Animation Oscar: 6 Key Moments From the 2012 Contenders

From Merida meeting the mother bear in "Brave" to "Frankenweenie" coming to life, filmmakers talk about their favorite scenes - and what made them click.

This story first appeared in the Jan. 10, 2013 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Hotel Transylvania

There’s a party at Hotel Transylvania — a resort for monsters — celebrating the 118th birthday of Mavis, the headstrong daughter of Dracula, an over protective father. Guests include Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Invisible Man and a werewolf family. “It has really fun animation, a great character moment and our big dramatic turn,” says director Genndy Tartakovsky, who gave the characters in the comedy an exaggerated, Tex Avery-style of CG animation. After it becomes apparent that a human has become Mavis’ love interest — and the pair share a kiss — “Dracula explodes and lets out that he [deceived] his daughter about what humans are really like,” notes Tartakovsky. “It is a turning point for Mavis, and Dracula is outed for lying.”


When Princess Merida — desperate to turn her mother, Queen Elinor, from a bear back into her human form — falls into a bear’s lair and comes face-to-face with another once-human bear, she learns of thecurse under which she inadvertently placed her mother. “We put that in there so that she understands the dire consequences of her actions —if Merida doesn’t change her ways and realize her selfishness,” says Mark Andrews, who directed with Brenda Chapman. “That is an important lesson: to let kids know they can face a situation on their own and survive. Merida has to undo her selfish mistake. It was a pivotal movement. We arranged everything around it so it felt organic and real, not forced.”

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Enthusiastic young misfit Neil invites another misfit, Norman, to his house. He knows Norman can see ghosts and hopes to connect with his lost pet — while also making a friend. “It was a great study in awkwardness,”says Sam Fell, who directed with Chris Butler. “Norman really doesn’t want to be there. The animators studied the body language of kids that age. He is rubbing his arm. You see the little crinkles in Norman’s eyebrows.” Adds Butler, “It sums up what we were trying to do in terms of the subtlety of acting and our own skew of naturalism, where you can really invest in these characters as if they were real kids.”

Rise of the Guardians

At a moment when belief in the Guardians is fading — and Jack Frost is estranged from the group — Jack tries to preserve belief in the Easter Bunny in one child, Jamie. “He realized if he can keep belief alive, then they have a chance,” says director Peter Ramsey. “We don’t bring them together in the scene until Jamie feels Jack’s presence. The camera does a lyrical dance with this perception. You feel the magic of the two connecting. All departments were operating at their peak, from the writing to the score. It is the emotional high point of Jack’s story.”

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Wreck-It Ralph

“Wreck-It Ralph has to make the very tough decision to destroy the go-cart that he made with young racer Vanellope,”recalls director Rich Moore. “It is the point where Ralph has to apply all that he learned. He is doing it for a good reason, but it still reminds him of what he doesn’t like about himself. We needed to be able to relate to the child’s point of view and also to the adult’s. It took a lot of drawing from experience of myself as a childand also myself as a parent to make that scene play as honestly as it could.”


In Tim Burton's homage to 1931's Frankenstein, young Victor harnesses the power of electricity to bring his beloved dog, Sparky, back to life. "You see how he has transformed his attic into his 'mad scientist' lab, evocative of Frankenstein," says producer Allison Abbate. "We captured the lightning, the sparks flying around the room. It is the crux of the movie, and I love that it's an homage to [Burton's] passion for old films. It is Victor's love for Sparky that makes this experiment work. His hopefulness when he is waiting to see the results is so moving -- and so satisfying when Sparky wags his tail and comes back to life."