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Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024

A Story of Loss

William Joyce.2023.Jeremy Hernandez

William Joyce wrote “Ollie’s Odyssey” as a way to deal with loss.

William Joyce channels tragedy into an award-winning program

Special to 318 Forum

William Joyce’s “Ollie’s Odyssey,” the story of a lost beloved stuffed rabbit named Ollie, has won hearts across the globe since it was published in 2016. Now, the 2022 Netflix series, “Lost Ollie,” has taken top honors in five Emmy categories, winning more than any other program in the 2023 Children’s & Family Emmy® Awards.

In November 2023, “Lost Ollie” was nominated for 10 Children’s and Family Emmy Awards. During the awards ceremony on Dec. 16, the series won top honors in five Emmy categories, including Visual Effects for a Live Action Program, Directing for a Single Camera Program, Music Direction and Composition for a Live Action Program, Editing of a Single Camera Live Action Program and Lighting, Camera and Technical Arts.

Joyce wrote the book “Ollie’s Odyssey” during a very difficult time in his life.

His 18-year-old daughter, Mary Katherine, had died tragically of a brain tumor, and shortly after her death, his wife, Elizabeth was diagnosed with ALS. Telling the story of loss in “Ollie’s Odyssey” helped Joyce get through his own loss. This story of loss also connected “Lost Ollie” creative and executive producer Shannon Tindle and director Peter Ramsey to want to do the production.

Tindle worked with Joyce on the 2012 animated film “Rise of the Guardians,” which is also based on a book by Joyce, “The Guardians of Childhood.” The director of “Lost Ollie,” Peter Ramsey, and Joyce were co-directing “Guardians” until family illnesses curtailed Joyce’s directional involvement. Tindle says, ‘Lost Ollie’ is definitely an adventure, it’s definitely fun, but I also wanted it to deal with loss. I don’t think people talk about it enough. I know what he went through with the loss of his wife and his daughter. That’s what I connected to most in the story: the heart of what he had gone through.”

Joyce says, “I often think of this as the little book that could. No one wanted me to pursue it. It was too many characters, it would cost too much money to produce, and there were questions about whether it would appeal to a broad enough audience. I started the novel when my daughter was first sick and finished it just before my wife passed. It was such a dark time in my life, but I was lucky that I had friends and family who stood with me every day and helped. The book reflects that. It may be about loss, but it is also about loyalty and friendship. It meant a lot to me that Shannon and Peter took on the adaptation. They are both great guys and they understood what I had envisioned for the series. The book has been translated into many languages. Its success is so satisfying – to see how people have appreciated it. Shannon and Peter and their team did an exemplary job bringing the story to life.”

“Lost Ollie” is Joyce’s 12th television project to win an Emmy. He has received six individual Emmys. In 2017, he was a winner for the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Special Class Animated Program with “Taking Flight”; in 2015, he won a Daytime Emmy for Special Class Animated Program with “Silent”; in 2014, for Original Daytime Program Series with “The Scarecrow”; and in 2005 for Outstanding Special Class Animated Program with “Rolie Polie Olie.” In December, Joyce was also awarded the prestigious 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Illustrators.

“Lost Ollie” is an unusual hybrid of liveaction 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. “Lost Ollie,” which was released in 2022, can be streamed on Netflix.

About William Joyce

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 film career on “Toy Story” and has since been a producer, screenwriter and production designer on animation and live-action films. His feature films, based on his books, include “Epic,” “Rise of the Guardians,” “Robots” and “Meet the Robinsons.” His television series include the groundbreaking “Rolie Polie Olie,” for which he was creator and showrunner. Joyce began his career as a children’s book author/illustrator in 1981 and published his first self-illustrated work, “George Shrinks,” in 1985.

Joyce has written and illustrated 50 bestselling children’s books and novels, which have been translated into over 40 languages.

Some of his most popular early books include the “Rolie Polie Olie” series with “Sleepy Time Olie,” “Snowie Olie” and “Big Time Olie,” which became a three-time Emmy Award-winning animated series on the Disney Channel. “George Shrinks” also 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.” Bill was named by Newsweek magazine as “One of the 100 People to Watch in the New Millennium.”


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