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Tom Sito Beats Out Ed Catmull In Academy Board of Governors Election

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, organizers of the Oscars, announced the election results for its Board of Governors late-Thursday afternoon, and veteran animator Tom Sito emerged victorious as the winner of a seat on the Short Films and Feature Animation Branch.

Sito was one of four candidates running for the animation branch’s Board of Governors; the other three were Darlie Brewster, Bob Kurtz, and Ed Catmull.

As pointed out in a piece published yesterday, the candidacy of Catmull in particular had raised concerns amongst Academy members, especially since the Disney/Pixar animation president had been given a special dispensation to switch from the visual effects branch into the animation branch and run as a last-minute candidate. For now at least, Catmull, who is the president of the animation divisions that have won the feature animation Oscar for 9 out of the last 10 years, will not have direct influence on the Board of Governors.

Sito will replace Bob Rogers, who did not seek re-election for a new term. He will join two other governors in the Short Films and Feature Animation branch: live-action director and editor Jon Bloom and animation director and cg animation supervisor Bill Kroyer.

The Academy’s 17 branches are each represented by three governors, who may serve up to three consecutive three-year terms. The Board of Governors is tasked with setting the Academy’s strategic vision, preserving the organization’s financial health, and assuring the fulfillment of its mission.

Sito has worked in the animation industry for over forty years, from Richard Williams’ Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure to Filmation’s He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. He worked as an animator and story artist for many years at Disney, amassing credits on Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Pocahontas, among others, and later worked at Dreamworks on films like Shrek and The Prince of Egypt. He was also an animation director on Warner Bros.’ Osmosis Jones, and more recently, wrote the story for Flash in the Pain, a cg Looney Tunes short that was produced by Reel FX.

In addition to working in the industry, Sito has advocated for the community in numerous important ways. Notably, from 1992 through 2001, he served as the president of the Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists Local 839 (today called The Animation Guild). He has also written multiple books, including a volume about the labor movement within the animation industry, Drawing the Line: The Untold Story of the Animation Unions from Bosko to Bart Simpson, and currently, he is the chair of the animation program at USC.

In the vfx branch, Richard Edlund returned to the board after a hiatus. Along with Edlund, the other two elected members of the visual effects Board of Governors are Craig Barron and John Knoll.

Additionally, Jennifer Yuh Nelson, who directed Kung Fu Panda 2 and co-directed Kung Fu Panda 3, serves as a governor-at-large and participates in issues related to the Short Films and Feature Animation branch.

  • Satoshi

    The artist, turned labour organizer beats the job creator, entrepreneurial genius.

    • Chicken McPhee

      I think it’d be a tad more accurate as “The artist, turned labour organizer beats the wage fixer, enterpreneurial industry innovator.” The wage fixing has pushed US animation into a hole for the last twenty years. Just because Catmull invented a lot of CG technology doesn’t mean he’s some sort of industry deity. What good are all those inventions if the very people tasked with using them to create meaningful work are suppressed?

      • I totally agree, Tim Sito is a great choice precisely because he’s fought for the rights of animators over the years. We can be thankful for Catmull’s innovations while still judging the ethics of his actions.

      • Satoshi

        Wage fixing or not . E. Catmull has done more for the animation industry by creating the very technology that has made the modern industry possible, not to mention the thousands of people he directly employes at Pixar. I don’t want to take anything from Tom Sito, he is a great guy but you can not compare them , they are not even in the same league. Labor Unions do very little compared to the good that having a thriving industry provides.

        • Troy

          Yes Ed create technology that benefits for the company and his choice of employees toward the future. You are correct to assume they are in a different league by face value. The Labor Union did little due to being stretched out on resources to keep people employed. Ed may have the privilege to be added in at the last minute. He could have inspired the few who aims to grow technological-wise But there is one thing that you can’t deny is the fact that Ed was not voted to be part of the board.

        • Chicken McPhee

          I agree – Catmull has done a lot for the animation industry. Lots of new jobs, but you could also argue that he contributed to the death of traditional animation. You’re entirely missing that while his credits are of big and important films, they technical. He’s a genius technologist. He doesn’t get involved with story, or the art, merely the tools that help make it.
          The closest comparison from history would be Thomas Edison, who, while contibuting to technology and human development immensely, also thought it was a good idea to electricute animals. I’m not saying Ed is an evil man. At all. But maybe sometimes the genius’ genius can eclipse itself and there could be a lapse in judgement. Then again, I don’t know, he did say “I don’t apologize for this.” Even Tony Stark has a lapse in judgement here and there.
          Thriving industry doesn’t have to mean bad working conditions, which is the reality for many studios today, like it or not, and it’s not because the workers would be whiny, they tolerate far more than you’d think. That’s why labor unions are vital to the animation industry.
          By comparison, Tom’s been a creative his entire life, and whether you like his credits or not, he’s much more likely to be a positive influence on creative diversity.
          The difference, in one sentence is – Tom could make an animated film, Ed couldn’t.

        • RCooke

          Labor Unions have done a LOT for the industry—and the industry would not have survived without them.

    • RCooke

      catmull is no “entrepreneur.” He’s a functionary. Steve Jobs was. catmull is a wage fixer who told people they were allowed to come and go from Disney and Pixar as they wish–no contracts. Except he was making sure behind the scenes they couldn’t. No wonder there was widespread disgust and disappointment amongst short film branch members with the very thought that his name might even be put up for consideration.

  • Inkan1969

    Does the rules change still stand though? Will Sito being on the board make it possible for non-wide release films to get nominated.

  • Elsi Pote

    Praise the lord almighty, yes, yes YES!

    There is still hope for decent people to make it despite of politics and money. If you wanted a sign, this is it!

    Godspeed Tom, you deserve this and more.

  • matt shepherd

    That’s great. Tom Sito definitely deserves it over Ed Catmull. I mean the credits speak for themselves.

  • Troy

    “To Ed Catmull,
    The organizers will not apologize for the choice they made in regards to the Academy Board of Governors.

    The Animation Industry”

    Now if Ed Catmull raises a tantrum, that will be a sight to behold and will not help his case…..

  • Jon Turner

    What does Tom Sito’s election mean for animation?