After months of speculation and rumors of a possible purchase, the founder of Moonbot Studios William Joyce has announced the re-establishment of the Academy Award-winning company in Shreveport.
Joyce has written and illustrated 50 bestselling and classic children’s books and written, produced or designed a number of major feature films for 20th Century Fox, Dreamworks and Disney. Joyce began his film career doing design and story work on Pixar’s “Toy Story” and “A Bug’s Life” and according to Blue Sky Animation Studios co-founder Chris Wedge has been busy pushing the boundaries of animation and storytelling ever since.
In 2012 Joyce founded Moonbot Studios in his hometown of Shreveport, a move that Joyce admits seemed at odds with Hollywood norms. Joyce explained, “John Lasseter (Chief Creative Officer of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios) had told me many times, ‘Bill, you get a great deal of your strength and inspiration from Shreveport,’ and Chris Wedge said to me that the future of animation is in being smaller. When you get advice from Mt. Rushmore you’d be a dope not to listen.”
The dream of starting a world class creative company in the country’s 106th largest city worked, according to Joyce.
“We were able to recruit some of the best young talent in America. They liked our spirit, our bare-knuckled gumption, but more than anything they liked the stories we wanted to tell” said Joyce. “Good storytelling is the heart of everything I’ve ever done. And I wanted it to be the DNA of Moonbot.”
The local community embraced the company and its employees and soon dubbed them The Moonbots. When the “little-studio-that-could” proved its mettle by winning the best animated short film Oscar for its maiden effort “The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr Morris Lessmore,” the mayor proclaimed a city holiday and a ticker tape parade ensued, the first such celebration in downtown Shreveport since the end of World War Two.
“It was like something out of a Frank Capra movie,” remembers Joyce. ”Real life very seldom gives you moments like that.”
Soon Moonbot Studios earned international acclaim for its work. The Morris Lessmore book became a #1 New York Times bestseller and has been translated into 35 languages. The studio’s follow-up short film “The Numberlys” was short-listed for the Academy Award and its book and app versions won numerous awards. The Numberlys was followed by the Cannes Lion and CLIO winning work for Chipotle’s “Scarecrow” and a lengthy list of critically successful projects.
“I don’t think there’s been a creative company this small that has achieved so much in so many venues in such a short period of time” said Christina Steinberg, former Dreamworks producer. Joyce added, “Our young crew were like creative samurai. They never flinched. They never faltered. If I asked the impossible they stayed chill and fearless and did what had to be done. Directing them has been the highlight of my career.”
But the company hit trying times when Joyce’s teenage daughter and then his wife were each confronted with terminal illnesses. With Bill’s time divided the company turned more to work for hire commercials and gaming initiatives. The ambitions to generate sustaining revenue were not realized, and the company eventually dissolved after exploring some alternatives that would have moved the company away from Shreveport. Joyce was able to retain all his intellectual properties and after a year of recovering from his family’s tragic losses he was ready to rebuild.
“I intend to bring Moonbot back to its original purpose,” Joyce said, “Original books, feature animation and television that can delight a worldwide audience. Shreveport is my hometown. The idea of home and family is a part of all my work. So keeping Moonbot here makes every kind of sense “
Moonbot will continue its highly successful publishing imprint with Simon and Schuster and is exploring collaborations with television and feature companies that will be formalized soon. Moonbot’s first animated feature will be announced in early summer, with Joyce directing.
“I’ve been fortunate to have been mentored by directors like Lasseter, Wedge, Francis Ford Coppola, and Guillermo del Toro,” Joyce said. He will be teaming with del Toro on an upcoming project.
Joyce indicated he will also be exploring more investment opportunities for local investors within the coming months.
“I have learned a lot about what helps create a winning company. This community has always been so supportive of Moonbot and me, we want very much to bring jobs and be nurtured by this wonderful community as we imagine and create original entertainment in the years ahead.”
In addition to an Academy Award, Moonbot Studios and William Joyce have won 4 Emmy Awards, 14 Cannes Lions Awards, 17 Clio Awards and were recently nominated for 3 more Emmys. Mr. Joyce will be named Humanist of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment to the Humanities this week in Baton Rouge.