Contenders in the animated feature, animated short film and visual effects categories share their initial reactions to their nominations for Oscar gold.
Each year, we greet the annual early morning Oscar nomination reveal with excitement and a touch of anxiety – hunkered down in front of our computer screens, we digest the list of nominees with cheers and the occasional furrowed brow, marveling as always at the depth of talent and scope of imagination demonstrated by the most recent crop of fantastic films and the creative professionals who made their production possible.
The 2019 field of animated and VFX-driven films once again demonstrates how vivid, compelling and innovative artistry helped filmmakers successfully tell their stories to audiences around the world.
One of the unfortunate, but inherent downsides of any award competition is the callous assumption that such efforts are zero sum affairs -- “winners” celebrated… “losers,” for the most part, ignored. Putting popularity and politics aside, every year is filled with more great work than you can shake a stick at, and this is no exception. This year’s awards season shortlists and nominee selections are all filled with worthy choices in the Oscar derby. Whether streamed, screened or broadcast, recognized by festival judges, critics, guild members or the general public, this year’s roster of animated shorts, features and visual effects-rich films amply demonstrated the tremendous power of the moving image.
All year long, AWN does its best to focus attention and commentary on celebrating the artists, who all toil relentlessly -- for the most part anonymously and often for years -- to share their creative vision with an audience. Their perseverance, dedication and commitment entertains us, moves us and inspires us. They are all worthy of our praise.
We’ve spent a good chunk of the past two days contacting every nominee in the animated feature, animated short and visual effects categories to get their initial reactions, asking “How does it feel to join a select group of artists who’ve been recognized by the Motion Picture Academy for being the best in the business?” We only didn’t connect with one, Bruno Collet, who directed the short film, Mémorable. Read everyone else’s responses below, and stay tuned for AWN’s continued coverage of the 92nd Academy Awards as we enter the home stretch of the race to see who takes home Oscar gold this February 9th.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (DreamWorks Animation)
“Great news for the Dragon cast and crew! The Academy has been very kind to us over the past decade, honoring us with nominations for each installment of our trilogy. It’s been a labor of love and we greatly appreciate the acknowledgment.”
-- Dean DeBlois, Writer / Director
“We are immensely proud and honored to receive this nomination from The Academy. The story of Hiccup and Toothless has been a story of a life-changing friendship and a world that so many artists have brought their heart and immense talents to. We congratulate our fellow nominees and all who have given so much in the making of Dragon.”
-- Bonnie Arnold, Producer
“I’m excited, honored, and so thankful to the Academy to be nominated and so proud and happy for our amazing crew that put every ounce of their energy into this film, and a cast that brought such memorable performances to life.”
-- Brad Lewis, Producer
I Lost My Body (Netflix)
“What a dream come true for myself and the whole crew! Who would have thought that an adult animated film, a bit weird and melancholic, about a severed hand and titled I Lost My Body could one day be Oscar nominated? It’s proof that a film made with limited funds and not playing by the usual rules can still achieve the highest artistic recognition. What an honor! Thank you to Guillaume Laurant who wrote the book this film is based on. Thank you to my producer Marc du Pontavice who never ceased to believe in me. Thank you to my voice cast, my composer Dan Levy and the whole crew at Xilam Studio.”
-- Jérémy Clapin, Writer / Director
“I feel extremely proud and grateful for this nomination. Proud because this is celebrating an immense effort to cross the boundaries that are usually assigned to animation, to claim the right to draw adult stories that are complex and demanding. And grateful to the academy for demonstrating its love for diversity. It’s never been so urgent that the heart of the world entertainment industry encourages different voices, different art of storytelling. My admiration and thanks go to the brilliant vision of film director Jérémy Clapin and to the talent and devotion of the artists at Xilam Animation Studio.”
-- Marc du Pontavice, Producer
"We are extremely honored to be nominated for an Oscar. Many thanks to the members of the Academy of Motion Pictures and Science. Klaus would not be here without our relentless crew of 260-plus talented artists and technicians representing 22 countries, and of course without ATRESMedia and Netflix, who believed in our vision to take traditional animation forward. We hope others will continue to innovate and diversify the animation medium."
-- Sergio Pablos, Writer / Director, Jinko Gotoh and Marisa Román, Producers
Missing Link (Annapurna Pictures)
“Everyone at LAIKA is absolutely thrilled to be nominated for Best Animated Feature Film for Missing Link. Our film speaks to the human desire to belong, to find your place in life and to connect with others. For the hundreds of animators, craftspeople and technologists who create our films, that connection lies in the belief that movies matter and that creating beauty and emotionally rich film experiences is our best way to make a difference in the world. A most sincere thanks to the Academy for this acknowledgement."
-- Chris Butler, Writer / Director, Arianne Sutner and Travis Knight, Producers
Toy Story 4 (Pixar)
"Working on Toy Story 4 has been an incredible journey and a tremendous honor. We love these characters so much - they are like family to us. Our goal was to tell a story that explored the idea that our purpose is a moving target. It’s humbling how that message resonated with audiences around the world. We hope people have found it not only to be entertaining, but thoughtful as well.
Of course, it’s also a film about toys, which hopefully helps imbue the experience with humor and fun as well as emotional depth. But for us, and our entire crew, when we receive an honor like today’s two nominations, it’s clear our purpose is to strive to tell great stories. Thank you Academy for this recognition – to infinity and beyond!”
-- Josh Cooley, Director, Mark Nielsen and Jonas Rivera, Producers
ANIMATED SHORT FILMS
Dcera (Daughter) (MAUR Films)
“I am very happy that three (out of five) Oscar nominations went to puppet films. Personally, I prefer handicraft and the fact that the Academy appreciated this beautiful technique shows a good sign and trend for the future.”
-- Daria Kascheeva, Writer / Director
Hair Love (Sony)
“We are so very grateful to The Academy for this recognition. We set out on this journey to tell the story of a young black father whose love for his daughter takes him into uncharted territory – doing her hair for the first time. The story was incredibly personal to us because it allowed us to tackle the negative societal stereotypes around natural hair and black fathers, and to normalize the depiction of a loving black family that we know so well and yet have seen so little of in media. We are grateful for the overwhelming reception. It’s a testament to how much representation matters and how it can empower all of us to see ourselves in a more positive light. We humbly thank Sony Pictures Animation and everyone who played a part in getting Hair Love out to the world.”
-- Matthew A. Cherry, Writer / Director and Karen Rupert Toliver, Producer
“We are truly honored and humbled to receive this nomination and be celebrated alongside such an inspiring collection of shorts – it means the world to us and the entire Kitbull crew. Our biggest hope with Kitbull was for the audience to come away with a deeper appreciation and understanding of animals and their needs, and to give a voice to the voiceless… so to be recognized at this level, could not be more meaningful. A sincere thank you to the Academy. Now we are off to celebrate by watching more cat videos!”
-- Rosana Sullivan, Director and Kathryn Hendrickson, Producer
Sister (Miyu Distribution)
“Sister is a very special and personal film for me. When I started to make this film, I simply wanted to make a film to reflect on my childhood and tell the story of our generation that nobody has ever told before, never really thinking about how the film would eventually be received. It has been a fantastic journey to create Sister and to see her being embraced by audiences around the world. And today I’m extremely grateful to see Sister being nominated for an Oscar among this group of amazing films! I want to share the joy with my CalArts mentors and student volunteers who helped on the production, I could not have created this film without their guidance and support. And thank you to the Academy for this nomination, it means the world to us! When I left China six years ago to pursue my dream as a filmmaker, my parents told me, ‘Go explore the world.’ They probably didn’t see this coming.”
-- Siqi Song, Writer / Director
1917 (Universal Pictures)
“We are absolutely delighted to hear that our work on 1917 was nominated by AMPAS, BAFTA and VES! This is a testament to the talent and dedication of all the artists here at MPC that helped realize Sam Mendes’ unique vision for the film. I am honored to be representing this incredible team.”
-- Guillaume Rocheron and Greg Butler, VFX Supervisors and Dominic Tuohy, Special Effects Supervisor
Avengers: Endgame (Disney)
“Avengers: Endgame marked the culmination of almost seven years of collaboration with the Russo Brothers and the team at Marvel. Hundreds of artists worked tirelessly to help bring this movie saga to a fitting end, and I am honored to get to represent the work on behalf of the entire team at ILM. It's been an incredible morning.”
-- Russell Earl, Visual Effects Supervisor
The Irishman (Netflix)
“It was an incredible, surreal experience to work with Scorsese and the actors, De Niro, Pacino and Pesci, on this movie. We are so grateful for the trust and support we got from the producers and from Netflix, and the talent and dedication of our team. We’re honored to be recognized by our colleagues with this nomination.”
-- Pablo Helman, Visual Effects Supervisor
The Lion King (Disney)
“Hard to say what is the best part of hearing the news, the rush of excitement as your film is announced, or the immediate thrill and appreciation you feel for your fellow nominees and all the tremendous talents that contributed so mightily to the nomination. Followed by moments after, all the well wishes and congratulations you receive from your fantastic circle of family and friends genuinely sharing in the moment. It is such a great feeling that simple words cannot adequately convey.”
-- Rob Legato, VFX Supervisor
“Learning that The Lion King has been recognized by both BAFTA and AMPAS is thrilling. I'm so proud of the hundreds of crew members who gave so much of their enthusiasm and dedication to crafting this film at MPC. We set out with Jon Favreau to give audiences an authentic experience of African landscapes and these endearing characters. We are so appreciative just in that audiences enjoyed it, so to also have the recognition of our peers makes it all the more fulfilling.”
-- Adam Valdez, VFX Supervisor
“It's fantastic to be nominated for an Oscar for the visual effects on The Lion King. I feel very honored to have been involved in retelling this story again using all the latest technology and working with some of the most talented individuals in our industry. It takes a great deal of time, effort and passion to produce a movie like this and so I am very proud that all of that hard work and energy has been recognized by the members of The Academy.”
-- Elliot Newman, VFX Supervisor
“I am so honored and excited to be nominated for our work on The Lion King. In a year with so much amazing VFX work, it is really nice to be recognized.”
-- Andy Jones, Animation Supervisor
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Disney)
“Fantastic news! It's very exciting and a real honor to be nominated - especially as it comes from our peers in the business. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our talented and amazing crew who worked so hard - it's a massive team effort! It was an absolute pleasure working with everyone and we're very proud to be part of Star Wars. I’m incredibly honored to be recognized by the Academy – this truly feels like the conclusion of an epic journey for Star Wars visual effects. I’m a Skywalker today!”
-- Roger Guyett, Visual Effects Supervisor
“Wow. What a tremendous honor! Thank you so much, AMPAS and thank you to our colleagues for nominating us. Thank you to our amazing Skywalker Sound crew! Big Congratulations to all Sound editing nominees! What a fantastic end to an epic series!"
-- Patrick Tubach, Visual Effects Supervisor
“Unbelievable, I feel incredibly lucky and honored to be nominated. For the entire team it is confirmation that all of their commitment and hard work has been noticed and acknowledged at the highest level. The Rise of Skywalker is the last film in the trilogy and with that comes some sadness however this nomination is a perfect way to finish.”
-- Neal Scanlan, Creature Effects Supervisor
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.