch the film and as the books brought color to this new found world, I was relieved it had swayed from The Wizard of Oz, but I was still finding the plot a bit to cliché for my taste. By the end of the film, by thoughts has completely changed.
As the plot progressed and the audience sees the books come to life, Mr. Morris Lessmore connects more and more with the audience. It starts with him caring for the books, feeding them their alphabet cereal (how clever) and dressing them in their book sleeves. The directors did a terrific job portraying the connection between the books and Mr. Lessmore as he grew old.
I rather enjoyed the directors’ choice in personifying the books. I liked that there was no talking in the film and the books spoke through the illustrations on their pages. They also characterized each book very well. I didn’t feel as if they were all just books. They were all specific characters with different movements and inflections and purposes.
I also enjoyed the director’s choice to speak through music. A friend, who is more experienced in music than I am, noticed that the composer, John Hunter,” incorporates the ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’ song into the main melodies. It’s almost a lietmotif, or a theme for a character.” He also noticed the effect of not playing music, seen when the book has no words when Morris first comes into the new world, and also when he is sleeping. These are the only moments that have no music whatsoever, and also the moments where he is not effected by the books. He also offered the idea of the similarity in music between Mr. Morris at the end when he is taken up by the books, and the music heard when he first meets the woman being pulled by the books in the beginning. This is a valid argument that provides a stronger connection seen between the two characters, making the end (when his picture is framed next to hers on the wall) more explainable.
And for the francophiles who noticed the French, there is symbolism, bien sûr! Both the French seen on Morris’s makeshift bed and the French seen in the book that is operated on are both excerpts from the same chapter of the same book. Unfortunately, it is a book I have never read, so I had to refer to the wikipedia entry for Autour de la Lune (Around the Moon).This is a book written in 1870 by Jules Verne that continues a trip to the moon seen in his prequel From the Earth to the Moon. The directors (or writers, depending on the detail of the script) could have chosen this French novel to remind the audience that this a New Orleanian’s trip to a magical place, but must still return. In Verne’s novel, the two main characters come across extra-terrestrials, and the excerpt seen in the short is them describing the moon in extraordinary detail. This is parrallel to the flying books being extra-terrestrials of course. But the details also point out the care the directors took in creating this magical place through all of the aspects I have written about here, and I’m sure many others I have yet to notice.
I am certainly glad the film was only a short because before it even came to a close, I was eager to pick up a book. See so for yourself at the link posted below (full, original version). I commend William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg on their win last night for Best Animated Short at the Oscars, and now see why the “Louisiana swamp rats” took home the gold. I give the film four stars for the sake of the beauty of the film and the many connections made to portray their simple message and emotions without words.
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