Publishing book, Mr. Zuko Takes Flight, fulfils father's dream

Have you heard the tale of a man whose home is carried to a tropical island by balloons? It might sound familiar, but this version was thought up by a Montreal-area man back in 1983.

"This is what I wanted beyond anything else," says writer Michel Faure, who published book after 33 years

Have you heard the tale of a man whose home is lifted into the air and carried to a tropical island by balloons?

It might sound familiar to anyone who's seen the movie UP, produced by Pixar and presented by Walt Disney Pictures.

But a Montreal-area father says he thought up his version back in 1983, while on vacation with his family in Maine.

"I was walking with my two very young daughters by the seaside and they said tell us another story. So I said there is a Mr. Zuko … he's a banker, and he buys balloons," says Michel Faure, who's a writer by profession.

Faure says his daughters were basically co-authors — they kept asking him questions about Mr. Zuko and as he answered their questions, they invented the story together, on the spot.

It's that kind of creativity that's based on love.- Joyce Borenstein, Mr. Zuko Takes Flight illustrator

"Without them, the story wouldn't exist," Faure says.

His story follows Mr. Zuko — a banker from Nova Scotia — as he goes home, attaches his colourful balloons to his chimney and goes to bed. The next morning, when Mr. Zuko opens the door, he sees that where his garden once was, is open sky instead.

Eventually, Mr. Zuko's house lands on a tropical island where the main character makes fast friends with all sorts of exotic animals.

'So imaginative'

Faure says the story was so popular with his family, his wife suggested he get it published.

So through word of mouth and speaking to colleagues, Faure found Joyce Borenstein, who agreed to make Mr. Zuko come alive with her illustrations.

Borenstein, who works mainly in documentary animation, says she fell in love with the story the moment she read it.

"It was so visual and so imaginative ... it's that kind of creativity that's based on love," she says.

The creative duo pitched their idea to publishers, and while they received some interest at first, it eventually fell by the wayside.

When the movie UP came out in 2009, Faure went to court.

After months of litigation, all sides agreed there was no copyright infringement.

CBC reached out to both Pixar and Disney for comment on this story. Neither has responded. 

A book and a legacy

Faure and Borenstein say they've put the whole legal matter behind them.

In a way, it inspired them to return to the drawing board and finish their project.

They published the book themselves and launched it in December. It's available for sale in both French and English.

It's great because it's a legacy.- Michel Faure, author of Mr. Zuko Takes Flight

​Faure says he's proud of what they've accomplished.

"I'm not modest here, but it's a very beautiful book," he says.

They've already sold more than 300 copies so far, but Faure says he's mostly happy that he has something tangible to leave to his daughters.

"It's great because it's a legacy. I wanted, beyond anything, to leave one book to Elizabeth and one book to Isabelle. This is what I wanted beyond anything else. If it is successful, so much the better."

Borenstein says she's happy they've finally realized their dream.

"The book is flying off the shelves. So it's not just Michel, myself and his daughters who love it. It's the general public."