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You Had Me at Skywalker Ranch

Starting on Wednesday, Feb. 14, we’ll be flying up to San Fran and staying at the Hotel Sofitel. The participating nominees for the Bay area leg of the tour will meet up for dinner. It will be nice to meet the filmmakers in person and get some personal reflections about the whirlwind Oscar experience.

Nominees Get to Stay Here!Nominees Get to Stay Here!

When Acme Filmworks and AWN’s Ron Diamond proposed the idea that someone should follow along with the Oscar short animation nominees as they tour the studios, I thought to myself that it would be an awesome opportunity to live the Oscar experience vicariously. But what really sweetened the deal was when he said that the nominees would get to spend a night at Skywalker Ranch. Because I am of a certain age where I have no memory of a time before STAR WARS, there was no way I was going to let this chance slip by.

Starting on Wednesday, Feb. 14, we’ll be flying up to San Fran and staying at the Hotel Sofitel. The participating nominees for the Bay area leg of the tour will meet up for dinner. It will be nice to meet the filmmakers in person and get some personal reflections about the whirlwind Oscar experience. As LITTLE MATCHGIRL producer Don Hahn told me, the tour is a great opportunity to show your films and meet with other filmmakers. I heard that JASPER MORELLO nominee Anthony Lucas said that spending so much time with the other nominees made losing on Oscar Night much easier, because you were just happy that your new friend won.

As for the screenings, they kick off the next day, which is going to be packed. At 10:00 am, we’ll drive over to Electronic Arts’ Redwood Shores campus for a screening then quickly hop in the car afterward and head over to PDI/DreamWorks for another screening and lunch. Then we get some breather time before jetting off to ILM for a studio tour, screening and dinner. After that busy 12-hour day, we get to spend the night at Skywalker Ranch, where we’ll have visions of Ewoks and R2 units dancing in our heads. Word is that each room at Skywalker is designed around a different filmmaker. Last year, Oscar winner John Canemaker had to fight it out for the Winsor McCay suite, I hear.

On Friday after breakfast, we’ll be treated to a tour of Skywalker Ranch. I’m not very star-struck in general, but there are a few select people that I would probably lose my speech functions around and one would be George Lucas. I’ll have to ask my grandmother to give me a sign language refresher before I go just in case there is a sighting and I forget how to pronounce my name. At noon, we head over to Pixar for a screening followed by a luncheon and studio tour. It’s traditional that John Lasseter welcomes the nominees and I really can’t wait to meet him. Throughout the tour, I hope to get some stories from the nominees about their “famous people” encounters during Oscar season. Hopefully, they’re able to remember their own names.

After a break for the President’s Day holiday weekend, Oscar Week races off on Tuesday, Feb. 20, with a screening at DreamWorks in Glendale. A luncheon will follow and in past years the nominees have had the chance to dine with Jeffrey Katzenberg. Afterwards, we get to tour the studio. I hope to catch a sneak peek at some cool artwork from upcoming projects, but I’m sure the real good stuff is in some vault sixty feet under Flower Street. After another studio screening that is in the works, the nominees will race across town to the official Academy “Shorts!” program. This event will give them a prime opportunity to rub elbows with all the big time movers and shakers in the industry. Oscar nods have landed past nominees sweet jobs afterward and these receptions are the kinds of places deals can get rolling.

On Wednesday, Feb. 21, Walt Disney Feature Animation will host the nominees for a screening, luncheon and studio tour. Afterward the talent agency ICM is hosting another screening. The following day things don’t get started until the afternoon with a screening at William Morris. In the evening of the 22nd, Acme Filmworks and AWN will be hosting their annual cocktail party for the nominees. Friday will contain a studio tour, luncheon and screening at Sony Animation followed by a screening and reception at the agency CAA. After so many screenings in such a short time I’ll have to ask the nominees if their tired of watching their films yet. On Saturday the day before the big night, DreamWorks is throwing an industry luncheon. That night, Paul and Renate Demeyer host their annual Chocolate Oscars cocktail party for the nominees.

Wow, I’m out of breath just thinking about the tour. But it sounds fun and exciting too — as well as a great chance to listen in as great animators talk about their craft with other great animators. In addition to my personal observations about the tour, I plan to get the impressions of the talented nominees. The Oscars give short animation filmmakers a rare turn in the spotlight. My goal is capture the Oscar experiences of this lucky group of animators and share it with the whole animation community.

Check back daily for some more pictures as well as an interview with Don Hahn, producer of LITTLE MATCHGIRL.