Visual Effects Pros Growl Over 'Cats' Oscars Segment

James Corden and Rebel Wilson speak onstage during the 92nd Annual Academy Awards 0 Getty - H 2020
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The Visual Effects Society on Monday released a statement urging the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to "properly honor the craft of visual effects — and all of the crafts" as it moves forward.

During Sunday's Oscars broadcast, James Corden and Rebel Wilson appeared to present the award for best visual effects in Cats costumes, lampooning Universal's musical debacle and causing VES to immediately respond with a series of tweets reminding the Academy that VFX practitioners deserve "respect" and are not a "scapegoat." Adding insult to injury, these actors were also key cast members in the film.

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter on Monday, VES board chair Mike Chambers noted that with “this one incident, every ear perked up. Though doubtfully it was the intention, it was somewhat insulting.”

The Society's full statement is below.

"The Visual Effects Society is focused on recognizing, advancing and honoring visual effects as an art form — and ensuring that the men and women working in VFX are properly valued. 

Last night, in presenting the Academy Award for Outstanding Visual Effects, the producers chose to make visual effects the punchline, and suggested that bad VFX were to blame for the poor performance of the movie CATS. The best visual effects in the world will not compensate for a story told badly.

On a night that is all about honoring the work of talented artists, it is immensely disappointing that The Academy made visual effects the butt of a joke. It demeaned the global community of expert VFX practitioners doing outstanding, challenging and visually stunning work to achieve the filmmakers’ vision.

Our artists, technicians and innovators deserve respect for their remarkable contributions to filmed entertainment, and should not be presented as the all-too-convenient scapegoat in service for a laugh.

Moving forward, we hope that The Academy will properly honor the craft of visual effects — and all of the crafts, including cinematography and film editing — because we all deserve it." 

In another sketch, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell built their jokes around the concept that, as famous actors, they didn't understood role of the cinematographer or film editor. “Not only does the cinematographer prepares the meals for the crew and cast, it is also the cinematographer who knocks on your trailer door to let you know that it is time to get to the set to create magic,” Louis-Dreyfus deadpanned.

In addition to tweets from VES, individual VFX artists also took to Twitter on Sunday night. Wrote VFX Academy Award winner Hal Hickel: "Once again the Academy finds a way to insult VFX artists. Usually it’s a dumb joke about 'geeks or nerds,' this year it was a dumb joke implying the failure of Cats was poor VFX."

Tom Hooper's performance-capture-based production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Broadway musical opened Dec. 20. Made on a reported budget of $95 million, it has made $71.9 million worldwide to date.

As it turned out, Sunday night's VFX category winner, 1917, involved the work of the same VFX house as Cats. Technicolor-owned MPC's work last year included 1917 and fellow VFX nominee The Lion King, as well as Cats.

It wasn't the first time in recent years that the VFX Oscar presentation was the subject of debate. In 2013, the VFX team from Life of Pi was played offstage to the Jaws score, which drew criticism.