JOHN LASSETER is in a classic no-win position. The chief creative officer at both Pixar and the Disney animation group is one of the most influential filmmakers of our era, both as a director (most recently of "Cars") and as the guiding force behind Pixar's unprecedented string of creative and commercial triumphs. (Pixar's latest success, "Ratatouille," made its DVD debut this week). And yet Lasseter is also a member of the Academy Board of Governors, the same Academy that is so dismissive of the artistry of today's animated films that it hasn't given a best picture nomination to an animated film since 1991's "Beauty and the Beast."
Anyone's chances of winning a statuette for writing or acting in an animated film is also next to nil -- you can only hope a best animated film winner mentions you in his or her acceptance speech. So Lasseter knew he was walking a tightrope when he sat down to talk about the Oscars, immediately making me promise that I'd say his mild criticisms were delivered in a "judicious" manner. He is such an unabashed fan of the Oscars that he dresses up his academy statuettes in old Barbie off-the-shoulder gowns.
According to Metacritic.com, "Ratatouille" remains the best reviewed American movie of the year. Yet none of the Oscar pundits even mentions it as a best picture contender. Doesn't that bug you?
You'd love for me to complain, wouldn't you? Well, I'm not. But I will say I'm proud that the academy has an Oscar that celebrates the best animated feature.
It used to be the best you could hope for was a musical nomination. I guess you have to view it as akin to the best foreign language film. You're still eligible for other categories, even if it doesn't happen very often.
But why shouldn't "Ratatouille" writer-director Brad Bird be a legitimate contender for original screenplay or director? Isn't he operating on just as sophisticated a level as any live-action writer-director?
Somehow, people think animation is different. It's funny because we don't have separate theaters for animation films. People pay the same ticket price, they buy the same popcorn. The creation of the story is the same -- it's the same entertaining experience. I don't know. People just see it differently.
In fact, while we're at it, why shouldn't Peter O'Toole be considered for best supporting actor for his role in "Ratatouille" as Anton Ego?
I agree. The vocal actors should be considered for real award nominations. We record their performance before the animation is done, so if you love a character's performance in a film, it has a lot to do with what the actor did. Look, it would be nice to have animated films treated on the same level playing field as every other film.
I keep hearing about the gowns you have for your Oscar statuettes. But your trademark is Hawaiian shirts. Why not dress Oscar up in a nice Hawaiian print job?
A Hawaiian shirt? Oh no, no, no. Hawaiian shirts are not appropriate attire for the Oscars. That's for my day job.