The Oscars: To Animation and Beyond
"There's a beautiful scene between Hiccup and his father in his studio. The only light source is the two candles behind them -- it's very heavily silhouetted -- and parts of that image drop off into black. And that's a pretty bold choice. As far as I know, I've never seen an animated film do that. Again, it really adds to the believability of the story we were telling and that a camera had been there. What's so gratifying is that people would come out of it saying that they didn't think of it as an animated film."
In fact, while Sanders continues working on his latest DreamWorks feature, The Croods (also assisted by Deakins), he's soaking up every technical tidbit to provide the richest possible visual experience: "I was talking to a technology guy from the Academy at the luncheon and learning more about how the pictures are converted from the raw data into the visible spectrum that you see, and how that final print registers really well with the human eye," Sanders continues. "Some of the spectrums that they're using are very close to what the great master painters were doing. It has to do with more information being processed now. But the end product is getting more and more malleable and I'm totally fascinated by that."
With The Illusionist, Chomet was trying to adapt the minimalist sensibility of Jacques Tati for a grownup tale of love, loneliness and cultural upheaval. In addition, he experimented with the Northern lights in Scotland to visually reinforce his themes.
Indeed, even Chomet would now like to cross-over into live action as his next project. Not surprisingly, it's a musical. But what will it be like not being in complete control? "I bring a love and a very lively way of shooting," he contends. "It takes too much time to do an animated film, especially in 2D. You need a lot of patience and I don't have any patience, which is my nightmare. And sometimes you need a change in life, so we'll see."
Meanwhile, Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich, who began as a live-action editor, is thrilled to be nominated for best picture and heartened by the great response. "I've just had people all over the industry tell me how much they like the film: people like Spielberg, Judd Apatow and Quentin Tarantino. At the end of the day, they liked that we've tapped into humanity. I mean, this film was born from 18 years of work in developing these characters, and the films have mirrored our lives as we've gotten married and had kids and raised them and had friends and co-workers pass away. We've been living that juicy stuff of life and somehow, for whatever reason, with the Toy Story films, in particular, all that stuff has wormed its way into the stories we've told. And because the films are so spread out over time, they are incredibly unique. They never would've been these three films had we just made them back-to-back-to -back."
As for winning the coveted best picture prize, Unkrich says, "I'd like to think that people will vote for the film they were most impressed by or what most affected them in any given year. And if that film happens to be an animated film, I'd like to hope that it could take best picture."
And what about the prospects for a Toy Story 4? "We really tried to end the story of Andy and the toys, so we don't have any plans to do a 4 right now."But, I keep coming back to the fact that when we did Toy Story, we were asked if we were going to do a sequel and we all said vehemently no. Yet here we are. But we want to be cautious -- we don't want to jump the shark, we don't want to run this off the rails. We know we have something special and if we do keep it alive, we want to do it in a very special way."
Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.