Backstage at the Oscars® with Brave, Paperman and Life of Pi
Pixar and Disney were, of course, the big animation winners Sunday night at the 85th Academy Awards, with Brave and Paperman taking best feature and short. It just goes to prove that you can't underestimate the power and prestige of the Pixar brand. While most of us picked either Wreck-It Ralph or Frankenweenie to win, Brave ultimately proved to be the consensus choice among Academy members after winning the BAFTA and editing and sound mixing tech awards. As for Paperman, the innovative short from John Kahrs wore its heart on its sleeve while offering a 21st century innovative hybrid technique worthy of the Disney legacy.
I asked Brave directors Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman about their ambitious movie and its bumpy road to success: "I think a magic in animation and filmmaking is how much of a collaborative process it is, where either if you're working side by side together the whole time or if it was like Brave where there was one director and then another director," Andrews replied. "The thing that I loved about Brenda's story was the thing that everybody loved about Brenda's story, and I wanted to honor that when I came on board for my part of it."
"Which I feel very much he did," added Chapman, whom he replaced after nurturing the project for six years. "And, you know, I told Mark when he stepped in that I was very happy that it was him who took my place because I know he has a daughter with three sons and I knew he would understand, but also he has a love of Scotland as well. I wasn't sure about his fairytale sensibility, but it's not a real fairytale anyway…"
"I mean, it's this huge organic process. And it's a fragile, delicate process on every step of the way. And there's a lot of plates to spin, and by the end if you just stick with it and you're passionate about it, hopefully, by the end you have something that's really special, and I think in Brave's case I think we managed to pull that off."
Andrews, wearing his kilt for good luck, concurred, "You know, it's a battle. It's a war. So to have the recognition not just from the Academy but from all the different organizations for your work on Brave has just been a remarkable and thrilling surprise. So, we're evened out."
For Kahrs, the Paperman short was a decade-long journey honing a unique love story in black and white while merging 2D and CG. "I just had this idea of like an urban fairytale about people that were perfect for each other but lost their connection," he explained. "But someone asked me, how is this short different than other Disney shorts, and I was tongue tied but now I realize it's the same as all other Disney...I mean, it has magic in it, it has appealing characters, it has the plausible impossible; it has all those great things..."
"But, yeah, it's a tall order to make the audience believe that these two people are a perfect couple from the very first shot. But I have a few tricks up my sleeve and I have amazing people at Disney on my team, especially from a design standpoint and an animation standpoint that do fantastic work."