Film and TV

He Co-Designed DART's Traveling Man. Now, Brandon Oldenburg Is Up For an Oscar.

While browsing this morning's list of Academy Award nominees, I came across one very familiar name: Brandon Oldenburg, beneath the heading Short Film (Animated). For years, of course, he was best known as one of the bright young minds behind Deep Ellum-based Reel FX. Then he became known as the man who, with Brad Oldham, decorated Deep Ellum with the Traveling Man sculptures. But this morning, he's an Oscar nominee ... with a short film rejected by the USA Film Festival.

Oldenburg and William Joyce, a longtime collaborator, have been nominated for their remarkable short The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore, an interactive children's book that doubles as an iPad app. It has played Dallas but once: at the Dallas Video Festival in the fall. But fret not: Some time today, Oldenburg tells Unfair Park, it will be available on Vimeo. As soon as Oldenburg shoots me the film, I will replace the trailer above with the whole film.

"This is amazing," he says this morning when reached at Moonbot Studios' HQ in Shreveport. Oldenburg moved to Louisiana in the fall of 2009, no easy decision.

It was, he says now, just "a wacky dream" and a giant risk. He didn't want to leave Dallas, but his collaborators told him: "The train is leaving the station." Much of New Orleans's film-making community had decamped for film-friendly Shreveport following Katrina; the town was rich with tax incentives. Oldenburg could not resist the call. And now, this.

"We are freaking out," he says. "It's so rad. It's such affirmation for making such a crazy decision to move to Shreveport. But we have an amazing crew here and never doubted it for a second. Years of building the studio in Dallas, it was a hard decision." He's here often, with family in Fort Worth and friends in Dallas. "But we started all over."

When we spoke this morning, you could hear the occasional outbursts occurring 'round the Moonbot offices; they're a giddy lot, and rightly so.

"We did the research, and there have been more people that have gone into outer space than have been nominated for an animated Oscar short," Oldenburg says. I'll take his word. "To be among 6,000 considered and then to make it into the final five? It was our goal to get to this point -- this point, the nominated point. We were building a studio with that as the goal. This is affirming that we are doing something right. And as crazy as it may sound -- to build a studio in Shreveport -- it's just crazy enough that it worked."

He says James Faust, artistic director for the Dallas International Film Festival, begged him for the OK to include The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore in last year's fest. Oldenburg declined, hoping instead to get into the USA Film Festival -- where winning an animated-short first prize instantly qualifies a filmmaker for Oscar consideration. But the USA Film Festival passed. "The timing sucked," Oldenburg says. "In hindsight we should have gone with the Dallas International Film Festival." Bart Weiss wound up including it in last year's video fest, celebrating not only the artistry of the film but the inventiveness of the accompanying app.

Now, there is but one question on Oldenburg's mind as he prepares for the Oscar ceremony next month: "Who am I wearing?" He laughs. "Any Dallas designer, call me. I'd be happy to entertain it. Dickies is out of Fort Worth, aren't they?"

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky