VFX Society Revises Animated Feature Eligibility, Adds Practical Effects Category

The animation eligibility changes reflect "trends where live action and animation production are blending," according to VES.
Courtesy of Disney; Courtesy of DreamWorks Animation

As the lines continue to blur between live-action and animated filmmaking techniques, the Visual Effects Society announced some revisions to its animated project awards eligibility and introduced a category recognizing outstanding special (practical) effects in a "photoreal" project.

Per the changes, animated projects are now eligible to compete in the categories for outstanding virtual cinematography in a CG project and compositing. This means that animated features such as How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (for which Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins served as visual consultant) and Toy Story 4 would now be eligible to compete in the virtual cinematography and compositing categories against live-action or CG-driven photorealistic movies.

This season — particularly driven by the release of photorealistic CG in The Lion King, which was made using a virtual production process — the definition of animation has also been a topic in awards season circles. In its rules, VES defines animation as "a project where the filmmakers have purposely chosen a look clearly distinct from photorealism for the benefit of the storytelling. The Awards consider animation to be a genre that is independent of the process by which it is created. Therefore the project may be created with traditional animation crafts, modern digital techniques, or live-action photography that has been manipulated in such a way that it does not look photoreal."

This means that The Lion King would not qualify as an animated feature for the VES Awards, though, if the studio had chosen to enter it; it would quality for Oscar consideration in the animated feature category, which uses a different set of criteria.

In a released statement, the VES said it "strives to keep the Awards fair, meaningful and open to as many artistic specialties as possible, while being responsive to trends in our field. The special effects category was introduced after careful consideration by the VES awards committee and collaborative discussion with prominent members of the special effects community. As well, the expanded eligibility of animation projects reflects meaningful conversations with animation industry leaders, and is in recognition of trends where live action and animation production are blending and of the legions of outstanding compositors working in animation."

Added VES chair Mike Chambers of the new practical effects category: "Special effects is not only a legacy craft, it is in use as much now as ever before, and is a critical element of filmmaking and creating cinematic illusion. Aligned with our mission to recognize and elevate the full breadth of creativity and innovation across our industry, it was due time to bring this category back to our awards program."

The 18th annual VES Awards will be presented Jan. 29 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.