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AwardsDisneyIdeas/Commentary

The Rapid Growth Of The Academy’s Short Film And Feature Animation Branch — And What It Means

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization responsible for the Oscars, has extended a record 774 invitations to new members, which if accepted by all the invitees, would push the total Academy membership to over 8,000 people.

The Academy is comprised of 17 branches, among those the Short Films and Feature Animation branch, which invited 96 members this year, second only to the Actors branch which invited 106 members.

Of the new inductees in the animation branch, 83 of the 96 work in animation, while the remaining 13 people represent live-action short filmmakers.

Employees of the Walt Disney Company, which has won the feature animation Oscar for nine out of the last ten years, overwhelmingly dominate the list of new members. By our count, 27 of the invited members to the animation branch, or nearly one-third, are currently employees of either the Walt Disney or Pixar animation studios.

Ed Catmull.
Ed Catmull.

The Academy is expected to soon release the results of elections for its Board of Governors. Industry observers will watch closely to see if Disney and Pixar animation president Ed Catmull is elected to the animation branch’s Board of Governors. (UPDATE: Ed Catmull lost the election.)

Catmull, who until recently was a member of the visual effects branch, was not eligible under Academy rules to run this year for the animation branch’s Board of Governors. Cartoon Brew has learned that he became able to do so only after Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs and Disney/Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter made a personal appeal to the animation branch’s executive board, pressuring them to give a special waiver to Catmull, so that he could switch immediately from the visual effects branch into the animation branch.

There has been a clear effort in recent years to alter the make-up of the Short Films and Feature Animation branch by stacking it with California-based craftspeople who work on mainstream features, thereby diluting the number of independent and foreign filmmakers in the branch.

Combined with recent rule changes and Catmull’s candidacy for the Board of Governors, these efforts are viewed by people both inside and outside the Academy as a way to curb the influence of independent and foreign feature animation, which has been increasingly dominating the list of nominees. Last year, when Disney-Pixar’s Inside Out won the Oscar, the other four nominees in the category were all either independent or foreign features — Anomalisa, Boy and the World, Shaun the Sheep Movie, and When Marnie Was There. One Academy member described to me the recent efforts to alter the branch as “dark.”

Below is the list of the animation-related invitees in the Short Films and Feature Animation branch:

Matt Baer – The Croods, How to Train Your Dragon
Kyle Balda – Despicable Me 3, Minions
Jacquie Barnbrook – Live Music, The ChubbChubbs!

Claude Barras – My Life as a Zucchini, Banquise (Icefloe)
Eric Beckman – When Marnie Was There, Song of the Sea
Jared Bush * – Zootopia, Moana
Carlos E. Cabral – Big Hero 6, Frozen

John K. Carr – How to Train Your Dragon 2, Over the Hedge

Jeeyun Sung Chisholm – Ice Age: Collision Course, The Peanuts Movie

Jericca Cleland – Ratchet & Clank, Arthur Christmas

Andrew Coats – Smash and Grab, Borrowed Time
John Cohen – The Angry Birds Movie, Despicable Me
Lindsey Collins – Finding Dory, WALL-E
Devin Crane – Megamind, Monsters vs Aliens
Ricardo Curtis – The Book of Life, Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who

Richard Daskas – Turbo, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas
Jason Deamer – Piper, Monsters University

David DeVan – Finding Dory, Brave
Walt Dohrn – Trolls, Mr. Peabody & Sherman

Rob Dressel – Moana, Big Hero 6

David Eisenmann – Pearl, Toy Story 3

Steve Emerson * – Kubo and the Two Strings, The Boxtrolls

Lise Fearnley – Me and My Moulton, The Danish Poet
Arish Fyzee – The Pirate Fairy, Planes
Andrew Gordon – Monsters University, Presto

Jinko Gotoh – The Little Prince, 9

Eric Guillon – Sing, The Secret Life of Pets

Lou Hamou-Lhadj – Borrowed Time, Day & Night

John Hill – Turbo, Shrek Forever After
Steven “Shaggy” Hornby – How to Train Your Dragon 2, Rise of the Guardians
Steven Clay Hunter – Brave, The Incredibles

Alessandro Jacomini – Big Hero 6, Tangled
Christopher Jenkins – Home, Surf’s Up

Sean D. Jenkins – Wreck-It Ralph, Bolt

Phil Johnston * – Zootopia, Wreck-It Ralph

Oliver Jones * – Kubo and the Two Strings, ParaNorman
Mohit Kallianpur – Frozen, Tangled

Max Karli – My Life as a Zucchini, Victoria

Michael Kaschalk – Big Hero 6, Paperman
Karsten Kiilerich – Albert, When Life Departs
Timothy Lamb – Trolls, Mr. Peabody & Sherman
Gina Warr Lawes – Zootopia, Kung Fu Panda 2
Sang Jun Lee – Rio 2, Epic

Meg LeFauve – The Good Dinosaur, Inside Out
Jenny Lerew – Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Flushed Away

Brad Lewis – Storks, Ratatouille
Carl Ludwig – Rio, Ice Age
MaryAnn Malcomb – Free Birds, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
Anders Mastrup – Albert, When Life Departs
Dave Mullins – Cars 2, Up
Michelle Murdocca – Hotel Transylvania, Open Season
Christopher Murrie * – Kubo and the Two Strings, Coraline
Ramsey Naito – The Boss Baby, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie
Damon O’Beirne – Kung Fu Panda 3, Rise of the Guardians

Hyrum Virl Osmond – Moana, Frozen

James Palumbo – Ice Age: Collision Course, Ice Age: Continental Drift
Christine Panushka – The Content of Clouds, The Sum of Them
Pierre Perifel – Rise of the Guardians, Kung Fu Panda 2

Jeffrey Jon Pidgeon – Monsters University, Up

David Pimentel – Moana, Big Hero 6
Elvira Pinkhas – Ice Age: Collision Course, Rio 2
Kori Rae – Monsters University, Tokyo Mater

Mahesh Ramasubramanian – Home, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

Ferenc Rofusz – Gravitáció (Gravitation), The Fly

Vicki Saulls – The Peanuts Movie, Ice Age: Continental Drift

Brad Schiff * – Kubo and the Two Strings, The Boxtrolls
William Schwab – Frozen, Wreck-It Ralph
Gina Shay – Trolls, Shrek Forever After
Jeff Snow – Over the Hedge, The Road to El Dorado

Peter Sohn – The Good Dinosaur, Partly Cloudy
Debra Solomon – My Kingdom, Getting Over Him in 8 Songs or Less

David Soren – Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, Turbo
Cara Speller – Pear Cider and Cigarettes, Pearl
Peggy Stern – Chuck Jones: Memories of Childhood; The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation
Michael Stocker – Finding Dory, Toy Story 3
Arianne Sutner – Kubo and the Two Strings, ParaNorman
Ennio Torresan – Turbo, Till Sbornia Takes Us Apart

Géza M. Toth – Mama, Maestro

Wayne Unten – Frozen, Tick Tock Tale

Theodore Ushev – Blind Vaysha, Gloria Victoria
Robert Valley – Pear Cider and Cigarettes, Shinjuku
Gil Zimmerman – How to Train Your Dragon 2, Puss in Boots
Marilyn Zornado – Old-Time Film, Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase

Additionally, 65 people were invited to join the Visual Effects branch of the Academy. That list is below.

Arundi Asregadoo – The Legend of Tarzan, The Revenant
Steve Begg – Spectre, Casino Royale
Félix Bergés – A Monster Calls, The Impossible
Angus Bickerton – Victor Frankenstein, Dark Shadows
Jason Billington – Deepwater Horizon, Avatar
Nafees Bin Zafar – Kung Fu Panda 3, How to Train Your Dragon 2
Rod Bogart – John Carter, Brave
Cosmas Paul Bolger, Jr. – Frozen, The Day the Earth Stood Still

Pierre Buffin – The Divergent Series: Allegiant, Life of Pi

Sonja Burchard – Rise of the Guardians, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
ark Byers – Hidden Figures, The Sea of Trees

Mike Chambers – Alice Through the Looking Glass, Inception
Vincent Cirelli – Doctor Strange, Captain America: Civil War
Brian Cox – The Wolverine, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Joyce Cox * – The Jungle Book, Avatar

Jan Philip Cramer – Independence Day: Resurgence, Deadpool
Janelle Croshaw – Tron: Legacy, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Denise Davis – Pixels, X-Men: First Class

Brennan Doyle – Marvel’s The Avengers, Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Pauline Duvall – Deadpool, Star Trek Beyond
Christopher D. Edwards * – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Doctor Strange

Steve Emerson * – Kubo and the Two Strings, The Boxtrolls
Doug Epps – Mars Needs Moms, Disney’s A Christmas Carol
Conny Fauser – Tomorrowland, Iron Man
Paul Giacoppo – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Pacific Rim
Joachim Grüninger – The Impossible, John Rabe
Rhonda C. Gunner – The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Wrath of the Titans
Craig Hammack – Deepwater Horizon, Tomorrowland
Jonathan Harb – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, Elysium
Darren Hendler – Furious Seven, Maleficent

Erik Henry – Dead Man Down, The Expendables 2
David Hodgins – Transformers: Dark of the Moon, 2012
Matt Johnson – Into the Woods, X-Men: First Class
Oliver Jones * – Kubo and the Two Strings, ParaNorman

Nikos Kalaitzidis – The Fate of the Furious, X-Men: Days of Future Past
Daniel Kramer – Ghostbusters, Edge of Tomorrow

Francois Lambert – Ant-Man, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Mohen Leo – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Deepwater Horizon

John M. Levin – Jurassic World, Lucy
Jacqui Lopez – Elysium, The Great Gatsby
Fumi Mashimo – Avengers: Age of Ultron, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
Glen McIntosh – The Mummy, Jurassic World
Keith Francis Miller – Wonder Woman, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Mohsen Mousavi – Independence Day: Resurgence, The Amazing Spider-Man
Colette Mullenhoff – Doctor Strange, Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Peter Muyzers – Elysium, District 9
Kenneth Nakada – Fantastic Four, Life of Pi
Steve Nichols – Suicide Squad, Guardians of the Galaxy

David Niednagel – X-Men: Days of Future Past, Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Brett Northcutt – Lucy, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Danielle Plantec – Immortals, Hereafter
Darren Michael Poe – The Hateful Eight, Godzilla

Nordin Rahhali – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Iron Man 3
Philippe Rebours – Avengers: Age of Ultron, Avatar
Jay Redd – Alice Through the Looking Glass, Men in Black 3
Jonathan Rothbart – Deadpool, Avatar
Brad Schiff * – Kubo and the Two Strings, ParaNorman
J.D. Schwalm – The Fate of the Furious, The Jungle Book

Thomas J. Smith – Argo, Contagion

Jason Snell – Deepwater Horizon, Now You See Me

Robert Stadd – War Dogs, Public Enemies

Paul Story – The Jungle Book, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Ryan Tudhope – Deadpool, Looper

Robert Weaver – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Star Trek Into Darkness

Louis Zutavern – The Dictator, Elf

(* invited to join the Academy by multiple branches)

  • Troy

    Is it possible that the invitations included questionnaires like “Are you willing to continuously watch these films to give accurate votes?”. Be nice if they added a fine print that states if a substitute was viewing instead of the appointed, the vote would be invalid. However I am pretty sure people are really having eyes on the results of Catmull good and bad.

  • JodyMorgan

    Surely Disney knows this will destroy what credibility is left for the animation Oscars among industry professionals and critics; are they really convinced that slapping “Oscar nominee” on each of their animated features will be worth that much more in sales to consumers?

  • Andres Molina

    Great, just what we need. More mainstream bashing. Yes, we must help support and aid independent animation, by boycotting and bashing some of the greatest studios of all time. We should hate and work against these mainstream companies, because all mainstream animation is trite and rubbish, and they should be brought down, while forgetting the numerous movies some of these studios made and done(Sarcasm). This whole “mainstream animation sucks completely” bile is really getting out of hand. The comments in a lot of these articles feels like it is an obligation or requirement to hate American animation and bash even the greats, or else those who support them will be put down. Its not that I’m necessarily supporting American animation entirely (because yes, I do believe that all forms of animation, especially indies), but I’m getting very tired of bigger studios being vilified, seriously, one of the comments here say we should all boycott all animation studios in America so indies call have a chance at winning the Oscar. How is boycotting a company like Pixar and Disney going to help the indies in anyway. I mean apparently, I guess based on what I know, and based on how the Oscar picks the films, the only vibe I’m getting from some of these commenters is that the only way for the indies to get a chance is if all the mainstream studios cancel every single film they are producing, which as a result, could lose numerous studios money and leave hundreds, if not thousands of employees out of the job, just so the indies films can have a chance to show off receive an award for an award ceremony that already undermines, neglects and under appreciates animation in the first place, which is both ludicrous and pretty shallow. The Oscars are not and shouldn’t be the the indicator of what a good film is, there are a lot of great films that haven’t won a single Oscar. So in reality, don’t boycott the mainstream studios, boycott the Oscars. And remember, I think independent animation is just as capable of producing bad films as mainstream animation, just as mainstream studios are as capable of producing the most trailblazing, most innovative, most incredible animated films ever. Anyway, feel free to comment.

    • Troy

      While I do agree with the whole boycotting isn’t exactly helping the independent animator’s case, however I don’t ever recall that the oscars give access to the public to vote. The reasoning I’m assuming for boycotting the mainstream is to nip the buds before they even enter for nomination. Let’s say for one moment that everyone DID somehow boycott successfully, even boosted by foreign box office for a few years straight. What will happen is a “too big to fail” scenario for most companies, I’ll be assuming Disney/Pixar will be buying those weakened studios to monopolize the industry. NORMALLY when studios closed down we expected some smaller studios to move up the line, however as with the case with Dreamworks’ branch, that isn’t going to happen. There is also the fact that people have a tendency to align animator’s options to just film or television instead of adding more opportunities, because in case the studio forgot everyone needs entry level positions to gain experiences and killing off veterans is just asking to lower and longer production quality.