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King Kong and Wallace And Gromit Grab Oscar Gold

The Oscars favored animated characters tonight (March 5, 2006) bestowing the coveted trophy to longtime animation industry favorites KING KONG , WALLACE & GROMIT and John Canemaker during the 78th Annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.

WALLACE & GROMIT: CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT won for Best Animated Feature, the documentary style THE MOON AND THE SON: AN IMAGINED CONVERSATION, by John Canemaker and Peggy Stern, won for Best Animated Short and Peter Jacksons classic KING KONG remake won in three out of its four categories it was nominated in, including the big win for Best Visual Effects.

KING KONG beat out THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH & THE WARDROBE and WAR OF THE WORLDS for best vfx. It also won for sound editing and sound mixing.

The ceremony, hosted by Jon Stewart, was televised live on ABC starting at 5:00 pm. CRASH won for Best Picture and Ang Lee was recognized his direction on BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN.

Just after George Clooney won the statute for Best Supporting Actor in SYRIANA in the first award of the evening, Ben Stiller came out in a green bodysuit to humorously acknowledge the increasing use of greenscreen in visual effects-laden movies. Since he was not working against a greenscreen, his suggestion he was just a floating head presenter didnt really quite come off nor when he covered his head with a green hood to become Oscar historys first invisible presenter.

Taking the stage from Weta Digital in New Zealand to accept were Joe Letteri, Brian Vant Hul, Christian Rivers and Richard Taylor. Afterwards, in the press interview room, Letteri acknowledged what a great job they have. What's great about it is it's sort of like an incredible variety because every time you have to do something, you have to immerse yourself in it, said Letteri. For KONG, we have to learn the history of New York. We have to learn all about gorillas in the wild, learn about the history of the film itself. You sort of take all that and you get to do it in as big a way as possible. It's hard to ask for anything more.

It's also celebration of the geeks in the world which is a good thing, added Taylor.

Letteri told VFXWORLD that previs has changed the position vfx has in the production process.

You know, I think what was most amazing about it was the fact that where in the past visual effects had been considered post -production, now with so much reliance in previews, in planning the film, we're actually there right at the beginning even as the script is being written to develop the ideas and the story.

We were there before the script was written. We actually started previs and involved Peter, Fran, and Phillip as they started writing the script for a lot of key action sequences. So, it's becoming a lot more of an integrated part of the filmmaking process rather than post-production.

Based upon their work with Andy Serkis as Gollum in the LORD OF THE RINGS films and Serkis again as Kong, AWN asked the team if they think there is a growing trend in movies of collaborations of performers and visual effects artists.

Letteri said, Yes. If you look at the last four years with the TWO TOWERS and RETURN OF THE KING with I, ROBOT they used an actor in the same mold. And now, with KONG. I know, it has it has real validity. Something has been working to create really great performances it's where you want that to be. It's like I was saying earlier, we are so blessed because we can pull from all these different things to make it work. So if you are creating a character in a performance why not pull from what an actor knows. I mean that is the heart of it. That's what we are all trying to learn is to how to tell these stories on the screen. That's goes back to traditional filmmaking and, you know, we are just sort of learning that craft.

After its 10-Annie sweep at the ASIFA-Hollywood Annie Awards, there was little surprise that WALLACE & GROMIT would beat out Hayao Miyazakis HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE and TIM BURTON'S CORPSE BRIDE for best feature. Directors Nick Park and Steve Box were ready to accept their Oscars, wearing oversized, matching plaid bow ties (ala Wallace) and then slipped matching smaller bow ties onto their Oscar statutes, making it the first time in Academy history that anyone has wardrobed Oscar.

Box offered, Somebody once said if you make a bad film, you make it alone. If you make a great film, everybody made it with you. We all made it together, guys.

Park called special attention to Peter Sallis, the voice of Wallace the past 23 years, who was seated in the audience. The animation duo finished their acceptance with a simultaneous, Crackin cheese, Gromit!

Later, in the interview room, they acknowledged that U.K. fashion designer Paul Smith created the ties for them. Box said his wife then thought at the last minute to make the matching bow ties for the trophies.

Box said the nomination of two stop-motion and one 2D, instead of a CGI 3D animated film, was perhaps sending a message.

What matters most of all is the films that are entertaining and well made, he said. you know, maybe there is a kind of a message there, you know, the hand crafted, more unique, more unusual kind of [all] films are important, you know, the original one, say I hope there's a message from the Academy there. He noted that the three nominated films were all beautiful and very unique. And maybe the CGI films this year just didn't hit that mark. I think any technique is fine. It's just a different tool to use. It's how well you use it, really.

Park added, We're big admirers of CGI films. I'm glad Pixar didn't have a movie out this year.

The hardest contest to call in the animation biz was the Animated Shorts category with THE MOON AND THE SON up against THE MYSTERIOUS GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORATIONS OF JASPER MORELLO by Anthony Lucas and 3D Films Prods., ONE MAN BAND by Pixar's Andrew Jimenez and Mark Andrews, 9 by Shane Aker and BADGERED by Sharon Colman and the National Film and Television School.

The category was presented by 3D animated presenters Chicken Little and Abby Mallard (aka Ugly Duckling) from the Disney feature film, CHICKEN LITTLE. The characters did some shtick about the design of characters and said animated characters could buck a wholesome trend. To demonstrate his rebelliousness, Chicken stripped off his pants, and, immediately embarrassed, grabbed the presentation envelope to wrap around his groin.

It was a goofy lead-in for winning short, an animated documentary really, about Canemaker coming to terms with his father. In his acceptance, Canemaker thanked the Academy for, faith in hand-drawn animation, which still can park an emotional wallop.

AWN asked Canemaker, a noted historian/teacher/filmmaker, what impact might his win and the previous years award for RYAN, another animated documentary, might have in animation.

I think it's pointing toward the future in which independent visions are going to become more and more prominent as technology is more available to a wider selection of artists, he said. You're going to see more personal stories, sort of a niche kind of, you know, type of filmmaking done, and I think it's going to bode well for the future of animation.

Stern added, John and I have worked using documentary and animation before so it's really wonderful to see a film like this get recognition, because I think more and more people want to use animation in different ways.


For a full list of winners & nominees, visit