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Hot Trailer: ‘Ernest & Celestine’

By | Thursday February 6, 2014 @ 2:11pm PST

“Do you know the story of the little mouse who didn’t believe in the big bad bear?” Academy voters do. They nominated Ernest & Celestine for the Best Animated Feature Oscar alongside some of the biggest hits of 2013. The French pic from the creators of The Triplets Of Belleville centers on the unlikely friendship between a mouse from beneath the streets and a bear from above amid distrust and false assumptions among their peers. The dubbed U.S. version sports a voice cast including Lauren Bacall, Paul Giamatti, William H. Macy, Jeffrey Wright, Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman. Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar, and Benjamin Renner directed the hand-drawn toon, which already has banked Cesar and LA Film Critics Association awards. It opens February 28 in Los Angeles and March 14 in NYC, followed by an expansion to major U.S. markets. Here’s the trailer:

Related: OSCARS: Best Animation 2013 – Titans Vs. Indies In A Wide Open Race

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OSCARS Q&A: Tim Burton

By | Sunday February 17, 2013 @ 1:04pm PST

Anthony D’Alessandro is Managing Editor of AwardsLine

In the final stretch before the Oscar ballot deadline, there’s still hope that voters remain undecided in the animation category. Though Disney has cornered the Oscar slot with three titles, its Frankenweenie, directed by Tim Burton, stands as an island against the epic Brave and the existential crisis comedy of Wreck-It Ralph. The film is an auteur’s youthful dream short, once buried by the studio that has resuscitated it as a 3D stopmotion feature — the first in black and white. This Frankenstein homage about a boy who brings his dead dog back to life is signature Tim Burton. Many will argue Burton is overdue for an Oscar. He was nominated in the animated category for 2005’s Corpse Bride. His 1994 absurdist biopic Ed Wood garnered a supporting actor win for Martin Landau (as Bela Lugosi) and best makeup, while 2007’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street won best art direction and earned noms for Johnny Depp as best actor and for Colleen Atwood’s costumes. Another appealing Burton attribute for Oscar voters is that he remains an iconoclast among big-studio directors working today — he’s a visual artist with a spooky canon that appears alienating with its deep subtext but lures the masses with its fanciful spins on children’s tales such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland. AwardsLine recently spoke to Burton about his career and Frankenweenie’s place in it.

AwardsLine: Why was this the best time to make Frankenweenie as a stopmotion feature. You could have conceivably made it in 1993 instead of Nightmare Before Christmas.
Tim Burton: All these projects take a long time. I remember when I first designed Nightmare, it took about 10 years to get that in place because nobody really wanted to do stopmotion, and in a way, there weren’t a lot of facilities that were doing it. We did the Frankenweenie short many years ago, and I never really planned on it being anything else. Over the years, I just kept kind of thinking about the relationship with my dog, but also other monster movies, the kids and teachers from my school, and even the downtown places in Burbank. A lot more thoughts came into Frankenweenie, Read More »

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OSCAR: So Many Toons, So Few Slots – Animation Feature Overview

Pete Hammond

Ever since the first Best Animated Feature category was included in the Oscars, and Dreamworks’ irreverent Shrek snagged the very first award in 2001, the annual race for top toon has been fiercely competitive. Of course animators were pleased by the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ long overdue special recognition. But their worry is that no toon will ever win Best Picture now that the genre has its own prize.

Rich Ross didn’t greenlight Toy Story 3. But the recently promoted Walt Disney Studios chairman understands he has an obligation to the Disney/Pixar toon as if he did. “We’re going for the Best Picture win,” he affirmed. “The reviews have clearly said that it’s the best movie, and it’s the No. 1 box office hit of the year. It’s thrilling that there is a separate category for animation that allows animated movies to be recognized. But for some reason an animated film has never gotten Best Picture. We decided, if not this year, and not this movie, when?”

Toy Story 3 is one of the presumed frontrunners both for Best Animated Feature and Best Picture along with DreamWorks’ How To Train Your Dragon. There have been only two Best Picture nominees ever: 1991’s Beauty And The Beast from Walt Disney Studios and last year’s Up from Disney/Pixar when the list of nominees was expanded from five to 10 for the first time since 1943. Neither won. “As far as Up last year, I think the strategy was you go for Best Picture and as a fallback end up as Best Animated Feature,” recalled Ross. “But with this movie, we wanted to come up with a campaign that kept our aspirations clear but at the same time used a tongue-in-cheek approach.”

To that end, Disney/Pixar has launched an ambitious advertising campaign aimed at Academy members to associate past Best Picture winners with Toy Story 3 by having the toon’s characters enact some iconic images from West Side Story, On The Waterfront, Shakespeare In Love, Titanic, and more. The campaign uses the phrase  ’Not Since’ and even has sequels in its sight, mimicking The Godfather 2 and Lord Of The Rings 3 in a not-so-subtle attempt to remind voters that it’s time for another sequel to win. Of course, Ross and his counterpart at DreamWorks Animation, Jeffrey Katzenberg,  have to overcome perceptions by many in the Academy that the Animated Feature category is enough recognition for this art form. But other genres of films like horror (Silence Of The Lambs) broke equally insurmountable barriers in terms of AMPAS perceptions that certain kinds of movies can’t win. “I feel very confident we have a movie everybody loves and I want to make sure with our campaign that people don’t feel the consolation prize is the appropriate prize for a movie like Toy Story 3,” Ross explained.

Jeffrey Katzenberg also makes the case for a toon winning Best Picture by pointing out that the three best reviewed films of the year (if you go by Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer) have been Toy Story 3 (99%) and How To Train Your Dragon (98%), plus Sony Pictures’ live action The Social Network (97%). Dragon producer Bonnie Arnold says about her toon, “It’s just a good movie that is in competition with other good movies, no matter what the medium, whether it’s live action, animation or whatever.” And Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich echoes: “We look at our films like every other film. Yes, it is animated and we’re working in a specific medium. But our approach is very much the same as live action – production design, costume design, casting of actors, scoring, editing. We’re making movies.”

Best Picture aspirations aside, the other frustration for animators is that Academy rules allow only three nominees in Best Animated Feature in any year when there are just 8 to 15 submissions deemed eligible. Sixteen and over qualifiers trigger five nominations, which has happened twice (in 2002 and last year). But on November 15th, the Academy announced that only 15 films were in the animation race this year, even though 2010 was considered an exceptionally strong year for toons. Since two of the nominees are expected to be Toy Story 3 and How To Train Your Dragon, only one slot is open.

Here is the shortlist of eligible Best Animated Feature entries in alphabetical order:

ALPHA AND OMEGA (Lionsgate) – If  Lady And The Tramp were thrown to the wolves, it might look like this sweet Romeo and Juliet-style toon that only did modest box office business. Against the heavyweights, its prospects of landing a nom are weak.  Read More »

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OSCAR: Disney’s Rich Ross Says “We’re Going For The Best Picture Win” For ‘Toy Story 3′

Pete Hammond

EXCLUSIVE: “We’re going for the Best Picture win. We wanted to have the best movie and the reviews have clearly said that and it’s the number one box office hit of the year so I’m not sure why we would not go for it all,” the Walt Disney Studios Chairman Rich Ross told me in a phone conversation this week. He’s talking about their worldwide billion dollar grosser Toy Story 3 which also sits atop Rotten Tomatoes chart of the best reviewed films of the year, at least those in wide release. To that end Disney/Pixar will launch an ambitious advertising campaign aimed squarely at Academy members this week that will blatantly try to associate past Best Picture winners with TS3 by having Toy Story characters enact some iconic images from Oscar winning films like West Side Story, On The Waterfront, Shakespeare In Love, Silence Of The Lambs, Titanic, The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King and Forrest Gump (which will feature the Woody character voiced of course by ‘Gump’ star Tom Hanks – get it?). There are potentially more than 20 different ads they will create, but some, like Lambs, which features a disembodied Mr. Potato Head, still are being cleared by various parties. The campaign which uses the phrase ‘Not Since’ will launch with The Godfather Part II in which Lotso, the mob boss-like bear emulates Al Pacino. Since that film (and Rings) were rare instances of … Read More »

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OSCAR: Rapunzel, Marty, Leo Start Campaigns

Pete Hammond

A Best Song nod could be Tangled’s best shot at Oscar recognition this year after today’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science confirmation that just 15 movies have qualified for Best Animated Feature. That’s one short of the 16 needed to trigger five nominations instead of three. With Toy Story 3 and How To Train Your Dragon virtually assured of two of those slots, it will be a real dogfight now for the third position. Tangled composer Alan Menken tells me that, to regain some winning momentum (and maybe tie Alfred Newman for the most music victories in Academy history), he plans to let Disney only submit one song from Tangled: the love ballad, “I See The Light”, sung by Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi, which he thinks has a better shot than some of the more up tempo tunes in the toon. This way, Menken doesn’t risk cancelling himself out again like what happened when his three nominated Enchanted songs were bested by “Falling Slowly” from Once.

He’s adamant about entering just one song even though Academy rules would now allow two. He also bemoans the fact that his score is ineligible due to a rule imposed after music branch complaints when Menken won all those previous Oscars. He does admit though that “if I weren’t me, I would probably be complaining too”. Menken is an 8-time Oscar winner for Beauty And The Beast, Aladdin, The Little Read More »

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Oscar: 15 Animated Features For 2010 Race

Beverly Hills, CA — Fifteen features have been accepted for consideration in the Animated Feature Film category for the 83rd Academy Awards®.

The 15 features are:
“Alpha and Omega”
“Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore”
“Despicable Me”
“The Dreams of Jinsha”
“How to Train Your Dragon”
“Idiots and Angels”
“The Illusionist”
“Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole”
“Megamind”
“My Dog Tulip”
“Shrek Forever After”
“Summer Wars”
“Tangled”
“Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue”
“Toy Story 3”

“The Dreams of Jinsha,” “The Illusionist,” “Summer Wars” and “Tangled” have not yet had their required Los Angeles qualifying run. Submitted features must fulfill the theatrical release requirements and meet the category’s other qualifying rules before they can advance in the voting process.

Under the rules for this category, in any year in which 8 to 15 animated features are released in Los Angeles County, a maximum of 3 motion pictures may be nominated. If 16 or more animated features are submitted and accepted in the category, a maximum of 5 motion pictures may be nominated.

Films submitted in the Animated Feature Film category also may qualify for Academy Awards in other categories, including Best Picture, provided they meet the requirements for those categories.

The 83rd Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Tuesday, January 25, 2011, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2010 will be presented on Sunday, February 27, 2011, at the Kodak Theatre.

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OSCAR: Animation Entries Down To Wire; But Will There Be Enough For 5 Nominees?

Pete Hammond

Today the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences sent out a reminder confirming the 5 PM PT November 1st deadline for 2010 Best Animated feature entries. At this point there do not appear to be enough entries to trigger five nominations rather than the more common three but there is still time, brother. What wasn’t mentioned in the release is the number that have been received so far at the Academy. A really good clue though is a  letter I have learned that was  sent late last week updating members and potential members of the Animation committee (the ones doing the voting)  and informing them that 14 entries had been received but that it was still possible to reach 16, the magic number needed to expand the category. Last year a flurry of last minute entries flooded the Acad offices and Oscar ‘toon watchers were hoping the same might miraculously happen this year. Academy rules state that in any year with 8 to 15 eligible entries there will be three nominations allowed but if it’s 16 or more there will be five contenders, as has happened twice (including last year) since the  category was created in 2001 when Dreamworks’ Shrek became the first winner.

Dreamworks Animation has only won once  since then (for releasing 2005’s Wallace & Gromit in The Curse Of The Were Rabbit) and is back in the game big time this year with its March release, How To Train Your Dragon but would also love to see its upcoming  Megamind (Nov 5) in the … Read More »

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Oscar’s Animation Race Just Got ‘Tangled’

Pete Hammond

I know everyone (including my new Deadline colleague Mike Fleming who will be reporting on the ground there for us) is winging their way to Toronto right now to see a bunch of Oscar hopefuls that I already saw in Cannes, Telluride or oh-so-cool private L.A. screenings (more on THOSE flicks as the fest unveils them). But I am also focused on checking out some contenders NOT on display in Canada. That’s exactly what I did yesterday in the not-as-exciting clime of  Burbank.  I came away feeling I’d found another strong entry in what is becoming a very strong awards season race for ‘toons.

That’s right. Wednesday Disney did something studios never do unless they know they have the goods. They flew in several members of the press–mostly those who cover animation for outlets with long lead times–to see the first ever screening of the big Thanksgiving holiday release Tangled. The musical weaves a new take on the Rapunzel fairy tale, in what represents Disney’s milestone 50th animated feature since Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs in 1937. John Lasseter told the gathered press, “You can feel the pride people in this studio have in Tangled. We just couldn’t wait for people to see it.”

It’s looking like there will again be five nominees for Best Animated Feature this year. Based the deservedly enthusiastic  press response to the work-in-progress print shown yesterday, Tangled could easily be among them. As will Disney/Pixar’s Toy Read More »

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