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Backstage at the Oscars

TOY STORY 3 director Lee Unkrich talked about his grandmother and taking a well-deserved vacation before starting a new feature with producer Darla Anderson; THE LOST THING co-director Shaun Tan admitted they went a little crazy on his short about going unnoticed; INCEPTION visual effects supervisor Paul Franklin said he considers the folding Paris as recognizable a character as any of the most recent character-centric Oscar winners; and ALICE IN WONDERLAND production designer Rob Stromberg conceded that his vfx background was indispensible on the Tim Burton blockbuster.

TOY STORY 3 director Lee Unkrich talked about his grandmother and taking a well-deserved vacation before starting a new feature with producer Darla Anderson; THE LOST THING co-director Shaun Tan admitted they went a little crazy on his short about going unnoticed; INCEPTION visual effects supervisor Paul Franklin said he considers the folding Paris as recognizable a character as any of the most recent character-centric Oscar winners; and ALICE IN WONDERLAND production designer Rob Stromberg conceded that his vfx background was indispensible on the Tim Burton blockbuster.

"Well, my grandma was always very supportive of me," Unkrich reiterated, "and once she knew I wanted to make movies, she was always the first to say that she would see me. She would say, 'I am going to live to see you get an Oscar,' and unfortunately, that never happened, but she's always been with me in my heart.And there's a moment in TOY STORY 3 that's very inspired by her. When I was making the first TOY STORY, which I edited, she got cancer, and I rushed home to see her because it was clear she was not going to be around long. And there was a moment where I looked at her for the very last time, and I knew that that was the last time I was seeing my grandmother alive, and I took kind of a mental snapshot at that moment before I turned away and left. And I always carry that with me now, and when we were making TOY STORY 3, there's a moment at the end of the film where Andy gets back in his car, and he kind of looks back at his toys one last time before he drives off to college, and I told this story to my animators, and Mike Arndt, my writer, everybody, and I would like to think in my heart that the moment is infused with just a deeper level of emotion because of that because I told that story."

Tan, who plans on returning to Australia to work on his book projects, related how intimate the production process was on THE LOST THING: "The three of Us: myself, [digital artist] Tom [Bryant], [animator] Leo [Baker], we did all the visuals that you see in the whole film over a period of three-and-a-half years. With very little outside intervention or anybody to come in and say, 'No, it should be like this, it should be like that.' We just thought this looks right to us, we will just give it a go and we thought it worked, and obviously it's working for other people now, too."

Meanwhile LOST THING co-director Andrew Ruhemann of Passion Pictures added that they're open to the possibility of collaborating again. "If we see a story that really grabs us and we think we should tell it, then we will probably do that and if not we will keep doing our day jobs.The last thing stood out as a story that needed to be told and if we spot another one of those, I suspect we will be having another crack."

When asked about the continuing melding of visual and special effects, Franklin explained, "If you're always basing something in reality, it's very important that everything in our film feel real all the time, that's the story after all. But if you try to do [everything CG], I think you're going to get a result that everyone can tell which was created in some sort of way, but I think the special effects are just as important as the visual effects."

Finally, Stromberg, who's made the transition to production design from visual effects and has won consecutive Oscars for AVATAR and ALICE, noted, "But the difference between how we work now in these types of films is that the production designer is involved with the visual effects probably more heavily, and involved more in post-production, which is actually good because the way it normally works is the production designer will sort of leave after the end of principal photography, and then you are relying on visual effects people to fill in those greenscreens. So, this keeps a more cohesive design coming from visual effects myself… We have lots of new technology that we're trying and I feel like we are pioneering fusing art and machine. I am very proud of that because the next generation of kids coming up will know what they are doing."

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Rick DeMott
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