Ed Catmull, president of both Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios and the disgraced industry figurehead at the center of the animation industry’s wage-fixing scandal, has made the list of final candidates for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Board of Governors elections being held in mid-June.
Catmull is one of four candidate in the Short Films and Feature Animation branch. The other three: veteran feature film animators Darlie Brewster (Ferngully: The Last Rainforest, The Huchback of Notre Dame, Osmosis Jones, The Prince of Egypt) and Tom Sito (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and co-animation director on Osmosis Jones), and industry legend Bob Kurtz (owner of the commercial studio Kurtz & Friends Animation and artist on The Alvin Show, Roger Ramjet, and George of the Jungle).
The four candidates were chosen from a pool of 12 contenders. The eight contenders who did not make the final cut were Tony Anselmo, Tony Bancroft, Mitchell W. Block, Jorgen Klubien, Brandon Oldenburg, James Scott, Andrew Sugerman, and Chris Tashima.
The three current governors on the short films and animation branch are Jon Bloom, Bill Kroyer, and Bob Rogers, the latter of whom is not seeking re-election this term and would be replaced by one of the four candidates. Additionally, Jennifer Yuh Nelson, who is a member of the short films and feature animation branch, is a governor-at-large within the Academy.
The governors review candidates for membership in the short films and feature branch, and also debate and approve changes to the Academy Award rules for the shorts and feature animation branch.
Catmull unsuccessfully attempted to run for a governor’s seat in the Academy’s visual effects branch last year. His new attempt to run for a seat on the short films and feature animation branch is especially noteworthy because a Walt Disney Company-produced film has won the Academy Award for feature animation for nine out of the last ten years.
No other category of the Academy Awards has been so overwhelmingly dominated by a single company as the Walt Disney Company has owned the animated feature award for the last decade. The fact that the president of the studio that has won the award for almost an entire decade would now be a final candidate to oversee the rules of that category further fuels industry speculation about the legitimacy of the feature animation Oscar.
Further adding to the Academy’s crisis of credibility when it comes to animation honors: Catmull only transferred to the Academy’s short films and feature animation branch a few months ago. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Some of the branch’s members have grumbled to The Hollywood Reporter that Catmull…shouldn’t be eligible to represent a group that he hasn’t even belonged to for a year — but clearly they were outnumbered.”
Catmull and his partner John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, have been known to use strong-arm tactics in the past to help restructure award show rules in their favor. In 2010, they withdrew all of Disney’s productions from ASIFA-Hollywood’s Annie Awards, forcing a leadership change within that organization and a revision of the organization’s rules, leading to the overwhelming domination by the Walt Disney Company at the Annies in recent years.
It’s unclear how Catmull could influence the Academy’s rules any more in Disney’s favor – Disney has not only won nine out of ten feature animation awards, but also won the short film Oscar for Piper this year – but the conflict of interest is apparent to all.
Additionally, the four final candidates for the visual effects branch of the Academy’s Board of Governors are Richard Edlund, Joe Letteri, Theresa Ellis Rygiel, and Bill Taylor.