Sunday, November 16, 2014

William Joyce delights with Oscar contender 'Numberlys' and a new twist on Jack and Beanstalk tale

            On a recent trip to Shreveport I was honored to receive an insider's tour of Moonbot Studios, home to the award-winning artist and storyteller William Joyce and company. The studio took home an Oscar in 2012 for the animated short film “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” (one of my all-time favorites which makes me tear every time I watch it) and two daytime Emmys this year for a YouTube video titled "Scarcrow" commissioned by Chipotle Mexican Grill.
            Both are exceptional.
            Earlier this year Joyce and Christina Ellis released an innovative children’s book “The Numberlys,” based on the 1927 Fritz Lang silent movie “Metropolis.” Children may not get the reference but the book’s design, many times told vertically to emphasize skyscraping modern urban life like the film, reflects Lang’s black and white dystopia. The characters are workers living in a non-colored world, marching lockstep within a factory that only utilizes numbers. When a group of five friends yearn for something more, they develop an alphabet and words provide fresh new meanings for everyone.
             The idea actually began as an interactive app by allowing readers to use their smart phones or tablets to explore the story, plus now the app allows for readers of the book to find additional fun within its pages. The mini-games are based on each letter of the alphabet.
            Following “The Numberly’s” success as a children’s book and app, Moonbot Studios turned the story into a film, which is in the semi-finals running for this year’s Oscar race for best animated short. The final nominations will be announced Jan. 15.
            And if that wasn’t enough good news for Joyce fans and lovers of great storytelling, Joyce and Kenny Callicutt have released a spin on the old tale of Jack and the beanstalk titled “A Bean, A Stalk and a Boy Named Jack.” In this version, the kingdom is experiencing a drought, which is causing the king to have one stinky pinky. The princess asks the magician to help and his work encourages a small boy named Jack to plant a tiny bean. The giant in this tale is a non-threatening boy taking a bath who befriends Jack. As Jack returns home by slipping down the drain, the water falling saves the kingdom.
            November is “Picture Book Month” and I’ll have more reviews next week. But do yourself a favor and discover Joyce’s vibrant imagination and artwork if you haven’t done so already. By the way, Joyce is creator behind “Epic,” “Rolie Polie Olie,” “Robots” and “Rise of the Guardians.”

Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “ExploringCajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at