Symposium Report: Selick, Anderson, Musker, Clements, Moore, and Docter


I would just like to give a quick report and say that the Academy’s Animated Feature Symposium was a great event. Wes Anderson was in London and couldn’t make it, but Henry Selick, John Musker, Ron Clements, Tomm Moore, and Pete Docter were all there. We saw clips from each of the films nominated for the Animated Feature Oscar for 2009 (2010 ceremony). I had already seen all the films, a few of them more than once, but it was a treat to see slices of them placed side-by-side on the big screen. It helped to remind me of each of their strengths.


As of this writing, the Oscars ceremony has already ended and we know that Up was the winner. A big “up” to Pete Docter and the many tremendous artists and technicians that went into its production. Watching the clips from Up on Thursday night reminded me yet again, just what a delightful film this is. I honestly do not say that to be popular, though I realize I’m in good company. One of the clips that was shown at the symposium was the sequence that takes us from Carl and Ellie as little kids to the beginning of Carl’s life as an elderly widower. It is such a profoundly well-crafted piece of film making and of animation. Anyone who disagrees, I’m inclined to set them up for an appointment at the nearest radiologist to see if they still have a heart.


However, I think perhaps the biggest winner in all of this is The Secret of Kells and its director Tomm Moore. I saw the film when it screened here as part of the Los Angeles Irish Film Festival and found it absolutely beautiful. Having visited Ireland for the first time only months prior and having had the opportunity to view the real Book of Kells in person certainly added a great deal to my experience of the film, as well. I’ve also had an appreciation for the Celtic Manuscripts since studying them in my college Art History class. But I think it makes an enjoyable film for anyone, regardless of their familiarity with Ireland or the Book of Kells. It is a visually rich and appealing experience. I loved the simplified, almost geometric designs tempered by fluid, expressive animation. I loved the warm-hearted, appealing characters. And I loved the playfulness with the picture plane and illusion of space. I do hope the nomination of The Secret of Kells brings it much-deserved attention and I hope we can get some more screenings of it in those big dark rooms we call theaters.

I have a great deal of admiration for all the directors who participated in the Symposium (and also for Wes Anderson). Henry Selick is a madman and a genius, whose happiest place is in the middle of production. When posed the first question of how the Coraline project began, he was quick to point out that someone (Neil Gaiman) actually looked in the credits of a Nightmare Before Christmas and saw that it was not directed by Tim Burton. John Musker and Ron Clements made a comic duo as they jokingly bickered about whether or not they bickered as co-directors.

I could go on, but I’ll try to cut this short. I’ll just say that it was a pleasure getting to see all of these guys together in person. Listening to their stories, perspectives, advice, opinions, etc., was inspiring. Thanks to the Academy for organizing events like this one and making them available to the public.

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