Another Sold Out Year at the Academy
The screening at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences is always an exciting event for the nominees. Sell out crowds are eager to see the films and are always very receptive. The screening is also a big press event with the nominees juggling interviews and photo ops with news outlets from around the world.
The event also gave me a chance to meet the other directors — Doug Sweetland of "Presto" and Alan Smith and Adam Foulkes of "This Way Up." Their time was tight as they were shepherded around the reception to meet with various people. After the screening, Doug got a chance to sign autographs for some young fans of Pixar, who were eager to know his favorite Pixar film (which was Toy Story 2).
One unfortunate part of the night involved the "Oktapodi" directors. The Academy rules only allow two nominees for a film in the Animated Short category. Because of the rule only the nominated directors were allowed to pose for the official nominee photo and participate in the Q&A after the screening. Luckily, Ron Diamond encouraged the other four directors to pop in before the photographers left, allowing them to be featured in other outside press.
I asked Gobelins' Eric Riewer who made the decision that Emud and Thierry would be the nominees. He said the school chose who they thought would represent the film the best (those who spoke the best English), but the ultimate decision was up to the crew. Because of this not all the directors will get to go to the Governor's Ball as well.
During the Q&A, which was hosted by "Marley & Me" director David Frankel, the nominees were asked what came first — and image or the story. For Kunio, it was the image of little cubes making up a house. Konstantin joked that for his film "Lavatory Lovestory" it was inspired by his excessive need to go to the bathroom. For the "Oktapodi" crew, the story of two octopi came first then the look, which focused on making the octopi cute with big eyes so they could be expressive and instantly likeable.
Doug said that gags were his inspiration, especially the extended string of gags that were found in Droopy shorts. Doug added that his original pitch for "Presto" had the magician getting a Dear John letter from his rabbit, spurring him to snatch up a fan rabbit to use in the act. To tell a more economic story, the characters were changed to a classic adversarial duo. Smith & Foulkes said their story came from the faces of their two undertaker characters and then what new evils they could inflict on them.
In a big shout out to tour host Ron Diamond, Doug said that shorts collection like the Animation Show of Shows, which toured college towns, were a big influence on him, because they inspired him to believe that you could make short animation and go to school to learn how.