The Fantastic 3D Printed Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

This article chronicles the collaboration between the faculty and students of the LSU Shreveport Animation and Visual Effects program and Moonbot Studios in bringing components of the story of “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” to life.

The directors wanted to combine shots of highly detailed handmade miniatures with computer-generated characters. Since part of the story takes place in a fantastic library, a large amount of detailed scale books was needed.


The filmmakers created the scale model 3D books using Autodesk Maya software. Later  Autodesk Mudbox software was used to increase the resolution and texture. This process of 3D paint based texturing added organic details to the books.

This can be seen above in the 3D rendering photo. It is also an important first step towards printing the books on our 3D printer.

The book models were loaded into the printer software to prepare for printing on our Dimension Elite FDM 3D printer.



The printer laid layers of thermo plastic and support material and printed the books. It took several days to build the 3 sets of books.

The AVE program’s Dimension Elite FDM 3D printer


This is an image of a model running through the printer. The brown material is soluble support and the lighter color is thermo plastic.




On the set workshop, Prop Master Jim Hayes used the 3D printed master books to create silicone molds. He mixed these buckets of resin to go into the molds to create positive cast books.

Once the books came out of the molds, they were air brushed with an initial coat of paint.

These are just some of the hundreds of scale books created for the production.

The books were further painted by hand and detailed by members of the Moonbot team.




LSUS AVE students also had a hand in painting books and other props.

This is an example of the books after detailing.



The books were assigned grades based on the level of painted detail. The highest graded books known as “hero books,” were featured numerous times and in close-up shots.



Co-directors William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg confer during a test shot. Note the DSLR motion control camera, the Morris stand-in, and the 3D printed prop books on the scale shelves.


LSUS AVE Student John Schurman helps with prop placement as the Co-directors look on. John has since graduated LSUS and is a full-time employee at Moonbot Studios.



Here are the books as seen in camera on the dressed set.




LSU Shreveport AVE faculty and students work on the onset pipeline. Each set up was shot, processed and confirmed for quality control. The on-set editor also verified each shot against the animatic to ensure the best shot possible.


The on set digital pipeline used allowed the directors quick feedback from the robotic motion control cameras that could be viewed on their iPhones and other devices. The LSU Shreveport AVE team was also involved in the HDRI (high dynamic range image) process, which is a method to digitally capture all lights at a given point in a scene. This process aided in the later lighting and integration of CGI characters.

The miniature crew of “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” on the set.




The students and faculty of the LSU Shreveport Animation and Visual Effects program congratulate the co-directors, William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg, the Moonbot Studios team, the miniature team and everyone who had a hand in the Academy award-winning animated short film “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.” It was a great story to tell and we look forward to more of them!

“The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” Copyright 2011. Moonbot Studios.