Read on to learn more about Mary Katherine Joyce, the daughter of William Joyce who inspired The Rise of the Guardians.
I saw Rise Of the Guardians over the Thanksgiving Holiday and I liked it so much, I had to know more about the writer, William Joyce. I was only peripherally familiar with his work through Snowie Rolie. The movie is based on his children’s book series, The Guardians of Childhood, and his film short, Man in the Moon. Joyce didn’t write the screenplay, but he was the film’s executive producer. I have three kids, ages 5, 7 and 15, so, I’ve seen a ton of children’s movies. And, I have several more years of viewing pleasure in front of me. I confess, sometimes, I wish I could curl up on a couch in the theater and go to sleep. That was definitely on my mind when we went to see Rise of the Guardians.
The Darkness Could Not Overcome It
But, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only is it the best children’s movie I’ve ever seen, it’s one of the best stories ever told. It’s about good conquering evil and light conquering darkness. I could feel the Holy Spirit in this story, which is amazing because this is not a Christian film, per se. In fact, I can see some Christians taking issue with the secular premise. But, by the end, I had this favorite passage from the Book of Matthew going over in my mind: “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs…Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care…So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” As I left the theater, all I could think about was William Joyce. What life experiences gave him such high regard for childhood?
The Guardians of Childhood
Generation X (the years are 1961 to 1981) is repeatedly described as the most unprotected and neglected generation in modern history. See my posts on Fatherless Generation and My Dad Lives in a Downtown Hotel or Latchkey Generation and Latchkey Memoir. A movie about the guardians of childhood will hold particular significance for anyone, no matter the generation, who grew up feeling afraid more often than not.
The guardians, by the way, are:
- Santa Claus
- Tooth Fairy
- Easter Bunny
- Mr. Sandman
- Man in the Moon
- Jack Frost.
Pitch Black is the villain. Childhood is so brief, and yet, it has such great bearing on the rest of our lives. It deserves far more protection that it receives. With everything I have, I pursue the protection of my kids, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually. One of the reasons Generation X was so unprotected in childhood is because of high divorce rates and the number of single moms raising kids alone.
In 1998, when my oldest daughter was one-year-old, I went through a divorce. It was pretty awful, but the worst part was knowing I would not be there to protect her every other weekend for the rest of her childhood. This is easily the most devastating thing I have ever gone through, and it underscores the unthinkable grief that must come with the loss of a child.
Stalking William Joyce
So, I stalked William Joyce on the Internet for over an hour, trying to figure out how he came to have such high regard for childhood. I turned up this interview with the New York Times where he says childhood deserves protection. And, then I found something else. Something that explains something about Joyce apart from his creative genius:
Mary Katherine Joyce
In 2010, he lost a child. His daughter, Mary Katherine, died of an inoperable brain tumor. She was 18-years-old. William Joyce told Smashing Magazine she inspired the entire story. When she was little she asked him if the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus knew each other. This is the dedication at the end of his Oscar-winning animated short, The Fantastic Flying Books: “To the memory of Mary Katherine Joyce, whom the jealous fates took too soon.”
Read the obituary for Mary Katherine Joyce:
My kids loved Rise of the Guardians, especially Jack Frost and Tooth, but they were not affected by the ending like Robert and I were. Our takeaway was this: Bad things and even bad people gain stronger footholds in our lives when we give them power over us through fear. Furthermore, the guardian of the mind can be summarized in these words from Paul the Apostle in a letter he wrote to early Christians in Phillipi, a city in Macedonia. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.