When I was in like fifth grade, my mom got an iPad. This was the first
“smart” device in our home, so I was completely enamored with the touch screen and the endless possibilities of apps. My mom downloaded this app that was an interactive reading of the book The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. Man, I would play that story over and over and over again, so when I was thinking about our assignments for this week, I decided to pay Morris Lessmore a long-overdue visit.
Well, that iPad we had is long gone and I don’t think the app is still running, so I turned to YouTube and found the short film of the story. I honestly didn’t even know it was a short film, I only ever knew the story from the app. I watched the short film and it unlocked nostalgia in me, but it was also a really different experience than I remembered. First of all, the short film doesn’t have any words, only animation and music. The app on the other hand, had a narrator reading the story to you as you moved through it. I found myself remembering the voice of the narrator as I watched the film. It was actually a really strange, but also really cool.
ANYWAYS, back to analyzing the actual story. When I watched the short film, it actually made me sad, like I almost cried, but I don’t remember having that response to the app. The film doesn’t use words, so you really get to feel the way Morris feels through the music and the body language and expressions of the characters. The most interesting aspect of Mr. Morris Lessmore’s story is that he SPOILER ALERT … dies? He dies? No like he transforms back to his youth and then flies away into the light in the sky. Um, I didn’t remember that happening! Most stories for children would never represent death as an end to a story. It just isn’t a satisfying or “happy” ending. A little girl comes and picks up Morris’ book and presumably takes over his role in the cycle of life. So there is this sort of happy and fulfilling ending, but we still experience the loss of the main character. Isn’t that wild? The only other example of this kind of ending that I can think of (in relation to childhood memories) is SPOILER ALERT the end of The Corpse Bride, which was also something I watched over and over and over again. Here’s that scene; she does the transformation and disappears to peace thing at like 1:30
I’m just kinda fascinated with this sad but happy ending trope. Like, we usually consume stories as a way to escape to another world of possibilities, and usually, we like happy endings because they make us feel good and they satisfy the story in a positive way. This other kind of ending, like in The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore and The Corpse Bride, challenges that go to feel-good formula for endings. We’re mixin’ it up! And it adds a more realistic quality to stories and makes them more lifelike. Now that I see this kind of plot resolution in such monumental stories from my childhood, I’ll be on the lookout for more in the future. Let me know if y’all can think of any examples!