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The Oscars: Moore Talks More 'Kells'

Tomm Moore discusses being the underdog with his surprising Secret of Kells nomination.

Check out The Secret of Kells in the 2010 AWN Oscar Showcase!

Being the underdog suits Tomm Moore and has stirred interest in The Secret of Kells. Courtesy of Cartoon Saloon.

The Secret of Kells has taken nearly everyone by surprise with its Oscar nomination. Soon viewers will get to discover it as well when Tomm Moore's lovely and exquisite ode to Ireland's most cherished artifact opens in New York on March 5 and Boston on March 19 and other markets throughout the spring.

Bill Desowitz: How was the nominations luncheon?

Tomm Moore: It was pretty amazing -- talking to people like Quentin Tarantino and Sandra Bullock.

BD: And have they seen the movie?

TM: Some of them, yeah. And a lot of them were asking about it, so I want to make sure that all the Academy members get a screener. They're all curious, and that's the most interesting thing. They're all wondering what it is, so that's pretty good.

BD: Did you get into any interesting conversations about it?

TM: No, it was just more of a social event. I was chatting with John Lasseter and Bob Peterson. We know some of the guys from Pixar, meeting them at different events, so we had a good chat with them. They really liked our underdog status and were glad to see us on the list. And, of course, we got the picture taken with all the nominees, which is fun, too.

Up contains the level of filmmaking that Moore aspires to someday. Courtesy of Disney/Pixar.

BD: So what is your theory for why you got nominated?

TM:

I think it was really just word of mouth. People were kind of curious about it and some people in the academy championed it and then everyone was so excited to see something so different. It wasn't like anything else that had been released in the States in the last year. So I think they were excited to see a different take on what animation could do.

BD: The combination of the beautiful look and the homegrown quality?

TM: I think people liked the artsy quality -- it looked really nice but also wasn't like a corporate shiny piece and there was a taste for that this year.

BD: But the storytelling was also very accessible.

TM: That's it: I think people thought the look was very interesting yet different but that the storytelling was unusual. They were surprised that we took such difficult material to jump into to make an animated movie about the manuscript. A few people said there was so much depth to the history.

BD: The other nominated directors have been impressed as well, including Henry Selick who had an obvious interest in composer Bruno Coulais' work.

TM:

Yeah, I had no idea what Bruno was working on in Portland. And we were a little bit worried that Coraline would sound like Kells, but they sound so different. I think it's because we worked with traditional Irish musicians and he had a very different feeling for Coraline. But Henry was very kind and it's very exciting for me to have him say such nice things -- it's pretty amazing, you know?

For Moore, Coraline is a combination of old-time and 21st century stop-motion. Courtesy of Focus Features.

BD: So what are your impressions of the other films?

TM: Well, I saw Up in Zagreb and I was really looking forward to seeing it because I had visited Pixar while they were working on it. And I was really surprised at how emotional it was because it looked like so wacky and cartoony. I was just blown away by how mature it was. I just felt they're really at the top of their game. OK, that's the level of filmmaking that I hope to achieve in my career.

What really impressed me about Coraline was how subtle and clever the art direction was. I saw it in Dublin and Neil Gaiman gave a presentation and I loved how the 3-D had a feeling of old-time and 21st century stop-motion. I was pretty sure that they had done some computer animation on the faces, but when I discovered that it was done with really sophisticated head replacement, I was just blown away.

And it was really fun to see a 2D Disney movie again with Princess and the Frog, with really beautiful animation. Probably my favorite sequence was the Eric Goldberg sequence with the Art Deco: that was really where I'm coming from and a good use of 2D animation, something that wouldn't be easy to do in CG and really lovely to see that again.

And, of course, Fantastic Mr. Fox is just a revelation to me. It was so low-fi but the way Wes Anderson likes to tell a story in a picture book way of laying out scenes and taking a step back and having the symmetry and having the characters move in a little set and you can see things happening in other parts of the screen that the characters aren't aware of. It was amazing to see his style of filmmaking transposed to stop-motion. And it really worked, I thought.

Fantastic Mr. Fox distills the essence of Wes Anderson's way of laying out scenes and then stepping back in his own story-book fashion. Courtesy of Fox Searchlight.

BD: What does this nomination, coupled with Granny O'Grimm, mean for the Irish animation industry?

TM:

Yeah, we're staying at the same hotel and literally at the nominees' luncheon yesterday, for the photograph, there were maybe five people who'd all been to Ballyfermot College in Dublin. Richard Baneham was there and he was nominated for Avatar [as animation supervisor]. And the guys from Brownbag were there and I was there. But I think it means a lot for Irish animation. I don't know yet how it's going to affect things, but it's come to a state where people are coming here to work in Ireland and are able to make an impression on the broader stage.

BD: What does this say about the Don Bluth legacy?

TM:

I think all the talents that were trained by Don Bluth have filtered down to this generation. I met him at the Creative Talent Network and shook his hand and Gary Goldman's hand and said, "You guys are the godfathers of the Irish animation industry." And it's a really different thing now because back then I'd always imagined I'd go to work for Disney or Don Bluth. By the time I graduated, I had to set up on my own and that's the legacy: we aren't working in the corporate world yet here we are on the same stage with the corporations, so that's pretty amazing.

BD: Anything new to report about your next feature, Song of the Sea?

TM: I haven't had much time to work on it, but we're pretty excited. Paul Young, our producer, has meetings in New York with some people that might be interested in getting involved, and we're hoping that we'll be able to pull the financing together and move faster than we did on Kells. We're crossing over now from development into pre-production because we're working on the next draft of the script after getting lots of notes from The Irish Film Board. Once we get that draft ready in a couple of weeks, then we'll probably start storyboarding with the intention that we can gather the financing.

Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.

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