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Western Animation / The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

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The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a 2011 animated short film written by William Joyce and co-directed by Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg.

Morris Lessmore is a writer in the French Quarter of New Orleans, writing his memoir. A great storm blows through the city, ripping buildings from their foundations and sending them hurtling through the air, along with Morris himself. The winds also blow all the words off of the journal in which Morris is writing his memoir.

When Morris finally falls back to earth he finds a blighted, ruined city, with everything including Morris and the other people in black and white. He then sees a strange flock of flying books, which are carrying away a young woman. A walking Humpty Dumpty picture book beckons Morris to a library in which all the books can walk and fly. Morris, who turns back to color when he enters the library, becomes the custodian and caretaker of the magic books.

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It won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.


Tropes:

  • And the Adventure Continues: After Morris dies, a young girl enters the library and is turned color by the books, seemingly becoming the next librarian.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: All the books. The Humpty Dumpty book can communicate with Morris by flipping its pages so that the illustrations are animated.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Implied at the end when the books carry Morris up into the light and away.
  • Call-Back: Morris first sees the flying books when they are carrying a young woman up into the sky and away. Then he sees her picture in the library. At the end, when an elderly Morris dies, he becomes young again and the books carry him up into the sky and away, and his picture appears in the library. The strong implication is that the woman was the previous librarian.
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  • Deliberately Monochrome: The cartoon, in color at first, becomes black and white after the city is devastated. The books bring back color to the land and the people.
  • Flying Books: They can fly, they can walk, they can dance.
  • Iris Out: Appropriate for a film that takes inspiration from silent movies.
  • Medium Blending: The short uses stop-motion sets with CGI characters, along with hand-drawn animation for the Humpty Dumpty illustrations.
  • Mime and Music-Only Cartoon: No dialogue.
  • Monochrome to Color: Everything is rendered black and white by the hurricane, symbolizing the devastation of Katrina. When the books come to people they turn color again, starting with Morris when he enters the library. The books sweeping overhead also turn the grass green.
  • Orphanage of Love: This is what the library is, especially with animate, sentient books. Morris feeds them alphabet cereal and dresses them in dust jackets.
  • Shout-Out: Morris is drawn to look like Buster Keaton, right down to the porkpie hat, and the scene where the storm wrecks the town is highly reminiscent of the climax to Keaton film Steamboat Bill, Jr.. The part where the buildings are flung up into the air also recalls The Wizard of Oz.
  • The Stoic: Morris, being an Expy of Buster Keaton, isn't given to strong emotional reactions, not even when a bunch of flying books pass by.
  • Time Passes Montage: A quick one shows Morris handing out books to his neighbors and resting under a tree with his books, ending when Morris gets up and is shown to be old and using a cane.
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