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Jon Favreau's The Lion King won the Visual Effects Society Awards' top category for outstanding VFX in a photoreal feature. The photoreal retelling of the Disney animated classic — made using newly-developed virtual production techniques — bested a field of nominees that also included Alita: Battle Angel, Avengers: Endgame, Gemini Man and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker..
The award went to Robert Legato, Tom Peitzman, Adam Valdez and Andrew R. Jones, and the work was created at VFX house MPC. The Lion King won two additional trophies, for outstanding creating environment and virtual production. The team that won the virtual production trophy included the film's six-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Caleb Deschanel. Accepting the top prize, Legato saluted the 1600 artists that worked on the movie.
Also Wednesday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, The Irishman –-which this year grabbed attention for its de-aging work and was led by Industrial Light & Magic VFX supervisor Pablo Helman–won trophies for supporting VFX and compositing. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker claimed the award for effects simulations; and Alita: Battle Angel was honored for animated character. Industrial Light & Magic completed the work on The Rise of Skywalker. Weta was behind Alita.
The Lion King, The Irishman and The Rise of Skywalker are nominated for the Oscar in visual effects, alongside 1917 and Avengers: Endgame. In five of the last 10 years, the winner of the VES' top category for outstanding VFX went on to win the Oscar in VFX. In 2011, the Oscar went to the winner of VES’ supporting VFX category (Hugo).
Advances in virtual production were a big topic in VFX this year, largely driven by the techniques used to make The Lion King and Favreau's Star Wars-inspired series The Mandalorian, which also tapped into some of these new techniques, won two trophies during the ceremony including outstanding VFX in a photoreal episode and outstanding model.
In the animated feature categories, awards went to Missing Link for outstanding VFX and outstanding character (for Mr. Link); Toy Story 4 won for created environment (antique mall) and Frozen 2 for effects simulations.
Along with The Mandalorian, Game of Thrones and Stranger Things won two trophies apiece for short-form work. The award in the new category of special (practical) effects was presented to The Dark Crystal: The Age of Resistance. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance received the VES trophy for VFX in a special venue project.
During the evening Martin Scorsese accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award via video from New York; visual effects supervisor Sheena Duggal received the VES award for creative excellence, which was introduced by Andy Serkis in a videotaped presentation; and Roland Emmerich accepted the VES Visionary Award, presented by Joey King. The Irishman's VFX supervisor Helman presented Scorsese's award.
Accepting her award, Duggal–the first woman to receive the creative excellence award–encouraged diversity and said "I feel a duty to hold the door ajar for the next generation of artists coming through."
Additional presenters included J.J. Abrams, Jon Favreau and Rian Johnson.
The complete winners' list follows.
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