The Visual Effects Society (VES) handed out its awards for achievement in visual effects in television, feature films, games, and commercials last night at the Palladium in the heart of Hollywood.  The golden statues in the shape of a moon, in honor of the pioneer of visual effects, filmmaker Georges Méliès, are awarded to visual effects supervisors and producers who make up the membership of VES, though nominees do not have to be members to qualify for awards.

The team from WETA Digital, director Peter Jackson’s effects company in New Zealand, took what could be considered the VES Awards top prize, Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects Driven Motion Picture, for King Kong.  Teams on Kong also took two other prizes for Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Motion Picture and Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Motion Picture for their 1930s New York City.  The other top prize, and, for some, more prestigious because it honors effects that are seamless parts of a film, is Outstanding Supporting Visual Effect in a Motion Picture, and that award went to Ridley Scott’s crusades film Kingdom of Heaven.

The other big winners were teams from ILM for their amazing work on Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, which took three prizes, including Best Single Visual Effect of the Year.  Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Motion Picture went to Gromit from Nick Park and Aardman Animation’s stop motion film Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.  Other winners included the HBO series Rome, ABC-TV’s Lost, the video game Need For Speed: Most Wanted and the Nine Inch Nails music video Only.  

Besides the awards for 2005 films, VES presented their Georges Méliès Award for Pioneering & Artistic Excellence to Pixar’s John Lasseter for being the driving force behind the use of computer-generated animation.  A parade of celebrity presenters who have worked with Mr. Lasseter on the many Pixar features he has either directed and/or produced had heartfelt praise that could almost match the quality of the work he has created with such hits as Toy Story, The Incredibles, and his newest film Cars which comes out later this year.  Praise flowed, from Craig T. Nelson (Mr. Incredible) to Cheech Marin (Cars) to John Ratzenberger (A Bug’s Life, Toy Story, Cars) who had these remarks: “What a thrill it was to read in the paper that you were coming to take over Disney Animation. On the same day, on page nineteen in another part of the same newspaper, there was an article, which said that Walt Disney had stopped spinning in his grave!”  

Upon receiving his award, Lasseter, speaking to a room full of visual effects professionals, reminded them about not getting too wrapped up in the technology and to always remember, “What interests people is how you entertain them, the story and the characters … Computers don’t create the animation, people do. It’s all about combining art and technology. Art challenges technology, and technology inspires art.”

Actress Bonnie Hunt (A Bug’s Life, Monsters, Inc., Cars), who presented the award to Lasseter, entertained the crowd with both touching and amusing comments. After praising Lasseter’s genius, creativity, and attention to detail, she said, “The love and passion you damn nerds have for your work is amazing. You are such a big deal … John, you know how I feel about you. We slept together last night! And (the sex) was fully animated.”

For a complete list of award winners and further information about the Visual Effects Society, go to www.visualeffectssociety.com.

Rich Burlingham

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