85th Academy Awards, Oscar Celebrates: Animated Features

As part of their week long celebrations leading up to Oscar night, the Academy held it’s annual event dedicated to the nominees for Best Animated Feature. Thursday night, “OSCAR Celebrates Animated Feature” took place at the AMPAS Theater in Beverly Hills.  Hosted by comedian Rob Riggle, the evening included clips from all five nominated films, followed by a brief conversation with each director. With the comedic help of the famous host, each filmmaker exposed his inspiration, and the challenges and rewards of working in the animation world, whether digital or in stop-motion, which was the prominent medium this year. Here is what each one of them had to say.

Mark Andrews “Brave”

85th Academy Awards, Oscar Celebrates: Animated Features

Director Mark Andrews appeared without his collaborator Brenda Chapman, but he made sure to emphasize the combined inspiration that molded the film. Chapman included her part of her own daughter’s personality into Merida, she found authenticity in the balance that’s needed for a mother-daughter relationship. Andrews also used his parenting experience in the film, even using exact dialogue lines from his daughter and sons fights. The director also made mention of the importance of finding the right music for the film, and giving his version of Scotland in the Middle Ages, a unique and captivating tone.

Chris Butler and Sam Fell “ParaNorman”

85th Academy Awards, Oscar Celebrates: Animated Features

The duo behind the spooky, bullying-related film spoke of how Butler’s grandmother was of great influence in the development of the film, as she introduced him to the concept of death without making him fearful. Both filmmakers grew up in England during the “Video Nasty” ban on explicit horror films; however, this didn’t stop them from getting exposed, and influenced by films like “Night of the Living Dead” and Italian horror films. “ParaNorman” was born from these fascinations, which lead to want to make “a zombie movie for kids”. Butler described his Oscar-nominated film as “John Carpenter meets John Hughes” or “an episode of Scooby-Doo directed by Sam Raimi”

Peter Lord “The Pirates: Band of Misfits”

85th Academy Awards, Oscar Celebrates: Animated Features

After 12 years of not directing a stop motion film, Armand’s studios Peter Lord returned to the animated stage with his film about a group of pirates who meet Charles Darwin in hilarious adventure in London. The veteran animator, who has produced multiple Oscar-nominated animated shorts, talked about the literary work upon which the film is based, and how this deeply influence the quirky British humor in the piece. He also shared is experience of working with Hugh Grant, and how his voice work got better as he felt more comfortable with the character and the environment of the film set. Lord said he returned to directing because he missed the physically of the medium, and the magic of the miniature sets.

 

Rich Moore “Wreck-it Ralph”

85th Academy Awards, Oscar Celebrates: Animated Features

Director Rich Moore’s approach to the world of video games mixed the Disney sensibilities with a realm of characters unrepresented in cinema before. A fan of video games himself, Moore drew inspiration from the games he grew up playing like Pac-Man or Donkey Kong. He wanted to imagine what the life of video game character was like, for this; he used his previous experience in edgier TV productions like The Simpsons or Futurama, giving the film a peculiar tone. About the inclusion of many famous Nintendo characters, he explained that during the development of the film he told his crew “Lets pretend like we have rights for any character we want”, with this hypothetical lack of limitations he was able to provide his film with what he thought was proper. Fun fact: Moore mentioned that there was a musical number (a staple in Disney films) created for the character “King Candy”, but was dropped during production, as it didn’t seem fitting anymore.

Tim Burton “Frankenweenie”

The acclaimed director was the closing personality of the night, Burton talked about his vision translating from the original live-action “Frankenweenie” to the medium of stop motion. He mentioned that for him the story “fits the medium”, and that he enjoys very much working with the “textures” of the physical figures. About the roots of the story, he said that the  inspiration came from his awkward times in school, and his classmates while growing up in Burbank. He also touched on the subject of the less than great box-office of this film, and said that studious have already accepted his unique approach to filmmaking. Burton is aware, in his own words, that “a stop motion film in black & white is not on the “to-do lists” of studios.