Richland High School graduate is up for an Oscar

(UPDATE: Brandon Oldenburg, a 1991 graduate of Richland High School, won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film on Sunday night for The Fantastic flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.)

Animator Brandon Oldenburg has already made a name for himself at this year's Academy Awards -- even before Sunday's show begins.

Oldenburg, a 1991 graduate of Richland High School, made a goofy face during the group photo at the annual nominees luncheon in Beverly Hills, Calif., and the less-than-flattering shot has circulated on a number of websites, including Movieline.

"There we are up on the grandstand with Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, all these people," Oldenburg told the Shreveport Times. "And then we look like a bunch of fools. But, you know, we are having a good time and that's what it's all about, right?"

Oldenburg and William Joyce co-directed The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, which is nominated for Best Animated Short Film.

Described as a love letter to books, the 15-minute film uses 2-D and computer animation to tell the story of a man who discovers a library of books that come to life. Buster Keaton inspired the character. The project also has an iPad app and a forthcoming book.

It's the first Oscar nomination for Oldenburg and Shreveport-based Moonbot Studios, which he and Joyce co-founded.

"We feel like winners already and our whole goal was to get an academy nomination, and we've achieved it," Oldenburg said in a recent telephone interview. "It was all about using our short film as a calling card to show the world what we're capable of."

Oldenburg, 38, became intrigued by movies after seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark at the now-closed Bellaire Theatre in Hurst.

He scrounged up $50 in allowance and bought a "dusty old Super 8" camera. He started making movies, editing them at the kitchen table.

In the fourth grade at Holiday Heights Elementary School in North Richland Hills, he filmed field trips and showed his movies in class, he said.

"My mom would make popcorn. I even made little programs," he said. "I made a separate little soundtrack on cassette."

In high school, he honed his skills in the Birdville district's media technology program. Students traveled to CitiCable's studios to use equipment there because the district didn't yet have its own.

Today, the audio/video production program has 160 high school students who take classes at the Birdville Center of Technology and Advanced Learning, teacher Karen Seimears said.

Oldenburg went on to study illustration at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Fla. In 1995, he co-founded Dallas-based Reel FX Creative Studios, doing design and special effects for television and film. He spearheaded the design for The Traveling Man series of stainless-steel sculptures at DART's Deep Ellum station.

Reel FX invited its 300 employees to a Wednesday screening of Morris Lessmore, marketing director Katherine Harper said.

"It's a very small world and it's so cool when one of our own is moving on and doing well," she said. "He's quite a visionary and has a lot of unique ideas and a very whimsical sensibility. I think all of those things come out in the short [film]."

Oldenburg made sure to remember his Texas roots for Sunday's ceremony and will wear a tuxedo custom-made by Fort Worth-based Dickies.

Tailor Gennaro J. Macrini flew to Louisiana to take measurements and designed the garments at Maurice Hood's Custom Tailor in Chicago.

The tuxedo is made from the same black twill as Dickies work pants, and the pocket square and jacket lining are high-visibility orange fabric.

"Coming from Fort Worth, I was trying to think of something appropriate," Oldenburg said.

Jessamy Brown, 817-390-7326

Twitter: @jessamybrown