For Joyce, the release of DreamWorks Animation’s “Rise of the Guardians,” based on his series of children’s books, has been understandably “bittersweet.” The 14-year-old story, about a Santa with attitude, tattoos and swords (voiced by Alec Baldwin), and such other mythical childhood characters as the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and the Nightmare King Pitch (Jude Law), was inspired by his daughter Mary Katherine, who tragically died in 2010 from cancer at just 18.
“I was all set to co-direct it,” reports Joyce, who instead handed over the reins to first-time director Peter Ramsey, but stayed “very involved” as executive producer, “guiding it along — and it turned out 99% of what I’d originally imagined, thanks to Peter. We have very similar tastes in movies, and we both referenced Michael Powell and ‘The Thief of Baghdad,’ and his operatic style and use of color.”
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Joyce, who won an Oscar earlier this year for his animated short “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” produced out of his Louisiana-based Moonbot Studios, is also finishing two shorts, a game for Sony on the new Wonderbook format, and “Epic,” an animated feature with Blue Sky set for a release next summer.