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King Lords Over Oscars; Nemo and Krumpet Win for Animation

The coronation of THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING was complete at the 76th annual Academy Awards, held Feb. 29, 2004 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. More complete, it turns out, than anyone expected: 11 wins in 11 categories for a record-tying clean sweep, in the words of Steven Spielberg, including best picture, best director (Peter Jackson) and visual effects (Jim Rygiel, Joe Letteri, Randall William Cook, Alex Funke). In actuality a win for the trilogy, the 11 Oscars for KING puts it alongside BEN-HUR and TITANIC for most victories. It also marks the first time a fantasy film has won the big prize, which previously eluded such classics as THE WIZARD OF OZ, STAR WARS and E.T.

Although the Oscar telecast held few surprises, leave it to animation to provide the biggest drama of the night. While Pixar earned its first animated feature Oscar for Andrew Stantons FINDING NEMO, Adam Elliots HARVIE KRUMPET beat out Disneys DESTINO for animated short film. Why? Most likely the stronger narrative drive of the Elliot film trumped the abstract, painterly beauty of the Dali/Disney collaboration.

Here are a few onstage/backstage comments:

Andrew Stanton: FINDING NEMO would have never been possible if it wasnt for the extraordinary filmmaking environment created at Pixar Animation Studios by John Lasseter, Ed Catmull and Steve Jobs. And I am going to be forever grateful to the entire cast and crew of NEMO for the giving of their talents to this little fish story that I had. In particular, my producer Graham Walters and my co-director Lee Unkrich who should be up here with me right now accepting this. Thanks to -- Dick Cook and his incredible distribution team at Disney. Thanks to the Academy, to my loving parents, to my adoring children and to my wife, Julie. I wrote it to you in a note in eighth grade, now I can say it in front of 1 billion people. I love you.

Jim Rygiel: A trilogy of thank yous to the Academy. The amazingly brilliant Peter Jackson, wherever you are out there, Fran Walsh, Barrie Osborne, Lauren Ritchie, my vfx crew, Dean Wright, Libby Hazell, Aaron Cowan, all the people on Weta and Theresa, Sara and Jackson, my family.

Randall William Cook: Thanks to you for being so generous to us for the last three years running. Thanks, Pete and thanks to my wonderful animation team.

Joe Letteri: Thanks everyone for the amazing reception weve gotten to the work. Thank you Eileen Moran for keeping it all together, Peter and Fran for being such an inspiration, everyone at Weta Digital for that burst of creative energy. Thank you.

Adam Elliott: Wow. HARVIE KRUMPET has been a film thats in my head for over 10 years and Im so glad hes out. Wed like to congratulate everyone in Australia who have helped HARVIE come to life. In particular the Australian Film Commission, Film Victoria and SBS Independent, HARVIE will be screening on SBS television next Monday night at 9:00 P.M. I would also like to congratulate our fantastic cast and crew especially our uncle, Geoffrey Rush, for lending us his most beautiful voice. Finally, wed like to thank very -- two very, very special people, my friend Juliet and my beautiful boyfriend Dan. Thank you.

Peter Jackson: Im so honored, touched and relieved that the Academy and members of the Academy that have supported us have seen past the trolls and the wizards the hobbits and are now recognizing fantasy this year. Fantasy is an f-word that hopefully the five-second delay wont do anything with. I just want to say a very few quick words especially to the people of New Zealand and the government of New Zealand and the city councils and everybody who supported us the length and breadth of the country. Billy Crystal is welcome to come and make a film in New Zealand any time he wants. A special thanks to Peter Nelson and Ken Kamins, who were with me right from the days of BAD TASTE and MEET THE FEEBLES, which were wisely overlooked by the Academy at that time. And I especially want to pay tribute to our wonderful producer, Barrie Osborne...

Stanton on computer animation as a marketing gimmick and an insult to storytelling: Thats short-sighted thinking. All you have to do is look at the entire history of cinematography where technology and the methods have changed cyclically, and almost always the best story wins, and I dont think it takes that long to figure that out.

HARVIE KRUMPET producer Melanie Coombs on the impact of the Oscar victory for animation in Australia: In Australia were not known for animation, but hopefully this will put a little spark in on our industry for us. Were doing an animated series next, so well have to wait, and see what happens in the next week or so.

Jackson on his parents inspiration: My mom and dad were giving us a Super-8 camera as part of a Christmas present when I was eight years old, and I immediately grabbed it to make little movies and films with my Match Box toys in the backyard. And they supported me all of the way through the years. Thats why I paid tribute to them tonight, because my dad died during the pre-production on THE LORD OF THE RINGS, and my mother passed away three days before FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING was finished. She was trying to hang on to see it, and she didnt quite make it. So their support of me through the years has meant a huge amount to me, and I really wouldnt be here without that.

Parents supporting their children, its so important and its something Im trying to do with my kids. No matter what they want to do, I just want to be there for them because that really helped me so much. And for aspiring filmmakers, just make movies. Im not a great believer in sort of being an apprentice to somebody. Im not a great believer in going to film schools, because in New Zealand, we didnt have any film schools when I was a kid. Just get a camera, go out and make movies. If you have the real drive and determination to do it, youll do it.

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Rick DeMott
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