February 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Morton Schindel, Founder of Weston Woods Studios, Dies at 98

Morton Schindel, founder of Weston Woods Studios, provider of audiovisual materials adapted from award-winning children’s books, died on Saturday, August 20, 2016, at age 98. Schindel produced more than 300 motion pictures and 450 recordings that are found in school and library collections today. His films have been translated into more than 20 languages.

Schindel with some of his favorite "wild things." Photo courtesy of Scholastic.

Schindel with some of his favorite “wild things.” Photo courtesy of Scholastic

Schindel found that a special filming technique was needed to faithfully transfer the artwork of children’s picture books from page to screen. He developed an iconographic style of filmmaking in which a motion picture camera would glide in front of the original artwork, giving the still imagery cinematic life. By having the visuals move at a deliberate, controlled pace, the camera captured the mood and action that the illustrator conveyed on the pages of the book.

In 1996, Weston Woods Studios was acquired by Scholastic, with Schindel as an advisor. Weston Woods, has gone on to produce more than 200 additional films based on the books of Scholastic and other publishers. These films have been honored with 15 Carnegie Medals, awarded by the American Library Association, for best video of the year based on a children’s book.

Richard Robinson, chairman, president, and CEO of Scholastic said, “Mort Schindel not only founded the art form and business of creating films based on outstanding children’s books, he also helped generations of teachers and librarians understand how they could reach more children with these great stories through the medium of film, video, and television. He pioneered this important art form by working with hundreds of authors and illustrators, including Maurice Sendak, William Steig, and Robert McCloskey, winning their support by making creative films like Where the Wild Things Are, Blueberries for Sal, Harold and the Purple Crayon, and The Amazing Bone, which adhered absolutely to the spirit and story of the original printed work.”

Schindel graduated from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania with a B.S. in economics, and received his masters in curriculum and teaching at Teachers College, Columbia University. He received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the latter school as the only graduate “who never earned a dime as a librarian or a classroom teacher” but nonetheless became “a teacher to millions.”

He is survived by his wife, author Cari Best of Connecticut; a sister, Elaine Martens of New Jersey; children; grandchildren; great-grandchildren; nieces; and nephews.


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