How fascinating is it that the most progressive categories with the Academy Awards of late have pertained to music. This year Trent Reznor, of Nine Inch Nails, shared Best Original Score honors with Atticus Ross for their work on The Social Network. For next year’s ceremony, though it is a long shot, The Chemical Brothers could be nominated for Hanna. In the song category, the honor has gone to such acts as Eminem (“Lose Yourself”) and Three 6 Mafia (“It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp”).
The animated feature is a category I sometimes have issues with, specifically on what the Academy defines as “true animation.” When I see that a movie like Alvin and the Chipmunks was one of the finalists to get a nomination – ultimately, being passed over in favor of Ratatouille, Surf’s Up, and Persepolis – I cringe. Any film that is a combination of live action and animation (take this year’s The Smurfs, for instance) should not even be in the discussion.
Now there’s been talk among members of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’s animation branch that motion capture (better known as performance capture) has become a greater issue of concern with its use in this year’s Mars Needs Moms, Happy Feet 2, and The Adventures of Tintin. With more filmmakers and studios going this route they will now be grilled on their “intent” of using mo cap before the films can even qualify for nominations. As Pete Hammond of Deadline explains, in its formal rules, the Academy states that “motion capture by itself is not an animation technique” and that the films must be done in frame-by-frame animation.
The last time motion-captured animated films went on to be nominated was back in 2006 when both Monster House and Happy Feet received nominations. (Happy Feet would go on to win and remains Warner Bros. lone animated feature win in the category.)
While some animators may disagree with the usage of motion capture, I’m sure this will be temporary. When Toy Story arrived back in 1994 some were complaining about the use of digital animation versus hand-drawn animation. But the Academy never made a line in the sand distinction between the two forms. If The Adventures of Tintin is a mix of both performance capture and digital animation, it just shows how much animation has evolved and grown as an art form. Plus, as a fully animated film I’d rather see it get a nomination over something that combines live-action with animation. And I agree with Joe Letteri, one of the owners of WETA, who says, “Performance Capture is not a mechanical process; it’s still an artistic process.”
Regardless if Tintin makes it into the race, the animated feature category should could have multiple entries from DreamWorks Animation (Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss in Boots); Paramount made a venture into animation with Rango this year, which has been a frontrunner to get a nom since its March release; Fox has Rio and (gulp) Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, Disney has Cars 2 and Winnie the Pooh, Warner’s Happy Feet 2, and Sony looks to have The Smurfs and Arthur Christmas for Academy consideration. And the less said about The Weinstein Co’s Hoodwinked Too the better. If there’s any out of the blue shots that enter the fray, look out for Chico and Rita from Spain.