Samuel Goldwyn Theater
8949 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Hosts: Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera, last year’s Oscar-winning team from Inside Out
See All Oscar Week Events
February 21: Shorts
February 22: Documentaries
February 23: Animated Features
February 25: Foreign Language Film
February 25: Makeup and Hairstyling Symposium
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On February 23, Academy Governor Bill Kroyer opened the ninth annual event celebrating the nominees for Best Animated Feature Film by welcoming the evening’s hosts, Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera, and this year’s contenders: the stop-motion features “My Life as a Zucchini” and “Kubo and the Two Strings,” the hand-drawn “The Red Turtle” and the CG Disney films “Moana” and “Zootopia.”
Docter and Rivera, whose film “Inside Out” won last year’s Animated Feature Oscar, screened clips of the films and spoke with the directors and producers behind them. “My Life as a Zucchini”’s Max Karli and Claude Barras were absent, but the hosts praised the film’s sophistication and “sense of truth.”
After a poignant clip from “Kubo,” director Travis Knight, a 20-year animation veteran, admitted it “was the most incredible experience of my career.” He attributed the inspiration to his parents: a love of fantasy to his mom and a love of Japan to his dad.
While spectacles and sweeping vistas are difficult from a stop-motion standpoint, he and producer Arianne Sutner agreed, “just as challenging, and more important, are those moments of stillness, those moments of characters connecting with each other.”
“When the audiences can connect with those characters, for me, it’s the closest thing to magic that I’ve ever seen,” Knight added.
“Kubo” fuses old techniques with new ones, combining stop-motion with 3-D printing for facial animation. The project took 23 months from start to finish, with animators creating an average of four to five seconds of footage per week.
After a musical clip of “Moana,” directors John Musker and Ron Clements spoke of the story’s evolution. It began solely with Maui, a character inspired by Polynesian mythology. After a research trip to islands including Fiji and Tahiti—where the team met with archeologists, anthropologists, linguists, sailors, chiefs and villagers—they reinvented the story.
Producer Osnat Shurer spoke about the “Oceanic Story Trust” of experts in various fields, including tattoo art, that they consulted with throughout the filmmaking process.
For the music, the filmmakers teamed up with Opetaia Foa’i, Mark Mancina and Lin-Manuel Miranda, who were spread across California, Australia and New York. Mancina served as “the glue that fused the roots music of Opetaia with Lin’s more theatrical approach.”
Shurer, who has produced at Disney and Pixar, discussed similarities between the studios. Both share a “deep, deep love for animation and … the heart and the humor of Disney.” They also share John Lasseter, an “inspiration and guiding force for all of us.”
Afterwards, in Michael Dudok de Wit’s absence, producer Toshio Suzuki discussed his experience working on “The Red Turtle.” He had loved de Wit’s animated short “Father and Daughter,” and encouraged him to make a feature. De Wit agreed on the spot, but insisted that Studio Ghibli be involved. The film is Ghibli’s first co-production.
Suzuki also spoke about his long-time collaboration with Hayao Miyazaki, who announced his retirement over three years ago. Suzuki sat next to him at that news conference and remembered being “very happy and relieved” — “now I can start to live my own life.” Once Suzuki began working on “The Red Turtle,” Miyazaki returned to the producer with a new idea for a feature. They’re currently working on that film.
Lastly, directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore and producer Clark Spencer discussed the evolution of “Zootopia,” the complexity of its world and how they cast Jason Bateman and Ginnifer Goodwin as its central characters.
The story, set in a city of anthropomorphic animals, follows a bunny cop set on solving her first case. It’s a 21st century fable, but, Moore explained, they “didn’t want it to be a polemic or a lecture.”
“I always enjoyed films or TV shows that entertained but also left me thinking,” he said.
Before wrapping up, Docter and Rivera brought up all the filmmakers to share what inspired them to become animators. For Clements, a theatrical screening of “Pinocchio” had a profound effect. For Suzuki, it was the 1943 Japanese film “The Spider and the Tulip.”
How should others embark on a career in animation? “You have to be completely passionate about what you’re doing,” Knight said, and then find like-minded people to work with.
For Shurer, starting out at Pixar, “It was always about stories. Just keep telling stories, in whatever medium you can.”
Ultimately, Knight added, “If you have the passion and commitment and drive, you can do extraordinary things. And every single person up here is a testament to that.”
For a full list of nominees, please visit http://oscar.go.com/nominees.