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The Incredibles Wins Two Oscars & Ryan Wins Shorts Race

Pixar earned its second animated feature Oscar for THE INCREDIBLES at the 77th Annual Academy Awards, Feb. 27, 2005, while Skywalker Sound won the Best Sound Editing Award. Animated feature was the award up for the night, collected by a jubilant Brad Bird. He thanked the holy trinity at Pixar referring to Ed Catmull, Steve Jobs and John Lasseter for creating the greatest studio on the face of the Earth, Bird said. He also thanked the entire crew, the Disney marketing department and his family, saying, Animation is about creating the illusion of life and you cant create it if you dont have one.

Bird was soon pressed into service as a presenter, in a way, providing the voice of his designer character, Edna Mode (patterned after the Academy-award winning costume designer Edith Head). The 3D character magically appeared with co-presenter Pierce Bronson to present the award, appropriately enough, for best costume design. Brosnan was nearly without voice so Bird as Edie read the nominations and announced the winner.

Chris Landreth had to accept his award for Best Animated Short for RYAN from the seats, where some of the categories were awarded, as he was grouped with his fellow nominees. Nevertheless, he was thrilled and eloquently thanked his supporters from a microphone in the aisle and acknowledged his docu/animation subject, Ryan Larkin. "I am here tonight because of the grace and humility of one guy watching from Montreal. Ryan Larkin, I dedicate this award to you," said Landreth.

Randy Thom and Michael Silvers at Skywalker Sound won for sound editing on THE INCREDIBLES. They had won Golden Reels the previous night at the Motion Picture Sound Editors ceremony in the Animated Feature category. It was Thoms first experience on an animated picture he told AWN. However, they won the Oscar in competition against live-action and animated features.

Sony Pictures is celebrating its win for Best Visual Effects for SPIDER-MAN 2, which John Dykstra, Scott Stokdyk, Anthony LaMolinara and John Frazier were able to accept on stage. Primary contributed houses were Sony Pictures Imageworks plus Zoic Studios, Radium Inc. and Barbed Wire. During his acceptance, Dykstra said, Boy, am I glad there wasnt a fourth episode of LORD OF THE RINGS, figuring that would have taken the award as the previous installments had done.

Here are a few onstage/backstage comments:

Sound editor Thom on the differences between live action and animation: I think there are fewer differences all the time because the films that we work on that are predominantly live action tend to have a lot of computer graphics and animated elements in them. Typically when you do the sound for an animated film, one of the things the director tells you is he doesn't want it to sound like an animated film. And that was certainly true about THE INCREDIBLES.

Our goal was to make it sound like a live-action film. I mostly work in dialogue, and it is a fair difference for me, in that in the live action when you're cutting dialogue, you're dealing with production sound and trying to save as much of the production sound as you can. In animation, they start with the recordings that are clean, and most of my job is to work with making those especially in THE INCREDIBLES making the dialogue as believable as possible, by either replacing it replacing it if we needed to or adjusting, synching whenever necessary.

Bird on how digital advancements have changed how he makes movies: Well, I think that there are wonderful things you can do with being able to move the camera and have textures in there and control minutiae of performances that would be difficult in hand-drawn animation, really subtle eye movements and stuff like that. But, ultimately, I think the heart of moviemaking has been the same for 80 years. And I think Pixar's success is due to the fact that technology is not at the heart of it. They believe that the most important thing is characters you can connect with and a story that is surprising and logical and exciting to watch. So I think that the technique is something temporary and ever-changing. The heart of the film is the characters and story.

Dykstra on the growing pressure for over-the-top visual effects and the danger of not having it compromise the storytelling: That's why SPIDER-MAN is here. It was a combination of the digital things I do the mechanical effects. And so it was a blend of what I do and what they do. I like to say if it was within 25 feet of the camera, then it's going to be a physical effect. And then the digital guys would take it from there on. I think what made this movie so great was the fact that everything was seamless. It was hard for you to tell what was digital and what was real. And that's a great compliment to these guys, because it gets better all the time. A lot of these scripts would still be on the shelf if it wasn't for computer-generated images. There was no way you can do them and make them look great. And it keeps pushing the envelope. And these guys keep getting better because they're forced to, and we keep getting better because we're forced to. We're lucky we're working with a director [Sam Raimi] that has combined life elements and doesn't want to just go digitalThe technology has gotten to the point where basically we don't get asked if we can do something anymore. We just get asked how much will it cost to do it. And that, a lot of times, makes the decision. And it is up to the director to find the balance. We have to keep the effects from driving the story. The story has to drive the effects. And I think that's the key. We've been put in the position, because of the tools, the power of those tools, of letting those effects be formed by the story, as opposed to the story being formed by the effects.

Landreth on the chance of seeing RYAN theatrically in front of feature films: Its getting a limited amount of that. It's not like it's going to be at a multiplex near you kind of thing, in Canada, anyway. It is playing in front of feature films in Toronto. I know it's playing in front of feature films in Canada. We're looking at putting in front of a film called NOTHING in Japan. So a little bit of that is happening. The thing about RYAN is that it's a longer film than most short films. It's 14-minutes long. Short films tend like animated short films tend to be about five minutes long or so. So it's hard to put it in front of a feature for that length. But nonetheless, people seem to be doing it, which is really cool.

The ceremony, hosted by Chris Rock, at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood was televised on ABC.

For a complete list of the Academy Award winners, visit www.oscars.org.

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