You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Seeds of genius

Eye on the Oscars: Animation 2012

Directors of 2011’s animated features found their sensibilities shaped by their parents, world literature, classic cinema — and Saturday morning cartoon shows.

Stephen J. Anderson
“Winnie the Pooh”
Woody shaped helmer’s take on Winnie
Key Credits: Director, “Meet the Robinsons”; story supervisor, “Brother Bear”
“As I got into my teenage years, I started to get really fascinated by Woody Allen. His style was completely different from a lot of what I had been exposed to between Disney films and Steven Spielberg films, but he was somebody that I really latched onto in terms of how character-centric his work is. He was a huge influence on me in terms of really putting characters at the center of your story and that being the most important thing.”

* * *

John Lasseter
“Cars 2”
Pixar’s story guru focuses on character and performances
Key Credits: Pixar co-founder; director: “Toy Story,” Toy Story 2,” “A Bug’s Life,” “Cars”
Denise Ream, “Cars 2” producer: “When John was a young animator at Disney, he was working on ‘The Fox and the Hound’ and had a meeting with his mentor, Ollie Johnston. John was worried, as he felt his drawings were not strong enough. Ollie, instead of critiquing his drawing style or technique, asked him one question: ‘What is the character thinking?’ The importance of the characters and their story is something that John has carried with him throughout his career. So John often asks Ollie’s same question — ‘What is the character thinking?'”

* * *

Chris Miller
“Puss in Boots”
Python, Looney Tunes shaped DreamWorks helmer
Key Credits: Director, “Shrek the Third”; head of story, “Shrek 2”
“My earliest memory of something that really grabbed me was something I really had no business seeing as a 6-year-old: ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail.’ I remember just laughing hysterically and also just really being fascinated by Terry Gilliam’s cutout animation.
“Growing up in the ’70s, the main access you had to animation was Saturday morning Warner Bros. shorts from the ’50s and ’40s. That shaped my sensibility early on in terms of comedy and trying to emulate that drawing style. To this day I have never really quite learned perspective drawing.”

* * *

Jennifer Yuh Nelson
“Kung Fu Panda 2”
Drawing comes naturally to DreamWorks helmer
Key Credits: Head of story on the first “Kung Fu Panda” film and story artist, “Madagascar”
“I’ve been drawing forever. It’s a natural way of communicating for me. I have a memory from age 3, when I was still living in Korea, sitting at a table and watching my mother draw. I was fascinated to see someone with so much control over a line, and I could only make a murky circle. I also watched a lot of anime growing up, and I loved watching Miyazaki films. I love hand-drawn animation and the snappiness of squash and stretch.”

* * *

Carlos Saldanha
Brazilian helmer loves comedy of Loony Toons, Tom and Jerry
Key Credits: Director, “Ice Age: The Meltdown,” “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs”; co-director “Ice Age,” “Robots”
“I grew up in Brazil. A lot of the Disney classics came to my household. And the TV cartoons, ‘Tom and Jerry,’ the Looney Tunes. Those were the things I gravitated toward, those core emotional stories from Disney or those fun, exciting cartoons from Hanna-Barbera or Chuck Jones. In ‘Tom and Jerry,’ I root for the mouse. I kind of like Jerry. But it’s like a partnership. I love that about that. One wouldn’t be funny without the other.”

* * *

Sarah Smith
“Arthur Christmas”
Fools and losers captured “Christmas” helmer’s heart
Key Credits: Director, “Thin Ice,” director-producer “Dead Man Weds”
“As a kid I used to sit glued to the TV on Saturday mornings with orange squash and a ginger biscuit watching old classics, from Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon gems, to ‘King Kong,’ ‘Tarzan,’ ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ and ‘The Magnificent Seven.’ But my comedy heart was captured by the irresistible losers and fools of British TV shows like ‘Dad’s Army’ and John Cleese’s ‘Fawlty Towers.’ And I’ve always loved epic imaginary worlds. I read ‘The Lord of the Rings’ three times before I was 10.”

* * *

Steven Spielberg
“The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn”
Helmer insisted on character realism in performance-capture feature
Key credits: director of the “Indiana Jones” franchise of films as well as the first two “Jurassic Park” films
Joe Letteri, visual effects supervisor: “When we talked about animation on “Tintin,” we were always talking about it in the sense of bringing a character to life, including all of the details that make a character seem real on the screen. We would refer more to the great physical actors like Buster Keaton rather than traditional cartoons. The conversation was always much more focused on the story and making sure the characters were connecting with the audience. Steven brought his own unique storytelling sensibility to the animation.”

* * *

Gore Verbinski
Helmer finds humor in the dark side of life
Key Credits: Director, first three installments of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise; “The Ring” and “Mousehunt”

“Early on it was the darker influences. Everything from Franz Kafka to Black Sabbath to Sergio Leone, maybe ‘Dr. Strangelove.’ I was very interested in how you could be humorous dealing with a darker subject matter. I think Monty Python had a great influence. Then Hal Ashby films were influential on me later on. ‘The Last Detail,’ ‘Being There’ and ‘Harold and Maude.’ Those stories didn’t feel like they were manufactured by some conglomerate for me to ingest. They were more personal.”

Helmers war for future of toons

More Digital


    Dax Shepard, Bobby Bones, 'Breakfast Club' Among iHeartRadio Podcast Awards Winners

    iHeartRadio launched its first ever Podcast Awards on Friday (January 18) in Los Angeles. Among the winners in 22 categories were “Whine Down with Jana Kramer” (Best Entertainment TV Podcast); “Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard (Breakout Podcast); “Bobbycast” (Music Podcast); and “The Breakfast Club” (Best Multicultural Podcast). The winners were determined by iHeartRadio listeners. Taking the top prize of Podcast [...]

  • Velvet Buzzsaw trailer

    Netflix Original Movies: What to Look Forward To in 2019

    Following the biggest fourth-quarter worldwide subscriber gain ever and some controversy around increased prices in the U.S., Netflix looks to keep its momentum going into 2019. From Jan. 18 through March, the streaming site will release 10 original films, including action-packed thrillers, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi, quirky comedies, inspirational dramas, an artistic horror movie and a viral [...]

  • The Beatles Eight Days a Week

    Imagine's Documentary Arm Sets First-Look Pact With Apple (EXCLUSIVE)

    Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Documentaries has set a first-look pact with Apple to develop non-fiction features and series. The deal comes as Imagine is investing heavily in the premium non-fiction arena. The company in June recruited RadicalMedia veteran Justin Wilkes to head Imagine Documentaries as president. The deal suggests that Apple sees docu [...]

  • Walt Disney HQ LA

    Disney Unveils Financial Data for DTC Unit, Sets April 11 for Investor Presentation

    Disney has rejiggered its business segments for earnings reporting to make room for the new unit housing its global streaming operations. Disney on Friday released restated earnings for fiscal 2018, 2017 and 2016 to give investors and financial analysts better visibility into its spending on the launch of the Disney Plus, ESPN Plus and other [...]

  • Facebook Logo

    Release of Docs to Reveal How Facebook Made Money Off Children

    Documents related to a 2012 lawsuit against Facebook in which children, sometimes unwittingly, spent their parents’ money on games via the social site will be unsealed, according to a Monday ruling from the United States District Court. The court gave Facebook ten days to file unredacted documents in accordance with the ruling. The 2012 lawsuit [...]

  • Facebook Logo

    Facebook Sets Up New Product Group for AR Glasses (Report)

    Facebook has restructured its augmented and virtual reality research division and set up a new group tasked with building augmented reality (AR) glasses, according to a new Business Insider report. Facebook acknowledged the move in a statement given to the publication, saying that the move affected “a few hundred people.” The group has already built [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content