"WALL-E" the film to beat for animation Oscar

Wed Feb 11, 2009 8:47am EST
 
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By Debra Kaufman

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - And then there were three -- though there could have been five.

Just three animated feature films have made the Oscar nomination grade, though 17 of them were released in 2008, enough to reach the threshold required for five nominations. But, for various reasons, only a relative handful of features were submitted for consideration.

"WALL-E" is the film to beat at the 81st annual Academy Awards on February 22, having garnered almost every award possible. Even so, "Kung Fu Panda" was a masterful feature, worthy in every way and sure to endure as a classic, while "Bolt" was another delightful addition to the Disney canon.

But perhaps the most interesting nomination this year for an animated feature was Israel's "Waltz With Bashir," which earned an Oscar nom in the best foreign-language film category. That's eloquent proof of what animators have been saying for years: Animated films are films first.

"KUNG FU PANDA"

The filmmakers of "Kung Fu Panda," a lush picture that melds the expansiveness of ancient China with the finest kung fu fighting and the most improbable of heroes -- saw their film as a widescreen Cinema-Scope production and insisted on its accuracy: One of Hollywood's top experts on all things Chinese, DreamWorks artist Wei Xiaoping, was consulted, while production designer Raymond Zibach and art director Tang Kheng Heng were inspired by Chinese art, architecture, mythology and landscape. The result is a film true to Chinese culture that has become a huge hit not only here but also in China.

Finding the sweet spot between being emotionally believable and broad was a balancing act, especially in scenes that convey deep emotion and slapstick. "If it's easy or obvious, it's not in the movie" was their motto. To create the level of production values required by such detail, DreamWorks partnered with Hewlett-Packard, which provided its most up-to-date, powerful hardware.

North American box office: $215 million   Continued...

 
<p>A scene from "Wall-E". REUTERS/Disney/Pixar/Handout</p>