Thursday, February 19, 2009

Oscar-Nominated Animated Film Symposium - February 19, 2009

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, otherwise known as the folks that do that little Oscar thing every year, often holds various events at its headquarters in Beverly Hills. Sometimes, they are tickets you have to purchase, and sometimes, they are free events. You can be added to their mailing list to receive their monthly newsletter with upcoming event information. The events are usually held in their auditorium, the Samuel Goldwyn Theater. I've been there for a couple of events and for a number of film screenings, and for obvious reasons, it's a really gorgeous theatre.

Earlier this year, one of the mailings had indicated that they would be holding various symposiums for films nominated in various Oscar categories. This year would be the first time they would have a symposium for the films nominated in the Best Animated Feature category. The directors of each film - Chris Williams and Byron Howard for "Bolt", John Stevenson and Mark Osborne for "Kung Fu Panda", and Andrew Stanton for "Wall-E" - were expected to be in attendance.

The page on the Academy's site about the event alternates images from each of the three nominated films.

Information about the host and other details are also included.

Well, I loved "Wall-E" and I really, really liked "Bolt", so two out of three ain't bad. It was a free event, but you still had to order tickets, as a means of crowd control so they didn't overbook the auditorium.

Free parking was also provided at two different nearby lots, which was nice as parking can be difficult to find in that area.

It didn't take me as long as I thought it would to get there from work so I arrived at about 7pm. The event was sold out, so they were giving out stand-by vouchers. The husband was still en route from his work, so I went inside to get seats. I was surprised that they used a metal detector at the front door, and I couldn't remember if they'd had them on my previous visits. The seats in the middle of the auditorium were blocked off for special guests, so while I initially was going to take seats behind them, I decided that being closer and to the side would be better than being way in the back in the middle, so I found seats on the right side of the auditorium. As I waited for the husband, it turned out that another friend had come to the symposium as well, so he sat with me and then the husband joined us shortly thereafter.

The symposium was hosted by Tom Sito, who I'm not familiar with but who has his own credits in the animation industry. He was ok with some of the commentary and questions that he asked, but for someone moderating a discussion, he stumbled over himself a lot, which is even more surprising since he's also a professor and has written books.

Each of the films was discussed separately, with a clip shown first, and then the director(s) would come up, and Tom would talk to him/them about how the project came about and development and such, and then they'd show another clip. I'd had no interest in seeing "Kung Fu Panda", so the two clips they showed were completely new to me. One of the clips was when the master decided to use dumplings to teach the panda, which was funny in parts but there were elements that bothered me, but it was totally a random personal thing, so I won't go into it here. I hadn't known the character name of the master (played by Dustin Hoffman), but when I heard it, I laughed at the name they'd chosen for him - nice touch! Seeing clips from both "Bolt" and "Wall-E" just made me want to watch each movie all the way through again!

After each of the films was discussed, all the directors were brought back up on stage, and Tom then asked various questions of them. After that, it was open to questions from the audience.

I think my favorite story of the night came from Andrew Stanton, as he talked about working with Ben Burtt, and how Ben amassed the various sounds that would form the language/vocabulary of Wall-E, Eve and each of the other robots, and then they had to go through and decide which "word" would fit in which scene/sequence.

The symposium finished shortly before 10pm. It was really interesting to listen to all of them talk about various aspects of bringing each film to the screen and the challenges of making an animated movie in general. If you can make it to an event, I highly recommend it.

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