“King Kong” and “War of the Worlds” were the big winners at the fourth annual VES Awards Wednesday as each pic walked away with three awards and at least one top honor. But an emotional tribute to Pixar toon titan John Lasseter stole the show.
Lasseter was saluted with the Visual Effects Society’s George Melies lifetime achievement award. He was hailed for melding computer science with the principles of traditional animation to create the foundation for today’s visual effects and CG-animation industries.
“King Kong” garnered top honors for visual effects in an f/x-driven picture, and snagged kudos for animated character in a live-action pic.
In accepting the top award, “Kong” visual-effects supervisor Joe Letteri saluted Lasseter, saying, “All the principles of animation you were preaching years ago, some of us were listening.”
Pic also drew the created environment nod for its high-altitude depiction of New York at dawn.
But “War of the Worlds” grabbed honors for the year’s best single visual effect, the “Fleeing the Neighborhood” sequence, as well as awards for its models-and-miniatures work and compositing.
“Kong’s” rivals for top honors, “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” and “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” were shut out.
“Kingdom of Heaven” took the supporting visual effects kudos.
On the TV side, TNT’s “Into the West” won two awards, while HBO’s “Rome” drew the prize for visual effects in a series.
The tributes to Lasseter included digs at Disney, which rebuffed his efforts to launch computer animation at the Mouse House some 25 years ago.
Presenter John Ratzenberger quipped that the day he saw the news that Pixar would be taking over Disney animation, “I also saw a little item that Walt Disney had stopped spinning in his grave.”
Lasseter, in his acceptance speech, recalled going to work in 1980 at Disney, “the place I’d wanted to work all my life,” only to find “they’d reached a plateau.”
Recognizing huge potential in the work being done on “Tron,” he worked on a demo to show what computer animation could do.
“It fell on deaf eyes,” he said.
Lasseter was careful not to disclose any plans as animation topper for the Mouse once the purchase of Pixar is complete, saying only that he is “looking forward to working with the pioneering artists” there again.
Lasseter’s tale hit a nerve among the assembled visual effects pros, many of whom were disgruntled ex-Disney animators.
Fellow Pixar vet Ed Catmull, who also goes with Lasseter to Disney, will receive a sci-tech award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences on Saturday.
Pixar’s Jim Morris received a special honor, the VES board of directors Award. Morris is a longtime Lucasfilm vet who left to join Pixar in 2004.
Morris managed Lucasfilm’s transition into digital production and was saluted for being a linchpin of the VES during its founding and early growth.
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects Driven Motion Picture
King Kong (Joe Letteri, Eileen Moran, Christian Rivers, Eric Saindon)
Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Motion Picture
Kingdom of Heaven (Wes Sewell, Victoria Alonso, Tom Wood, Gary Brozenich)
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Miniseries, Movie or Special
Walking With Monsters (Tim Greenwood, Jo Nodwell, Neil Glasbey, Darren Byford)
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Series
Rome – Episode 1 (Barrie Hemsley, James Madigan, Duncan Kinnaird, Joe Pavlo)
Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program
Lost – Exodus Part 2 (Kevin Blank, Mitchell Ferm, Eric Chauvin, John Teska)
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial
Guinness noitulovE (William Bartlett, Scott Griffin, Andrew Boyd, Dan Seddon)
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Music Video
Nine Inch Nails – “Only” (Eric Barba, Lisa Beroud, Jay Barton, Jim Gaczkowski)
Best Single Visual Effect of the Year
War of the Worlds – Fleeing the Neighborhood (Dennis Muren, Pablo Helman, Sandra Scott, Marshall Krasser)
Outstanding Real Time Visuals in a Video Game
Need For Speed Most Wanted (Habib Zargarpour, Luke Wasserman, Greg D’Esposito, Colin O’Connor)
Outstanding Pre-Rendered Visuals in a Video Game
Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones – The Palace Balcony Cinematic (Jean-Jacques Tremblay, Raphael Lacoste, Anne Mai Le Bouyonnec)
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project
Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon (Jack Geist, Sean Phillips, Johnathan Banta, Jerome Morin)
Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Motion Picture
King Kong – Kong (Andy Serkis, Christian Rivers, Atsushi Sato, Guy Williams)
Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Motion Picture
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit – Gromit (Loyd Price)
Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Broadcast Program, Commercial, or Music Video
Battlestar Galactica-Season 2, Episode 03 “Fragged” – Cylon Centurion (Andrew Karr, Louie Hinayo, Gary Hughes, Allan Henderson)
Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Motion Picture
King Kong – New York Dawn Attack (Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White, Matt Aitken, Charles Tait)
Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Broadcast Program, Commercial, or Music Video Into The West Mini-Series Movies I, II and III (Cedric Tomacruz, David Bailey, Valeri Pfahning, Siddhartha Jayakar)
Outstanding Models and Miniatures in a Motion Picture
War of the Worlds (Ed Hirsh, Steve Gawley, Joshua Ong, Russell Paul)
Outstanding Models and Miniatures in a Broadcast Program, Commercial, or Music Video
Las Vegas Series – Episode 308 “Bold, Beautiful and Blue” (Michael Cook, Anthony Ocampo, Eugene Kim, Renaud Talon)
Outstanding Compositing in a Motion Picture
War of the Worlds (Marshall Krasser, Michael Jamieson, Jeff Saltzman, Regan McGee)
Outstanding Compositing in a Broadcast Program, Commercial, or Music Video
Empire (Stefano Trivelli, Michele Moen, Kelly Bumbarger, Sean Wilson)
George Méliès Award for Artistic Excellence