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Oscar Nominees & Jon Heder Talk Animation at CAA

The AWN Oscar Showcase tour stops at agency CAA where the filmmakers talk animation with agents and "Napoleon Dynamite" star and fellow animator Jon Heder.

Tour host Ron Diamond (l) shows Granny O'Grimm's Nicky Phelan his legendary artist sketch book.

written by Rick DeMott

Day 2 of the L.A. leg of the tour had a late start at CAA in the afternoon. As the agents and their clients settled in for the screening, the nominees went for a cup of coffee.

The Lady and the Reaper producer Enrique Posner told me that the British Health Services had contacted them about using their film as part of training EMTs that reviving every patient might not be in the best interest of the patient. He was amazed at how the information travels to places that would have never seen their film before the Oscars. He added that balancing all the press requests ever since the nominations has been a major challenge. They even received a letter from the president of Spain.

Having read the tour blog, Posner joked that we needed to spice up the material. So they want to start a rumor that the only other Spanish nominee Penelope Cruz has left Javier Bardem for their Javier — Javier Recio Gracia.

Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty director Nicky Phelan had good news to report. His film will join a collection of Irish productions for an Irish theatrical release in a few months on about 60 screens. Reaper had already landed theatrical distribution in Spain, attaching itself to Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. Reaper is also a 3-D production.

When the group was talking about speeches, Reaper producer Raul Garcia joked that someone should pull a scroll out of their pocket and let it unravel onto the floor as they begin reading off name after name.

In a sneak peak of AWNtv's upcoming Oscar tour vlog, Nicky revealed that he had just returned from Mumbai where he was working as animation director on the TV series Olivia. During the tour he loves hearing from other animators how much their kids love the series. Speaking of TV series, Brown Bag took Granny O'Grimm to Cartoon Forum to pitch as the series. For the kids market, many investors felt Granny was too scary for kids. Nicky said that his big goal coming to the Oscars was to meet George Clooney and lucky for him at the nominees luncheon he sat at a table with Clooney's Up in the Air co-star Anna Kendrick, who made an introduction.

Nicky shares a hilarious story about the Granny O'Grimm production.

During the Q&A, Nicky said for writer and voice actress Kathleen O'Rourke the transition for her stage performance of Granny to the animated version was rough. Because she had no previous booth experience, she kept asking to do takes over and over again. Nicky kept asking her to push the exaggeration with each take. He said that when Kathleen was young she'd leave playing rounders in the street with other kids to go have a cup of tea and was called Granny back then. He added that the team has worked with Granny so much that she has become like a real person with them wondering how Granny would react to given situations in their lives.

For The Lady and the Reaper, twelve projects were pitched for Kandor Moon's first short and Javier's was the unanimous choice. One person in the crowd wondered why Javier chose the Grim Reaper to come for the old lady instead of an angel or God. Javier said that the Reaper was a non-religious symbol for death and he didn't want to bring in religious connotations to his film.

As for their inspirations, Nicky said that Quentin Blake, the illustrator for Roald Dahl's books, was one of his. Javier said that Tex Avery and Tom & Jerry cartoons were a direct influence on his film, but added that he finds the level of quality in Pixar's films very inspiring. He feels their work is helping the chances for a big budget animated film for adults to be made.

Jon Heder (c) chats with Raul (l) and Enrique.

As a guest of the agents, Napoleon Dynamite star Jon Heder (who studied animation at BYU) and his twin brother Dan, a previs artist, came to see the films. Afterwards, they stayed around for about an hour chatting about animation with the filmmakers. Jon told a story that right after Napoleon he received a script for a film about a rat that wants to cook. He was busy at the time finishing up his degree and never laid done his voice for the Pixar project. He wishes he would have. He said he did have a chance to visit Pixar and it was like a dream come true.

Dan Sarto's picture

Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.