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Release date:
March 6, 2002
Contact: Deb Hammacher, Associate Director: 404-727-0644 or dhammac@emory.edu

Oscar for Animation? It's About Time, Says Emory Professor

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will award its first Oscar for an animated feature-length film this year—and it’s about time, says Nina Martin, an assistant professor of film studies at Emory University.

"I can’t believe it has taken so long. The history of animation is in tandem with live action film. You cannot study or understand the history of live action narrative film without including animation," says Martin, who is teaching a course this semester on the history of animation.

Although the academy has handed out awards for animation shorts since the 1930s, the 74th Annual Academy Awards show March 24 will mark the first time that feature-length animated films will be honored on their own. The three nominees include "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius," "Monster’s Inc." and "Shrek," all solid blockbusters familiar to anyone with children or a love of cartoons.

Although the nominees are good movies with astounding animation, the academy overlooked other worthy movies, Martin says, in particular "Waking Life," a meditation on dreaming that was shot and edited as live action, then "painted" using computer animation.

The movie "is a real step forward in animation and story-telling. It’s adult entertainment," Martin says, which is part of the problem. Animation is too often considered child’s play when it also is a powerful medium for personal and political expression, she says.

"It’s amazing how you can identify with drawings and anthropomorphized animals and be moved with intense emotion while watching a cartoon," Martin says.

In recent years, computer technology has revolutionized animation, allowing feature length movies to be made in a matter of months, compared to the years it took to put together such classics as "Snow White." The technology ensures that animation will continue to be commercially lucrative, but it will still take time until medium is truly appreciated.

"I don’t think the Oscar will change how people perceive animation that much," Martin says. "As long as people see it as just something for kids, it won’t be taken seriously as an art form or medium of expression— although it should be."
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