The Nominees Worst Nightmare -- Errol Morris' Interrotron Camera © Steve Hardi
Well, we have safely arrived in San Fran. Ron and I happened to be on the same flight with Little Matchgirl director Roger Allers, who waited for us to get off the plane. Sadly, he’s battling a bad cold and was more worried about infecting others than his own discomfort. So Roger and producer Don Hahn (who had to stay at a different hotel then the rest of us, because ours was not an approved Walt Disney lodging) decided to stay in this evening to rest up for our busy day tomorrow. I was surprised to receive a phone call from Don in my hotel room giving his regrets for not coming to dinner with the rest of us. It’s not too often I get a call on my cell from the producer of legendary films and former president of Disney Feature Animation saying he’s sorry that he won’t be making it to dinner because he’s just getting over bronchitis. I didn’t even know he had my number. I must say, both Roger and Don are so kind and welcoming, not a shred of Hollywood self-importance at all.
Due to snow on the East coast, Maestro’s Geza Toth and Tamas Liszkas are stuck in New York. They’ve come all the way from Hungary and Mother Nature strands them 3,000 miles away. So the big Valentine’s Day nominee dinner was just four – myself, Ron, Marcy Page and Mike Thurmeier. Ron and Marcy have known each other for years and shared many NFB stories with us, including tales of trying to get the Academy to preserve the nominated shorts from the NFB to how Ron had to schlep over to FedEx’s headquarters at LAX to get the print of The Danish Poet for the Oscar tour, because it didn’t arrive on time from Norway.
Ron apologized to everyone for pulling them away from their families on Valentine’s Day, which Mike commented that his wife, who is expecting their second child any day now, was sad about, yet was very supportive of him coming on the tour for the San Fran leg. I commented that my wife was fine with it as long as I brought home pictures of Skywalker Ranch. With words “Skywalker Ranch” in the air, Mike said it was the part of the San Fran trip he was most looking forward to. Marcy, in turn, revealed that she had worked at the Ranch for a short period of time and felt it was a surreal place to work. “It was like working at Disneyland,” she said. For her it wasn’t a place very conducive for efficient work.
Apparently, that inefficient environment carried over to our restaurant, where we waited nearly an hour to receive our salads and soups. However, it gave us ample time to get to know each other, chatting about films, the Academy and kids. Mike and Marcy predicted that each other’s films would win the Oscar. Mike was curious about the processes in which one becomes a member of the Academy. Ron explained that a person needs to be invited and that usually the person must have worked on either three Oscar nominated productions or the committee feels their body of work merits an invitation. However, the surest way to get invited, Ron said, was to win the Oscar. Mike then commented that he guesses that he’ll have a couple more years before he would be eligible. Come Feb. 25 his wait might be significantly shortened. Though it seems like winning is far from Mike’s mind, one thing seems certain – he’s going to soak up the experience to its fullest.
In talking about the making of the film, Mike told us that the home entertainment department at Fox funded No Time for Nuts as supplemental material for the Ice Age 2 DVD. Mike’s use of the term “noise” succinctly summed up the home entertainment division’s thoughts on supplemental material. However, the future of shorts at Blue Sky looks very promising with the studio moving into productions not based on characters from the features. Artists at the studio were given the chance to pitch their ideas and the three best where given $50,000 worth of company time to develop the projects. It’s exciting to see a studio opening up the creative doors to all their employees. No Time for Nuts clearly displays a classic animator’s sensibility. Mike has said the short was inspired greatly by the work of Chuck Jones. As for Mike he serving as senior supervising animator on Horton Hears A Who, which is a title the company solely created for him. He said he was unsure what his next project would be, but the Sheridan grad longs to actually animate again… or direct.
Mike asked Ron and Marcy what happens to older animators, which implied that the world of 3D is filled with young faces. Marcy said it depends on your career path. She became a producer, but always dreamed of directing. Ron kindly reminded her that she still may get the chance. Having produced so many wonderfully diverse films like My Grandmother Ironed the King’s Shirts and Ryan at the NFB, I’d love to see what a Marcy Paige-directed film would be like. She reassured Mike that feature director seems the next step for him – they can’t keep adding seniors to your title without eventually turning it to director.
As for star sightings, Mike meet Mark Wahlberg and Leonardo DiCaprio at the nominee luncheon, commenting that Wahlberg was very friendly and that DiCaprio seemed more interested in his salad. However, Marcy, who was unable to attend the luncheon, seemed most interested in the documentary interviews that the Academy conducts. Directed by Errol Morris, using his Interrotron camera, which puts an image of the director on a screen right in front of the interviewees, the interview was a strange experience, Mike said. “It felt like they were trying to embarrass us.” Mike commented that several of the nominees felt that Morris’ interviewing style was off-putting and only made them more nervous.
Well, it’s getting late and we have a long day tomorrow. I wonder when in the next week and a half the filmmakers will get tired of watching and talking about their films. I really am looking forward to seeing the reaction at the various studios and hear they’re questions. Oh and the reward for a busy day – a night at Skywalker Ranch.