Mopdog’s Lead Animator and Sound Engineer Critiques Oscar Nominees

Oscar MoppyThe Oscars are an exciting event for movie-lovers, but it is important to remember that the Oscars are awarded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The inclusion of both art and science has become increasingly significant, as several technical categories have been added and continue to grow in the amount of entries.

To me, as an animator, videographer and sound engineer, it is the “tech” awards that truly honor each role that is needed to create memorable feature films. These niche categories also have a giant fan following and are highly debated by industry insiders.

Best Visual Effects
My choice for Best Visual Effects goes to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, because it sets a high bar for stunning work. The organic movement was not captured by technology alone. It took a great performance from fellow Brit, Andy Serkis, whose motion-capture work is best known as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Best Animated Feature Film
This category includes Song of the Sea, a highly stylized 2D cartoon, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, a Japanese hand-drawn film, The Boxtrolls, a 3D stop-motion feature, How to Train Your Dragon 2, which won at the Golden Globes earlier this year, and Big Hero 6.

To be honest, I missed most of these movies. However, I did see Big Hero 6 with my daughter the first weekend it came out. Big Hero 6 features Baymax, a large, white, not-so-typical medical robot in a seaside city, resembling San Francisco and Tokoyo.

Big Hero 6 is brilliant, with a great focus on realism. The textures show the effects of weight and light in a way that is a great example of the incredible leap forward in CGI. Even as an animator, I found myself forgetting it was computer-generated and not a living, breathing character. Of course I also know “computer-generated” is actually a compilation of thousands of people’s work crafted into each frame.

The backdrop of “San Fransokyo” was so breathtaking that it took some effort to focus on the storyline and not be distracted by the visual work. That is why, even though the Best Animated Feature award has only existed since 2001, I think it should be divided into two categories—one for best technique and one for best story.

I was shocked The Lego Movie was not even nominated for an Academy Award, considering it won Best Animated Film from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA). Although it had more simplified animation and an on-the-nose concept, based on existing toys and mimicking a video game series, The Lego Movie was a better animated feature due to the story and character development, with a lot of humor and action sequences.

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