Society of Illustrators Honors Joyce
Shreveport author, illustrator and filmmaker William Joyce is the recipient of the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Illustrators.
William Joyce Receives 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award
Eric Carle had a “Very Hungry Caterpillar,” Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) had a “Grinch that Stole Christmas,” and Chris van Allsburg had a “Polar Express.” Shreveport’s Academy Award-winning filmmaker, writer and illustrator William Joyce has “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.” And each of these world-renowned illustrators also has the honor of being named the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Society of Illustrators. It’s quite the distinction for Joyce.
The Society of Illustrators presented the award to Joyce on Nov. 9 at the Museum of Illustration in New York City. Two awards are given annually, one posthumously and one to a living illustrator. Past recipients have also included Shel Silverstein (“The Giving Tree”) and Maurice Sendak (“Where The Wild Things Are”), to name a few.
The Lifetime Achievement Awards were established in 2005 by past chairs of The Original Art. Nominees must be judged to have a body of work that documents an innovative, pioneering contribution to the field of children’s book illustration, and the final selection is made by artists whose work has been juried into the previous year’s show.
Joyce’s first visit to the Society of Illustrators on the Upper East Side in NYC was in his 20s, right out of college, when he interviewed with publishing houses Random House, Scribner’s (now Simon & Schuster and Joyce’s current publisher), and Harper and Row (now HarperCollins), who published his first book, “Tammy and the Gigantic Fish,” written by James and Katherine Gray.
In reflecting on what the award means to him, Joyce says, “It’s going to be a long time before I wipe the smile from my face with this one. The honor of being given the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Illustrators sort of brings my career full circle. I have the most profound memories of entering that space to meet with Dr. Seuss’ editor, Ole Risom of Random House, and seeing illustrations up the staircase and over the bar of artists I had admired all my life. These were giants of the past whom I had admired since I could blink – Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth. It was the coolest afternoon of my young life and the beginning of my publishing career. To be honored among these greats is more than I would ever have dreamed on that afternoon so many books, films and experiences ago. It’s surreal and wonderful!”
Longtime friend, award-winning book jacket designer (“Jurassic Park”), Batman aficionado and fellow Society of Illustrators member Chip Kidd has this to say about Joyce: “If only we could see it all through Bill Joyce’s eyes: where everything is so awkwardly beautiful, gorgeously flawed, slap-stick perfect. It’s the world we would all love to move into tomorrow if only there was any space available. But it’s all taken up with his glorious imagination, his generosity of spirit, with his wild heart. At least he grants us tickets to visit. And we are delighted to do so. Thank you, Mr. Joyce. Much Love, Chip Kidd.”
The art featured on the Society of Illustrators website announcing him as the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award is “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr.
Morris Lessmore,” possibly Joyce’s best-known book. It debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list in July 2012, a position it held for several weeks.
“Morris Lessmore” has been translated into over 40 languages and was named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 best children’s books of all time. “Morris Lessmore” is the most expansive and experimental of Joyce’s stories.
With his company, Moonbot Studios, Joyce, along with his partners, produced the Lessmore story in a variety of media and mediums simultaneously. A short film was in production (using handmade miniature sets) while the book was being illustrated (along with Joe Bluhm), and an interactive story app was being devised. The short film won Mr. Joyce an Oscar, and the story app was inducted into the app Hall of Fame.
Joyce is an American writer, illustrator and filmmaker whose work has appeared on numerous covers of The New Yorker magazine and who has won six Emmys, three Annies and an Academy Award. Joyce began his career as a children’s book author/illustrator in 1981 and published his first self-illustrated work, “George Shrinks,” in 1985. Today, he is the award-winning author/illustrator of more than 50 best-selling children’s books and novels, which have been translated into over 40 languages and adapted into successful feature films and television shows. Some of Joyce’s most popular early books include the “Rolie Polie Olie” series that Joyce adapted into a three-time, Emmy-Award-winning animated series on the Disney Channel. There is also “George Shrinks,” which became a Louisiana Public Broadcasting (LPB) television series.
Other best-selling titles include “Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo,” “Santa Calls” (the inspiration for Sak’s Fifth Avenue’s New York window displays in 1994 and 1995), “A Day with Wilbur Robinson,” “The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs,” and more recently “The Guardians Collection: Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King,” “Jack Frost: The End Becomes the Beginning,” and “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” that became the Academy Award-winning Best Animated Short Film of 2012.
The Society of Illustrators, founded in 1901, is the oldest nonprofit organization dedicated to the art of illustration in America. Notable Society members have included N.C. Wyeth, Rube Goldberg, Norman Rockwell and many others.
The Society of Illustrators Museum of Illustration was established in 1981 and offers year-round themed exhibits, art education programs and annual juried competitions. The museum’s permanent collection houses 2,500 pieces cataloged for scholarly use and displayed periodically. In 2012, MoCCA Gallery was created with a focus on curated exhibits of comic and cartoon art.
Joyce is currently in production of the first animated version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 Jazz Age classic, “The Great Gatsby,” which he is directing. The screenplay adaptation is by novelist, screenwriter and illustrator Brian Selznick, author of “The Secret Life of Hugo Cabret.”
Other big news is that the Netflix series “Lost Ollie,” based on Joyce’s book “Ollie’s Odyssey,” has received 10 Emmy nominations. “Lost Ollie” is an unusual hybrid of live-action and animation from series creator and executive producer Shannon Tindle, who produced “Kubo and the Two Strings” and “Coraline.” Academy Award-winner Peter Ramsey, who produced “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” is director and executive producer. The cast includes “Frozen” star Jonathan Groff as the voice of Ollie, Mary J. Blige as Rosy, Tim Blake Nelson as the voice of Zozo, the clown, Gina Rodriquez as Momma, Jake Johnson as Daddy, and Kesler Talbot as Billy, Ollie’s best friend. The Emmys will be awarded in January 2024.