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William Joyce and DNEG Teaming on Animated ‘The Great Gatsby’ Feature

Brian Selznick to pen script for first ever animated version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 classic American novel.

Oscar-winning filmmaker, writer, and illustrator William Joyce has teamed-up with novelist, screenwriter, and illustrator Brian Selznick, and leading animation studio DNEG Feature Animation, on a brand-new animated feature film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 Jazz Age masterpiece, “The Great Gatsby.”

According to Joyce, “Gatsby continues to cast a powerful spell over readers unlike any other book in American letters. Much of the power of Gatsby comes from the enchantment of Fitzgerald’s prose. He created a vivid dreamscape that, to some degree, has eluded filmmakers since the silent era. The previous film versions were constrained by live action, but innovative animation could finally realize the elusive quality of the novel.”

Joyce, who wrote and directed the 2012 Academy Award winning animated short, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, will direct the feature, based on a script by Selznick, the celebrated creator of “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” and “Wonderstruck,” both adapted into film, with Hugo winning multiple Oscars.

“I've been friends with William Joyce for nearly my entire career,” Selznick said. “I've always marveled at his ability to invent indelible worlds and unforgettable characters. When he told me about his dream of making ‘Gatsby’ into an animated movie, I immediately understood what a magical synthesis this could be. The rich wonderland of William Joyce's vision is a brilliant match for the shimmering prose of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and I'm thrilled to help him bring this unique cinematic experience to life.”

Veteran producer Michael Siegel and DNEG SVP Creative Production David Prescott will also produce, with DNEG Feature Animation handling the animation.

Prescott added, “We are in the perfect time for an animated Gatsby. Viewers of all ages are embracing animation as another way to experience different stories. Bill and I have been floating a variety of ideas around over the last few years, discussing ideal stories to bring to the screen, and I really do feel that ‘The Great Gatsby’ is one such story. The style of animation and imagery we are creating for this project are so beautifully married together.”

DNEG Feature Animation has been working with Joyce on the original animated short, Mr. Spam Gets a New Hat. The team, headed by DNEG’s Taylor Moll as VFX Supervisor, has been developing the film using Unreal Engine, expanding the studio’s production pipeline with innovative new real-time game engine technology. Moll commented, “We are incredibly excited about the new methodologies we are employing on this short film with Bill and cannot wait to bring this same workflow to The Great Gatsby." 

Joyce began his film career on Toy Story and has since been a producer, director, screenwriter, and production designer in both animation and live-action. In 2009 he founded Moonbot Studios, a multimedia storytelling company producing books, apps, films and video games. Moonbot created a number of animated shorts, mobile apps, commercials, and other projects, earning numerous Emmy, Annie, Webby, Cannes. and Clio awards. The studio won an Academy Award for its 2012 animated short, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, and also earned accolades for its 2013 animated short film and mobile game, The Scarecrow, for Chipotle Mexican Grill. Joyce has written and illustrated 50 bestselling children’s books and novels which have been translated into over 40 languages. His feature films, all 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.     

Read AWN’ exclusive interview with Chris Wedge and William Joyce
Chris Wedge and Bill Joyce Talk 'Epic'

Selznick is best known as the writer of “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” (2007), “The Marvels” (2015), and “Wonderstruck” (2011). He won the 2008 Caldecott Medal for U.S. picture book illustration recognizing “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.” He is also known for illustrating children’s books, such as the covers of Scholastic’s 20th-anniversary editions of the “Harry Potter” series.

DNEG is currently in production on a number of movies including The Matrix 4, Dune, Uncharted and F9: The Fast Saga; and TV shows such as Jupiter’s Legacy, Shadow and Bone, The Wheel of Time, and The Irregulars. DNEG Feature Animation’s projects include Ron’s Gone Wrong (Disney) and Under The Boardwalk (Paramount).

Mr. Spam Gets a New Hat will premiere this summer.

Source: DNEG

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Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.