Moonbot Studios

Moonbot Studios, Shreveport

Growing entertainment industry sparks visionary new idea in Shreveport

Shreveport native Bill Joyce has a long history of developing visually stunning stories. As an author and illustrator, he has worked with Disney/Pixar to develop characters for computer-animated classics like Toy Story and A Bug's Life, and he has penned several children's stories. He has long worked with studios across the country, but he always planned to bring an innovative venture to his hometown.

“I realized that I was still traveling across the country while the industry was increasingly doing work here (in Louisiana),” Joyce said.

In 2005, Joyce had been working on several film and television projects at his Shreveport office with designer and special effects artist Brandon Oldenburg of Reel FX in Dallas. Around that time, Lampton Enochs had moved his production services firm, Louisiana Production Consultants, to the InterTech Science Park in Shreveport. As Shreveport's entertainment industry continued its upward trajectory, Joyce, Enochs and Oldenburg naturally partnered on various projects.

The momentum in the entertainment industry was encouraged by state incentives, such as the Motion Picture Investor Tax Credit. For Joyce, this momentum was favorable. Sharing his vision, Oldenburg and Enochs realized this would be an ideal moment to develop Joyce's innovative venture — the ultimate studio for the production of quality animation, art and literature. The concept for Moonbot Studios was born.

The pieces were falling into place for the creation of a studio in Louisiana, but the partners needed a talented workforce and the support of state and local partners to ensure their vision could be realized.

Moonbot Studios becomes first major animation studio in Louisiana

When the Moonbot team first approached the state regarding their proposed studio, LED staff acknowledged the unique opportunity to support a cutting edge idea developed in Louisiana, and the partners utilized LED's Motion Picture Investor Tax Credit.

In 2009, with the financial support and high-quality talent they needed, Enochs, Joyce and Oldenburg established Moonbot Studios in the InterTech Science Park, becoming the first major animation studio in Louisiana.

The innovative leaders not only got the studio up and running, but also led Moonbot Studios in the development of a short animated film. The film is based on a story Joyce had written several years prior, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. Inspired by the events of Hurricane Katrina, the style of Buster Keaton and the whimsy of The Wizard of Oz, the 14-minute film brings to life a story about the power of books.

Poised for growth, Moonbot leaps on new technology

Capitalizing on the success of its popular short film, Moonbot Studios developed a multi-platform interactive system to further share the stories of Morris Lessmore. The partners once again reached out to LED to see their visions through to fruition.

LED FastStart® — rated the No. 1 workforce program in the nation — provided the ideal training staff for the studio, identifying instructors with an expertise in app development. Through the coordination of FastStart, Moonbot Studios collaborated with another Shreveport-based company, Twin Engine Labs, to create a companion iPad app for the Morris Lessmore film.

“We're a startup company,” said Enochs. “We didn't necessarily have the wherewithal to go down that path and create the iPad book. But with the help from FastStart, we were able to create the (Morris Lessmore) iPad book.”

As this new venture began to take shape, Moonbot fully embraced the potential of this new platform. In 2011, the company launched an interactive division that concentrates entirely on interactive media such as apps, e-books and games.

“FastStart enabled us to move quickly (and) bring in the right talent,” Oldenburg said. “They have been hands-on where it was needed and hands-off where it's needed.”

Developed by 100 percent Louisiana talent, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore app received praise from coast to coast after its release in May 2011.

The story continues…

The work of these innovators did not go unnoticed. Immediately after its release, downloads of the app surged. In July 2011 it hit the No. 1 spot on the iTunes paid-app chart. It also reached No. 1 on the top-grossing chart and became the No. 3 top-grossing app of all kinds. The New York Times listed the app as one of The Top 10 Apps of 2011, highlighting it as one of the best examples of the next generation of interactive children's books. Apps Magazine named “Morris” their App of the Year, iPad Insights named “Morris” the Best App of 2011 and called it a “game-changer.”

In February 2012, the film that inspired Moonbot's interactive division received its recognition as well. After earning praise from members of the film industry, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore won the Oscar® for Best Animated Short Film. Moonbot Studios had landed.

“Louisiana’s custom-fit solutions helped us create our Oscar®-winning film.” 

Brandon Oldenburg & William Joyce

In the studio's first three years, it collected some of the industry’s most prominent awards. But the partners and their staff did not let the success of the Morris Lessmore franchise distract them from producing more groundbreaking materials. With a staff of more than 45 skilled storytellers, animators and designers, the studio continues to develop a growing line of films, apps, stories and augmented reality platforms.

Since the initial triumph of Morris Lessmore, Moonbot Studios released new books, such as The Mischievians; new apps and games, including Lollipop 3: Eggs of Doom; and interactive, augmented-reality projects, such as Diggs Nightcrawler. For their project The Numberlys, Moonbot released multiple platforms to enjoy the story, including games, a short film and a picture book. The Numberlys short film won top prizes on the festival circuit including Best Animated Short Film at the Cleveland International Film Festival, where it qualified for Academy Award consideration.

The studio also developed interactive apps and other projects for corporate uses, including an app for the Ford Fusion and the National Wildlife Federation. Even Morris Lessmore made his return, this time in a collaborative short film for Dolby Labs: Silent, a Short Film, which premiered at the 2014 Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences Sci-Tech Awards. In April 2015, Silent won Daytime Creative Arts Emmy® awards in two categories: Outstanding Special Class Animated Program and Outstanding Directing in an Animated Program.

Moonbot developed a short film, The Scarecrow, for Chipotle Mexican Grill to promote sustainable foods as an alternative to processed foods. The video was a companion to The Scarecrow adventure game app for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Since its debut, the Scarecrow has received 100 prestigious awards, including two Daytime Emmy Awards, fourteen awards at the Cannes Lions, including two prestigious Grand Prix awards, and five Webby awards.

“When you have everybody supporting you, you feel invincible, and you need to have that attitude when you're doing something as entrepreneurial as starting an animation studio. You obviously have to have a great idea to start with to create a story. But, it can just sit on a shelf. With LED, it was able to get off the page, on to a book … and multiple screens.”
Brandon Oldenburg
Special Effects Artist
Reel FX 

Moonbot acquired the film rights to two young adult book series: The Extincts by Veronica Cossanteli and Olivia Kidney by Ellen Potter. In April 2014, the studio announced it is developing the films, and intends to be the first company to produce a full-length, feature animated film entirely in the state of Louisiana.