Sunday, February 25, 2007

Oscar Upset!

I think we can safely guess what the Monday morning water cooler talk will be about town -- the stunning upset by Happy Feet in the Best Animated Feature category. While Cars wasn't quite seen as the lock that, say, Helen Mirren was, few doubted John Lasseter's film would take home Pixar's third Oscar for in the Animated Feature category . . .

We can only guess what tipped things away from Lasseter and in favor of George Miller. The Academy is overwhelmingly dominated by live action film professionals, and Mr. Miller is one of their own. Much was also made of Happy Feet's emphasis on the use of live-action cinematography techniques (apparently unheard of in our backwards industry), and of the live action actors and dancers who provided the motion capture data for the animation (well, of course animators can't dream of providing great animation without real actors to help). Many loved the environmental emphasis of Happy Feet (I even had one person tell me they liked that it dealt with global warming, which of course it didn't). And it probably didn't hurt that 2006 was widely seen as a fairly weak year for animated films, despite the large number of major releases.

Pixar was also shut out in the Short Animated Film category, as were fellow major studios Blue Sky and Disney. Not too big a surprise here, since this category has usually been seen as the natural venue of independent, personal visions. So Torill Kove's The Danish Poet, a co-production with the National Film Board of Canada, was no surprise.

[In case you don't remember the previous Oscar winners for Best Animated Feature: Shrek, Spirited Away, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit.]

60 comments:

Ming said...

So Golden Globe Awards is not dominated by live action film professionals, and that was why Cars could beat Happy Feet?

s.r. hulett said...

For some reason, Feet winning didn't seem like a big surprise to me.

It was, after all, the animated film that burst through at the end of '06, and that usually helps live action flicks. Why not animated ones as well?

Kevin Koch said...

The Golden Globes voters are indeed NOT film professionals. They are, nominally, foreign press, though from what I've read many of the 80 or 90 members of that group aren't actually working reporters.

MrFun said...

Maybe it's just me -- but we now have an animated Oscar category when animated films seem less like animated films than ever before.

Sure, we've made a quantum leap technically -- but somehow animation seems more tech savvy than movie smart. Today's films touch me less than the ones I watched when I was a kid.

Then again, maybe it's just me.

Steven E. Gordon said...

Keep in mind that approximately half the nominating committee was made up of animation professionals and they wwere the ones who nominated 2 films that some in the industry would rather not be considered REAL animation. There were plenty of TRUE animated films to choose from if there was a concern about mo-cap.
To think that the Academy voted for a live-action director (especially George Miller) over Lassiter doesn't seem at all viable. I suspect - if anything - it had more to do with the film seeming to have a message or feeling like Pixar has already won a number of times previously, but more likely they just enjoyed that film more. That is a possibility - isn't it?

DanO said...

i'm more of a fan of "The Road Warrior" than i am a curmudgeon about motion capture(and i can be quite the curmudgeon abut that), so i am content to be happy for Mr. Miller.

Anonymous said...

Did Happy Feet win because Academy voters felt more comfortable voting for a film with a cautionary message about global warming over one which celebrates America's obsession with the automobile? ;-) Or was it simply because Happy Feet was a fun, beautiful film with heart, humor and arresting visuals?

Those who maintain that Happy Feet was "not an animated film" should consider this: is a rig motivated by an artist pushing a mouse inherently superior to a rig motivated by an artist attached to a full-body motion sensor system? If animators should be respected as "actors", why can't actors be "animators"? And would an animator in a mo-cap suit no longer be an animator? Does the more sophisticated input device divest one of that title? Would it be better if Savion Glover was pecking at a keyboard? Or should the Savion Glovers of the world "stay out of it" as far as the animation community is concerned?

Kevin Koch said...

With all due respect, in no universe could what Savion Glover did be considered animation. Every definition of animation includes creating motion frame by frame in some way. Can you consider the people who cleaned up the raw data generated by Savion Glover's dancing in a mo-cap suit as animators? Perhaps, if they added something extra to the process (as I'm certain they did).

But was Mr. Glover 'animating'? Emphatically no.

Anonymous said...

I suppose this means that when animators begin using utilities which allow the computer to capture their movements in real time, then they will no longer be animating?

And how did Savion Glover NOT create motion "frame by frame"? Seems to me that he DID... only at a faster rate and with more body intelligence than most "animators". :-)

New technologies always provoke fear and loathing.

Anonymous said...

Stop trying to prove to the world that mo-cap is in fact animation, it's not!

It's excatly like trying to prove that photography is painting but with this new cool gadget called the camera.

Listen, here's the difference,

Mocap records, animation creates.

Same with a camera recording a picture of a sunflower, while an artist would create a painting of the same flower.

mo cap is in fact a recording device, it's no different than filming live action and adding some filter in post like they did with Scanner Darkly.

and here's a question to ask yourself, if for the sake of argument we take mocap as animation, how would you go about mocaping a dragon if you needed one in your next film, or a T-Rex? you can't! becasue there's not one around for you to stick your wires on and records your data.

here's another difference between mocap and animation,

animation can create anything that you can imagine, mocap however can not do this and is stuck with a limited range of tangible creatures.

Benjamin said...

Could it be that it won because it was a better film? How much mocap this film really is, is still not clear, so I'll give it the benifit of the doubt and say it truly was an animated film. But really, who outside the animation community cares? I agree animation can (should?) get better results on screen, but in the end, isn't it about the film as a whole? And most of the people I know who are not in animation thought that Happy Feet was a truly great, fun, exhilirating film. I don't think there's need to search for a "reason" for it's win beyond that.

Anonymous said...

> Listen, here's the difference,
> Mocap records, animation creates.

~ Mocap records the intention of an artist as conveyed through a performance of the entire body. Animation records the intention of an artist as conveyed through their hand. I see neither as inferior to the other.

> if for the sake of argument we take mocap as animation, how would you go about mocaping a dragon if you needed one in your next film, or a T-Rex? you can't!

~ And I probably wouldn't. Keyboard-and-mouse animation is very effective in the right hands. But "can't" is a big, negative word. I'm sure someone would have thought you "can't" mocap a penguin... or a house. :-)

Anonymous said...

Keyframe animation such as the Pixar kind and Aardman will always look better than mocap.

Mocap has a place with live action heavy fx ladden movies like LOTR or the Hulk.

Maybe the public doesn't care, or can't even notice the difference. But I do care, and I can see the difference. mocap looks cheap.

So "Happy Feet" won the Oscar...I'm ok with that. Perhaps it was a better movie than "Cars". I did not see HF. I refuse to go see a supposedly animated movie where mocap was used. That's my prerrogative. That's my choice.

Rufus.

Anonymous said...

> I refuse to go see a supposedly animated movie where mocap was used. That's my prerrogative. That's my choice.

You choose not to stay aware and informed regarding technologies which affect your profession? :-)

Anonymous said...

How hard is it for some people to understand that the definition of animation is to create movement ONE FRAME AT A TIME???!!! No matter the medium, that definition has, and always will, hold.

If movement is created through a recording or input device, it is puppetry. There is a difference.

But some, who lack talent and skill, will continue to insist there is no difference. Motion capture represents a refuge for these people

Anonymous said...

Yes - motion capture is a "refuge for the talentless". I see it now.

Your mouse is an "input device". Are you engaged in "puppetry"?

Anonymous said...

i suggest we start making bad live-action movies and get back at them that way. how hard could that be...

Anonymous said...

regarding the issue of comparing the mouse and mocap as both being input devices, and therefore counting mocap as animation,

there is a big differnce here, like said before, animation is the art of creating sequential drawings or images, one at a time, so when played at 24fps would create THE ILLUSION OF LIFE.

Mocap records real life, it's no different than live action, only instead of a camera you have some wires or laser pointers or whatever.

there is nothing wrong with mocap, i even suggest that the academy add a category for mocaped films to spare us these kind of arguments, but mocap IS NOT animation, it could be whatever you want it to be, it can be an artform of its own, but it's not animation.

Anonymous said...

>>I suppose this means that when animators begin using utilities which allow the computer to capture their movements in real time, then they will no longer be animating?<<

It's called puppeteering.

Anonymous said...

>>Your mouse is an "input device". Are you engaged in "puppetry"?<<

You are thick. The difference lies when it is recorded in real-time. Last I checked, when you use the mouse it isn't recording your motions. When that starts to happen, it will be puppetry as well.

Anonymous said...

There is no difference at all between keyed animation and mocap!!

And "The Muppet Movie" was one of the best animated movies ever!!

Anonymous said...

Congrats everyone who worked on it, warm fuzzys.

If you realised how much time the animators on Happy Feet slaved away key framing and tweaking mocap information, you'd swallow your ignorant words. Have you people never seen Gollum before? The most compelling animated charactor of all time... Do your research before you criticise. Suck lemons, Happy Feet won :)

Anonymous said...

> You are thick. The difference lies when it is recorded in real-time. Last I checked, when you use the mouse it isn't recording your motions. When that starts to happen, it will be puppetry as well.

You realize, of course, that when you have to resort to insults you've effectively conceded the argument. :-)

Last time *I* checked, the mouse COULD be used to record motions, and in fact IS being used to do so - in real time - by many animators in our industry. Correction: I believe you would refer to these folks as "puppeteers".

Those who preoccupy themselves with categories and definitions risk dooming themselves to stagnant, bitter careers. Open your mind!

woodhouse said...

Wow, perhaps Steve should change the title of this thread to "Animators Upset!" Such energy! ;-)

Anonymous said...

It's still a shame Cars didn't win , in my opinion , Happy Feet was juggling too many plots and conflicts , and halfway through the movie I was lost .

Anonymous said...

Of course the mouse could be used as a real-time recording device. And... When that is done, it is no longer animation. It is recording motion.

I seriously doubt "many" animators are recording their movements in realtime. Of all the places I've worked, I've seen that happen a grand total of never.

I'd love to hear examples of people doing that. Can you point to any articles/interviews/etc?

Anonymous said...

BTW, we may be preoccupying ourselves with making categories and definitions.. it is because people like you are preoccupying yourselves with claiming that motion capture is animation.

In my experience with those that have worked on motion capture projects, they are looking to get out and work with 100% hand keyed non realtime animation or they simply dont have the skills to hand key everything. I suspect you are the latter.

Anonymous said...

Just think of the 5 year olds who never heard the old songs. Who watch the DVD over and over. And.. was not distracted for 90 minutes. Happy feet isn't original.Kids were fidgity during the movie at Happy Feet. The story was so so. The story in Cars was new, fresh and exciting. Hollywood should really wake up. It is the 5 year olds who choose the Best Animated Film. Next time you go to the movies. Watch the 5 year old kids. They are the true judges.

Anonymous said...

Oscars are certainly prestigious and represent a huge honor to the filmakers.

IMO : CARS was the better told story.

The Prize that really matter for our business (and our employment) is :
How many tickets/DVDs of these pictures were sold.
Debate the merits of what is ANIMATED or not. The three nominees generated
almost 1 billion $ at the worldwide Box Office.
Bravo to All !

Anonymous said...

Everyone take it easy. I'm not a big fan of Happy Feet but i was also surprised that Cars was less than i expected. I'm sure Disney isn't too pleased today.

Anonymous said...

I suppose I'd have been less surprised that "Cars" didn't win if it had been up against worthwhile competition. "Open Season," "Over the Hedge," and even "Flushed Away" were far better films than that mo-crap happy feet and monster house.
But seeing as how "Cars" has generated BILLIONS since it's release, I suppose Disney could only have been happier if it had won the oscar.

Steve Hulett said...

Let's not put too much stock in this, folks. The movie that wins in any given year isn't necessarily the beloved classic we all remember fondly twenty years later.

"You Can't Take It With You" was the "Best Picture" winner of 1938, Frank Capra's version of a Kaufman and Hart Broadway play.

Who remembers "YCTIWY"? Not many. But who doesn't remember "The Adventures of Robin Hood"? Which LOST!

As I said before, the pictures that come out in November-December often have an edge.

Marcos Gp said...

When I scroll down this page I see a strange visual effect on the image with miller. the background seems to move...just try it.....

Anonymous said...

> In my experience with those that have worked on motion capture projects, they are looking to get out and work with 100% hand keyed non realtime animation or they simply dont have the skills to hand key everything. I suspect you are the latter.

Again with the insults. If you only knew who you were talking to... :-)

Anonymous said...

I agree with both sides of the arguement-on some levels. Motion Capture is not really animation in the sense that is is recorded. But, this does not make Happy Feet not animated. Did you not notice the scenery? The glaciers, icebergs, water, clouds, and everything else were not motion captured! Motion capture is a base. It gives you an image a model to work from. Once that is recorded than the animators add on the, [in this case feathers ect.], outside things that we see. This base is similar to when animators scan models into the computer to animate on. As for animation being drawing every frame, this is most certainly not true! Have you ever heard of Key Frame Animation*?

Don't not see a movie because of how it is made. If it is a movie worth seeing, go see it.

Besides, Happy Feet deserved the win. I saw it, and it is really good. I saw Cars too, and I liked them both. If Cars should have won an Oscar, it should have been best original song.

*From the CBC website: Key Frame Animation

"Nestor Burtnyk and fellow scientist Marcelli Wein eliminated the need for animation artists to draw each and every frame. Their invention revolutionized the animation industry and earned them an Academy Award in 1997. "]

Anonymous said...

I saw all 3 nominated movies and Happy Feet was the best followed by Monster House and then Cars.
Finding Nemo and now Cars are Pixars worst films so I really hope Ratatouille will be good!

Anonymous said...

>Again with the insults. If you only knew who you were talking to... :-)

With all due respect, why don't you introduce yourself then, so we all know who we're talking to. Yet, I don't think it's gonna change the fact here, mocap is not animation, period.

but I tell you what, in one case could we say mocap IS animation, that would be when the actor whos motion is being recorded would move one frame at the time, holds, mocap records that frame, then he moves again, stops, another frame goes into data, sort of like stop-motion. see the difference? only then we could say it's truely animated.

RMS Oceanic said...

I’m not going to debate whether Happy Feet was truly animated or not. I was supporting Cars for this award, but I was fully aware that Happy Feet was also a good film, and it could go either way. However, I suspect the award went to Happy Feet for the wrong reasons.

When I first saw that Happy Feet won, I was disappointed, but pleased for Mr. Miller. When I then discovered who won the Best Song award, however, I was annoyed.

Most expert analysts predicted that one of the songs from Dreamgirls (Listen or Patience, specifically), would get this award, and if the Dreamgirls vote was split, then Our Town would be the one to benefit (because who doesn’t like a Randy Newman Songologue?). For “I Need to Wake Up” from “An Inconvenient Truth” to get the award was a shock out of the blue. As far as I could tell, it was the least likely song to win.

These two awards, Best Animated Film and Best Song, being awarded to these candidates lead me to suspect that both categories were politicised. Because they were both linked to what is “Vogue” in Hollywood Politics - Saving the Environment - members of the Academy voted for them because of that message, rather than the actual merits of the candidates in their respective fields. It’s like what nearly happened with Brokeback Mountain last year.

That’s why I spent my Monday annoyed. Both Happy Feet and Cars are good films (for different reasons), but if I’m right, what tipped it for Happy Feet was not its own merits as an animated film, but political correctness.

Anonymous said...

Here we go. Someone pulling the "if you only knew who I was" card. That's a knee kicker.

Either cowboy up with your real name or don't whip out a pointless threat like that.

I suggest that the Union remove the ability to post anonymously. I realize that won't stop some people, but at least it will slow down all of our BS.

Anonymous said...

"Either cowboy up with your real name"

Everyone is using this "cowboy up" expression Sawyer used in the last episode of Lost. WTH !!!

btw. I'm a nobody.

Steve Hulett said...

I'm Steve Hulett. A legend in my own mind.

Anonymous said...

anonymous #3,482. I wasn't aware that the expression was used on Lost.

I only say it because I'm a real cowboy. You'd know that, but of course I can't tell you who I really am.

But really, if you only knew who I was!!

Anonymous said...

Hi, guys,

I don't have much to add to this thread, other than one observation.

The ending of Cars made it absolutely clear that a trophy does not matter all that much in the big picture of life.

If Cars didn't win a trophy, that's OK with me. I still love that film and its thoughtful philosophy.

Now I just gotta get around to seeing Happy Feet..!

Anonymous said...

"But really, if you only knew who I was!!"

Mr. Katzenburg? Is that you?

Oh silly me!

Anonymous said...

> Here we go. Someone pulling the "if you only knew who I was" card. That's a knee kicker.

> Either cowboy up with your real name or don't whip out a pointless threat like that.

It wasn't a THREAT (didn't you see the smiley). You really are *quite* defensive! :-)

The "if you only knew" is because I've worked on some of the most stylized 3D keyframe animation done in our industry - yet I keep my mind open to mocap.

And I LOVE how the suggestion that the union remove the ability to post anonymously comes from someone who chose to post as "anonymous". :-) Walk the walk, son!

Anonymous said...

From anonymous #4,392: "Walk the walk"

That's why I said "all of **OUR** bs".. That "our" was on purpose.

Anyway. Don't bother throwing out the "if you only knew" and just tell us if you think it matters. Something tells me it wouldn't make an iota of difference.

Otherwise keep yer mouth shut cause yer just sounding like a dolt.

Anonymous said...

I didn't see Happy Feet, but there seems to be a lot of tension against it. I wonder if some of that negativity is because the film didn't come out of southern California?

Just wondering...

Anonymous said...

> Otherwise keep yer mouth shut cause yer just sounding like a dolt.

And now you're channeling Ben Grimm from The Fantastic Four...

This is the best TAG thread EVER! ;-)

Andrew James said...

>The "if you only knew" is because I've worked on some of the most stylized 3D keyframe animation done in our industry - yet I keep my mind open to mocap.

One could have worked on some Pixar and Dreamworks films and STILL be wrong, don't you think?

It's good that you're keeping an open mind about mocap, i think everyone should, and even thou I don't like mocap personaly it still is a valuable tool for some type of films and probably has its advantages.

BUT,

mocap is NOT animation. Just as photography is not painting like somebody said earlier. people who work with mocap data are technicians not animators becasue they don't create, they manipulate.

I remember a phrase from The Illusion of Life about an animator who said the best time for him was when he was given a new scene, sitting at his desk, looking at the blank paper and thinking about how to do it.

that's an animator, creating performance, character and emotion from scratch, on a blank page, drawing after drawing, or frame by frame, that's what got me a lot others into animation, that thrill of seeing that character move on paper or on the screen when you KNOW they're not alive.

Anonymous said...

Best thread ever.

Totally agree with Oceanic and mr. Andrew James.

We exagerate reality and leave out the unnecessasy.

Still not seeing "Happy Feet". The universe won't collapse if I don't, and neither will my career.

Rufus.

Tommy said...

I really don't understand why anyone liked Happy Feat. I saw it, and thought it was one of the worst films I'd every seen. I'm not even anti-mo cap. I loved Monster House.

Personally, I think Flushed Away should have been nominated. It got such bad press, but it's actually a very fun film.

Tommy said...

Hm...somehow I managed to get the previous comment attributed to me...I didn't see Happy Feet or Flushed Away, and I wasn't a big fan of Monster House.

Anyway, I just wanted to say that, all mo-cap debate aside, Cars was mediocre. Sure there was a lot of great shiny Pixar images, but to say it was original or a new story idea is completely ludicrous.

Go watch "Doc Hollywood" with Michael J. Fox and tell me that "Cars" was a completely new and original story. IT'S THE EXACT SAME PLOT PEOPLE. I'm amazed more people haven't pointed this out.

Anonymous said...

I think the ideal nominees for this year would have been,

Cars
Flushed Away
Over The Hedge

that's only fair becasue all the films are hundred percent pure good old true animation.

Tommy said...

Nope, different Tommy!

Anonymous said...

Happy Feet is mostly not Mo-Cap. This was primarily used for the dance. The rest was computer animated. Please remember that Arthur and the Invisibles was short-listed, and could of qualified in the animated catagory, even though about 1/4 of it, or so was live action. A movie does not have to be fully animated to qualify.

Anonymous said...

>A movie does not have to be fully animated to qualify.

Of course, but would it be fair to other films that are fully key-framed and equaly good in every other way?

If there WEREN'T any other animated movies, then it would be fair to get happy feet in there, but leaving out Over The Hedge and Flushed Away to get monster house and happy feet? I'm all disagreed.

Anonymous said...

Please. "Happy Feet" had more heart and genuine humor than *either* of those two hackneyed Dreamworks films.

Start with great work by the DW crew, thrown in a healthy dose of JK meddling, and treat yourself to "well animated, well rendered" talky CRAP. :-/

Anonymous said...

Ok, guys... let's set aside the "mocap/nocap" spat and discuss the bigger picture: is this "snub" good for Pixar? I believe it is, IF if provokes self-reflection.

Pixar appears to be very much in the same position that Disney was in the mid-90's, riding phenomenal success on an increasingly predictable formula. Yesterday's revolutionary is today's old guard. Like it or not, the boys at Pixar are now "The Man", The Authorities.

Of course, these guys aren't "stupid", but neither were the folks at Disney (ok... a couple names come to mind). ;-) Will Andrew Stanton's WALL-E be a shot in the arm for Pixar, or a "Treasure Planet"-like shot in the foot?

One things for sure, whether or not any of the children are "disappointments" to the family, they'll be well-rendered. :-)

Roger Ribbit

Anonymous said...

It is amazing that more people didn't realize Cars was made many years ago with Michael J Fox when it was called DOC HOLLYWOOD.

I actually thought it was an animated homage.

Anonymous said...

So to sum it all up,

We, readers of the TAG blog have hereby reached the following verdict,

-Mocap is our friend (as long as it's not used in any animated film, character animation, heavy visual effects and any other moving picture you can think of)

-Australia, we love you down there, but please keep your cute tapdancing penguins with your kangaroos, dingos and the rest of your logical animals. And leave us in peace with our beloved academy awards, thanks mite.

-Don't insult your fellow TAG reader, you never know who's behind that "Anonymous" mask.

-And if you're brave enough to include your name, make sure you say nothing but nice stuff about everything and everyone. Remember, animation is one big happy fee..i mean family.

-Michael J. Fox, Doc Hollywood and Cars, we keep wondering as to why nobody can realize they're all the same thing. Attention, Mr. Lasseter.

Good night and good luck.

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