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William Joyce: The Reel Deal

Born December 11, 1957, William (Bill) Joyce's dream is to be remembered for "a significant contribution to the cause of global silliness." (Publisher's Weekly) His books, TV shows and movies, from George Shrinks to Robots to The Rise of the Guardians have amazed and amused audiences for over 20 years.

Bill got an early start writing and illustrating his own stories. "Billy's Booger" was a popular picture book with his elementary school classmates. The plot is simple enough but guaranteed to get yucks: Billy sneezes out a slimy, smart-aleck booger who becomes his friend. The kids did love it, but unlike his laterGeorge Shrinks by William Joyce work, all it earned Bill was a trip to the principal's office. But the booger's adventures continue. These days Bill uses those stories and pix to break the ice at his school visits, which they do with cheerful grossness. There's even talk of reincarnating Billy's Booger as a genuine picture book.

Bill was not exactly an academic whiz kid. He hated everything about school except for art class and being with his friends. He loved watching movies like The Wizard of Oz and Robin Hood. He liked the way these movies told terrific stories with their images. At Southern Methodist University, he studied filmmaking and illustration. When he works on his books today, often it's as though he's seeing them as movies in his head.

Fresh out of college, Bill began to get a lot of work illustrating other people's stories. Soon he became frustrated. He wanted to tell his own stories. His first self-illustrated book appeared in 1985--George Shrinks, which has since been made into a PBS series. It got great reviews in the big papers for his silliness, craftsmanship, and clear joy in writing.

Soon Bill Joyce was on his way. His illustrations are known for their terrific detail and brilliant colors, fired by his imagination and his joy for the techniques other famous illustrators of the past: Maxfield Parrish, N.C. Wyeth, and a more modern illustrator, Maurice Sendak.

Meet Bill's friends on the pages of books and on the screen
Bill creates whole neighborhoods of fantastic people to visit in his books.

Nicholas Cricket by Joyce Maxner, illustrated by William Joyce
Bill didn't write this jazzy picture book story of the Bug-a-Wug Band that features slap-a-spoon drummers and the crick-crick-crickety kazoo hummers, but it's so completely in keeping with his sense of adventure that his fans should love it.

A Day with Wilbur Robinson
Wilbur's family is nutty but fun. Crazy stuff happens all the time at their place. Outer space adventures? Check. Dog-riding frogs who play jazz? Check. Tons of fun? Also, check! Based in a large part on Bill's own family.

Bentley and Egg
A frog of conscience and smarts, Bently Hopperton does his darnedest to protect his duck friend's egg.

Santa Calls
Art and little sister Esther thought their lives at their family's Wild West show were adventurous already, but an S.O.S. from the big guy at the North Pole sends the sibs on an even wilder round of adventures.

The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs (Made into the 2013 movie, Epic)
When an elderly woman gets sick, she can no longer tend her garden. Enter the evil Spider Queen who brings destruction to the beautiful sanctuary. But the woman's friends, the Brave Good Bugs, send to the Leaf Men for help in defeating the Spider Queen and her minions.

Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo by William Joyce

Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo
Huge and good-natured Bob is adopted by an American family in the 1930s. He loves to play baseball, but when he chases cars he gets into trouble with the police.

Big Screen Fun

Ultimately, Bill was able to combine his love of writing and illustration with filmmaking. He worked on the original Toy Story. And in 1997, he cowrote and produced the movie Buddy. Buddy is based on the true story of an madcap socialite named Gertrude Lintz who tried to raise a gorilla on her New York estate during the 1930s. Bill enjoyed combining his love for animals, the 1930s, and elements of King Kong in one project.Later, Buddy was made into a chapter book.

Likewise, Rolie Polie Olie, the TV adventures of a round robot living on a planet where everything is round, won an Emmy-award before it was ever made into a book.

And how about those Robots? In a world made of metal, the robots rule. And it's a world full of gadgets and mechanical what-nots. No humans or spaceships here. No rockets, either. Just mean company guys who think everybody needs an upgrade. It's up to young Rodney Copperbottom to save Robot Rise of the Guardians City. On this film, Bill had a lot of fun working with people who really know their machines--junk dealers, machinists, and more.

Rise of the Guardians, an amazing film that is perfect for the holidays, follows the adventures of the Guardians of Childhood: North; E. Aster Bunnymund; Jack Frost; MiM; Toothiana; and Sandman. You can read more about each character in the author's splendid novels and picturebooks, several of which are owned by the library.

So, has Hollywood swallowed up Bill Joyce? Will there be any more books? Never fear, the madness will continue. According to the a 1996 interview in Publisher's Weekly, he loves being able to write and illustrate the stories the way -he- wants, and he always has two or three books in the works. Bill's got lots of help and inspiration at home, too. His wife, Elizabeth, three kids, and many other family members do him a good turn by posing for his books.

Want to read more about this author? Check out The World of William Joyce Scrapbook, and browse these Web sites:

Author William Joyce talks about his book, 'George Shrinks'
This 2000 interview with CNN has Bill answering readers' questions on the effects of tv on kids, his special research group, his favorite books as a kid, and more. Lots of fun.

A Video Interview with William Joyce
In this interview, Bill discusses topics ranging from King Kong to whoopee cushions to ice cream planets.

The author's own site has sections linking to sites for George Shrinks, Robots, the Mischievians, Rolie Polie Olie, a biography from the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature, and the Katrinarita Gras Foundation, which helps artists affected by the 2005 hurricanes in the Gulf States.

The World of William Joyce
This site from his publisher has these sections: His Story, Coloring Pages, and trailers from some of his films.