William Joyce Biography

Author, illustrator, and producer

Born William Edward Joyce, December 11, 1957, in Shreveport, LA; son of George Edward and Mary Katherine (Hargrove) Joyce; married Frances Elizabeth Baucum, December 28, 1985; children: Mary Katherine and Jackson Edward. Education: Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX, B.A., 1981.

Addresses: Home —3302 Centenary Blvd., Shreveport, LA 71104. Office —c/o Harper Collins Publishers, 10 E. 53rd St., New York, NY 10022-5244.


Began working as a children's book illustrator, 1981; author of children's books, 1985—; creative consultant, Toy Story , Disney, 1995; screen-writer, producer, and set designer, Buddy , 1997; developer of television specials for FOX Network, 1997—; visual effects consultant, A Bug's Life , Pixar, 1998; creator and executive producer, Role Polie Olie , Disney Channel, 1998—; executive producer, designer, story editor, George Shrinks , PBS, 2001—; producer and production designer, Robots , 2005.

Awards: Daytime Emmy Award for best production design, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, for Rolie Polie Olie , 1999; named "Louisiana Legend" by Friends of Louisiana Public Broadcasting, 2003.


William Joyce has branched out from a successful career as a children's book author and illustrator to become the producer of the popular

children's television shows Rolie Polie Olie and George Shrinks. In addition, he has contributed to the blockbuster movies Toy Story, A Bug's Life , and Robots. On both the page and screen, Joyce has become known for unique characters that appeal to kids and adults alike, as well as for a visual style that harkens back to earlier eras. His artwork has been collected by such grown-up celebrities as Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg.

Joyce was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, on December 11, 1957, to George and Mary Katherine Joyce. He demonstrated an early interest in his chosen field, entering a classroom contest for the best written and illustrated story in the fourth grade. While his classmates loved "Billy's Booger, " the tale of a young boy who blows a green, globby superpower out of his nose, the teacher found the story offensive and sent young Joyce to the principal's office. Joyce had limited access to stories as a child, but thanks to a friendly librarian, he read many classics of children's literature, including Peter Rabbit, Stuart Little , A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh books, and Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. "I didn't have many books as a kid, " Joyce told CNN.-com. "I lived in a small southern town and the only library was way out in the woods in an honest-to-God log cabin. Thankfully, however, there was a very courageous librarian who loved children's books. So I was able to, on occasional visits, see books that changed my life."

Joyce studied film at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, graduating with a B.A. in 1981. Upon graduation, he began working as a children's book illustrator, and in 1985 Harper published his first self-illustrated work, George Shrinks. The book tells the story of a boy who wakes up one day to find that he has shrunk. He devises clever maneuvers to accomplish his daily tasks, such as jumping into a goldfish bowl to feed his pet fish and riding on his brother's back to take out the trash. George Shrinks became a Public Broadcating System (PBS) television series in 2001. Joyce introduced one of his most well-loved characters in his next book, Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo , published in 1988. The book centers on a happy-go-lucky dinosaur who moves in with a human family. Dinosaur Bob was followed by 1990's A Day with Wilbur Robinson. A humorous look at the day in the life of an unusual family, Joyce based the book on events from his own childhood. Walt Disney Productions has optioned the book for a feature film. "It wasn't until I visited what were thought to be normal households as a child that I realized our family was different, " Joyce observed in an interview for PBS' Reading Rockets website. "When I would go to a normal household where people sat around and ate dinner at the table and said grace and please and thank you, I thought that was curious and odd because at my house we were throwing food and there was opera playing and people were singing at the table. And there was so much pandemonium that quiet meals in the sitting position seemed very strange to me."

Joyce continued to publish books, including Bently and Egg, Santa Calls , and The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs , a tender tale of memory and loss based on a story Joyce told his young daughter, Mary Katherine, after the death of a terminally ill friend. Joyce took his first foray into the world of film in 1995, when he served as creative consultant to the popular Pixar film Toy Story. Two years later he coauthored the screenplay to the Columbia Pictures live-action film Buddy , based on his book of the same name. In 1998, he worked on the special effects for the Pixar film A Bug's Life and, that same year, he began serving as executive producer of the animated television series, Rolie Polie Olie , for the Disney Channel. The concept for the show began as a book, Joyce explained to Reading Rockets. "It was about a planet of robots where everything is round, " he recalled. "But I'd gotten tired of drawing circles. It was just boring me crazy. Circles are very precise and you really have to get it just right or it looks lumpy and bad and I'm really not much for precision. So I shelved it—until I got approached to do a television series." Through computer animation, Joyce could easily create precise circles without the tedium. He eventually finished the Rolie Polie Olie book as well; it was published in 1999.

George Shrinks , which is based on Joyce's 1985 book, premiered on PBS in 2001. Joyce serves as executive producer, designer, and story editor for the show. He returned to film in 2005 with Robots , produced by Blue Sky. Joyce served as producer and production designer, working mainly from his office in Shreveport and emailing drawings to director Chris Wedge. Reviewers were quick to praise the film's visual appeal, if not its pacing or plot. " Robots is one of the most visually impressive animated features ever made. In terms of design and execution, it's on par with Pinocchio and Fantasia , " enthused Rudy Panucci and Melanie Larch of the Charleston Gazette. Writing for the Denver Post , Steven Rosen noted the vintage appeal of Joyce's designs, which were inspired by art deco and appliances and industrial objects from the 1930s and 1940s. "While kids may not notice, parents may think Robots ' style is reminiscent of a 1940s-era gas station/diner on Route 66, " Rosen observed. "Everything looks progressively new and exciting for its time—bright colors, bold graphics, lots of gauges and rivets, and a sense of industry on the march. The star robots in this film recall the gas pumps, auto parts, cash registers, jukeboxes, candy machines, toasters, and vacuum cleaners of Americana."

Although he says he enjoys all his projects, Joyce told the Baton Rouge Advocate 's Judy Bergeron that writing and illustrating books is his favorite job. "Doing books is like getting paid for recess. Nobody messes with you. It's great, " he remarked. "TV shows are almost as good as recess. You have more people to play with, so sometimes there can be friction. Stakes are small enough for TV so that if it gets good ratings, they leave us alone. Movies cost more money. They're more frustrating, although 20th Century FOX has been great to us. They like everything we've done. That's rare." Joyce told CNN.com that technological advances have enhanced his work significantly. "We live in an age of technological wonders, " he observed. "It is a thrilling time for a storyteller like me to be able to do my stories the way I want to do them in so many different media. The technology is there and there are enough people in charge who are willing to trust that some backwater swamp rat like me might actually know what I am doing, and trust me enough to oversee a bunch of television shows. Pinch me so I will know this is true."

Selected writings

Author and illustrator

George Shrinks , Harper (New York City), 1985; special miniature edition, 1985.

Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo , Harper, 1988.

A Day with Wilbur Robinson , HarperCollins (New York City), 1990.

Bently … Egg , HarperCollins, 1992.

Santa Calls , HarperCollins, 1993.

The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs , HarperCollins, 1996.

Buddy , HarperCollins, 1997.

The World of William Joyce Scrapbook , HarperCollins, 1997.

Dinosaur Bob (board book), HarperCollins, 1998.

Life with Bob (board book), HarperCollins, 1998.

Baseball Bob (board book), HarperCollins, 1999.

Rolie Polie Olie , HarperCollins, 1999.

Snowie Rolie , HarperCollins, 2000.

Sleepy Time Olie , HarperCollins, 2001.

Rocket Up, Rolie , Disney, 2002.

Big Time Olie , Laura Geringer Books (New York City), 2002.


Catherine and James Gray, Tammy and the Gigantic Fish , Harper, 1983.

Marianna Mayer, My First Book of Nursery Tales: Five Mother Goose Stories , Random House (New York City), 1983.

Bethany Roberts, Waiting-for-Spring Stories , Harper, 1984.

Elizabeth Winthrop, Shoes , Harper, 1986.

Jan Wahl, Humphrey's Bear , Henry Holt … Company (New York City), 1987.

Joyce Maxner, Nicholas Cricket , Harper, 1989.

Stephen Manes, Some of the Adventures of Rhode Island Red , HarperCollins, 1990.


(With Caroline Thompson) Buddy (screenplay), Columbia Pictures, 1997.



Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults , 2nd ed., 8 vols., Gale Group, 2002.


Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA), October 4, 1998, p. 30; March 30, 2003, p. 14.

Charleston Gazette (West Virginia), March 17, 2005, p. 16D.

Denver Post , March 15, 2005, p. F5.

Los Angeles Times , July 23, 1995, p. 10; March 11, 2005, p. E1.


"Author William Joyce Talks about His Book, 'George Shrinks, '" CNN.com, http//www.cnn. com/chat/transcripts/2000/9/29/joyce/index. html (August 2, 2005).

"Reading Rockets Interview with William Joyce, " Reading Rockets.org, http://www. readingrockets .org/transcrpts.php?ID=96 (August 2, 2005).

Kristin Palm

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:

Other articles you might like: