In memoriam: Morton Schindel, founder of Weston Woods

Morton Schindel, founder of Weston Woods Studios, the leading provider of audiovisual materials adapted from award-winning children’s books, died peacefully Saturday, August 20, 2016 at age 98.

In his career, he produced more than 300 motion pictures and 450 recordings that are found in school and library collections worldwide. His films have been translated into more than 20 languages. During his tenure at Weston Woods, the company received an Academy Award nomination for best animated short in 1984 for “Doctor DeSoto,” based on the children’s book “Doctor Desoto” by William Steig, and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Children’s Video in 1996 for “Owen,” based on “Owen” by Kevin Henkes.

In 1996, Weston Woods Studios was acquired by Scholastic, with Morton staying on as an advisor. Since then Weston Woods has gone on to produce more than 200 additional films based on the books of Scholastic and all publishers.

Morton never stopped innovating. From 1982 to 2016, he served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Weston Woods Institute, a non-profit organization for the support of innovative techniques for educational and cultural communications with children. In 1996, he founded Mediamobiles, Inc., a company that developed mobile multimedia learning environments.

He has received numerous awards and honors including The Regina Medal, awarded each year for a lifetime contribution to the field of children’s literature, the Distinguished Service Award from the Association of Education Technology, The Action for Children’s Television Hall of Fame Award and the American Libraries Services for Children Lifetime Achievement Award. He also received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Teachers College, Columbia University as the only graduate “who never earned a dime as a librarian or a classroom teacher” but nonetheless became “a teacher to millions.”

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."

As Publishers Weekly notes in their obituary:

In 1996, Weston Woods Studios was acquired by Scholastic, a deal that Schindel told Booklistwas influenced by his relationship with Scholastic president and CEO Richard Robinson, who spent summers with his family in Connecticut near Weston Woods. “Dick would come over with his children to pick up films. So he knew our product line from screening them at home with his kids,” Schindel said in the interview. “Scholastic had distributed our recordings, so I felt that when the time was right, I would turn to Dick.” Schindel went on to say of the acquisition, “I think of this more as a legacy than a business transaction.... I’ve never had a minute of regret.” Schindel produced more than 300 films and 450 recordings while he was at the helm, and Weston Woods has gone on to create several hundred more since joining Scholastic.

Morton 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 Columbia Teachers College. He is survived by his wife, Cari Best of CT, a sister, Elaine Martens of NJ, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

Read the complete press release here.

See the obituary in the New York Times here.