The most impressive effect on Monday night's Academy Awards telecast (Cher's dress not withstanding) was Mickey Mouse's surprise appearance to help present the Oscar for best animated short.
At the end of a clip from the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" sequence of "Fantasia," Mickey leaped out of the screen and conjured up a giant package that burst to reveal Tom Selleck. The cartoon mouse exchanged banter with the live actor, walked across the stage and announced one of the nominees. The envelope flew out of his hand, turned circles in the air and landed on the lectern within Selleck's reach.
Although the Disney animation staff and telecast director Marty Pasetta began planning this surprise bit of technical legerdemain in early January, directing animators Mark Henn and Rob Minkoff and free-lance artist Nancy Beman had to create two minutes of animation in just three weeks--less than half the time the work would ordinarily take. The artists used still photographs of the stage and lectern as guides when they devised the cartoon action.
It's difficult enough to coordinate the movements of actors and cartoon characters in feature films, when all the footage has been shot in advance. The awards show was a live broadcast: The action on nine separate reels of animation had to be matched to Selleck's movements in real time. The two images were combined electronically by technicians in the control room. (The audience in the Shrine Auditorium saw Selleck talking to an empty space on the stage and to Mickey on the monitors.)
The results were technically impressive and offered a more dynamic version of Mickey than audiences had seen in more than three decades.