Pete Docter and Dana Murray accept the Oscar for Animated Feature Film during the live ABC Telecast of The 93rd Oscars at Union Station in Los Angeles, CA on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Credit: Todd Wawrychuk / A.M.P.A.S.
With Sunday night’s win for Soul (Pixar), the Best Animated Feature Oscar has now gone to alumni of the California Institute of the Arts’ (CalArts) renowned animation programs 12 times. Since the category was introduced at the Academy Awards 20 years ago, the majority of winning films have been directed by “CalArtians.”
Soul (Pixar) was directed by Pete Docter (Film/Video BFA 90) with co-director Kemp Powers. Docter, who also wrote the film with Powers and Mike Jones, took home trophies with producer Dana Murray. Soul marks Docter’s third Oscar, having won for Pixar classics Up and Inside Out.
When accepting the award, Docter said, “We want to thank music teachers and art teachers everywhere… You make the world a better place.”
Soul also won the Academy Award for Best Original Score and was nominated for Best Sound.
Also nominated this year, Over the Moon (Netflix) was directed by Glen Keane (Film/Video BFA 74) with co-director John Kahrs. Keane, who also served as an executive producer on the film and provided voice work, was nominated alongside producers Gennie Rim and Peilin Chou.
In the Short Film (Animated) category, If Anything Happens I Love You (Netflix) was the night’s winner. When directors Will McCormack and Michael Govier accepted their trophies, they thanked the film’s animation director, Youngran Nho (Film/Video BFA 18), and animators HaeIn Michelle Heo (Film Video BFA 19) and Julia Rodrigues (Film/Video BFA 19), saying, “Your art astounds us.”
Also nominated in the category was CalArtian Madeline Sharafian (Film/Video BFA 14) alongside Michael Capbarat for Burrow (Pixar).
To date, animated films directed by CalArts Experimental and Character Animation alumni have amassed a worldwide revenue of nearly $50 billion (tracked 1985-March 2021). All CalArts animation students receive guidance and support to start their careers in the film industry. As a result, alumni have continued their box office revenue growth year after year. Infographics charting CalArts animation box office revenue can be found at boxoffice.calarts.edu.
Last year’s Oscar-winning Best Animated Feature, Toy Story 4, was co-written by CalArts alum Andrew Stanton (Film/Video BFA 87), who also served as one of the film’s executive producers alongside Docter. Hair Love, last year’s Best Short Film (Animated) was directed by Matthew A. Cherry, Everett Downing Jr., and CalArts alum Bruce W. Smith (Film/Video BFA 83).
Other Oscar-winning films from alumni directors include Finding Nemo (2003) by Stanton; The Incredibles (2004) and Ratatouille (2007) by Brad Bird (Film/Video BFA 76); WALL-E (2008) also by Stanton; Up (2009) by Docter; Brave (2012) by Mark Andrews (Film/Video BFA 93) and Brenda Chapman (Film/Video BFA 87); Frozen (2013) by Chris Buck (Film/Video BFA 78) with Peter Del Vecho and Jennifer Lee; Big Hero (2014) by Don Hall (Film/Video BFA 95) with Roy Conli and Chris Williams; Inside Out (2015) by Docter with Jonas Rivera; Zootopia (2016) by Rich Moore (Film/Video BFA 87) with Byron Howard and Clark Spencer; Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) by Bob Persichetti (Film/Video BFA 96) and others. Coco (2017) was co-directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina (Film/Video BFA 06), though Molina was not nominated. (Alums are indicated in bold.)
California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) has set the pace for educating professional artists since 1970. Offering rigorous undergraduate and graduate degree programs through six schools—Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music, and Theater—CalArts has championed creative excellence, critical reflection, and the development of new forms and expressions. As successive generations of faculty and alumni have helped shape the landscape of contemporary arts, the Institute first envisioned by Walt Disney encompasses a vibrant, eclectic community with global reach, inviting experimentation, independent inquiry, and active collaboration and exchange among artists, artistic disciplines and cultural traditions.
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