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Bill Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg Bend Reality

Autographed Imag.N.O.Tron app

Author William Joyce and his creative partner, Brandon Oldenburg, aren’t exactly the kind of guys who play it by the book. Their wildly successful,  Oscar-winning The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore was first a film (“We wanted a calling card to prove we could animate at Moonbot Studios”), then an app, next a print title (Atheneum, 2012), and now, in its “Imag.N.O.Tron” incarnation, an opportunity to experience some “augmented reality.”

While it sounds like an experience that requires ingesting something, it’s a technology. (Pressed to explain it, Oldenburg calls it “alchemy.”) The actual mechanics may be beyond me, but this is how it works.

Start with the print book, an iPad, and the Imag.N.O.Tron app. Turn the app on and position the tablet squarely over an illustrated page. When the app recognizes the image, the magic begins. Characters move; books flutter, fly, and whisper their lines aloud; shadows shift; and two-dimensional images become three-dimensional. Prompted to “look around,” pick up the iPad and watch the animation move into your space (here’s where the camera feature comes into play). Seeing is believing with this one, so take a look at the video demo below.

SLJ editor Daryl Grabarek walks through some of the amazing augmented reality “pages” in this companion app to The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, by William Joyce

After Morris Lessmore the film premiered, Joyce began working on the app. Encouraged to drop that project and write the book, the author noted, “We thought that there shouldn’t be a set of rules…. We feel like we were born in the Middle Ages and woke up in the Renaissance.”

On a recent Saturday morning in New York City, Joyce and Oldenburg demonstrated the Imag.N.O.Tron technology and signed apps. When asked what they had in the works, the duo laughed and talked about a ghost story they’re working on. “We’re trying to make the most terrifying reading experience we can think of.”

View the trailer


  1. This app is really something to look at as it brings your visualisation into action rather than just plain concepts in the mind of the reader. Educators can also look at other tools which have been mentioned in this blog for making their characters interactive and blend with the content of the course. This infographic gives us a bird’s view of basic graphic design tools generally being used