Oscars: Where Did That Thank-You Crawl Come From?

Oscars stage - H 2016
Courtesy of Derek McLane

Producer David Hill has introduced a new way for winners to thank everybody who helped them get to their big moment.

What’s with that crawl of names along the bottom of the screen at this year’s Oscars?

When the first award of the evening, best original screenplay, was announced, a cable news-style ticker tape began running along the bottom of the screen with a long-list of thank-yous.

Turns out the thank-you crawl is the newest innovation from David Hill, who is producing this year’s Oscar show along with Reginald Hudlin. Hill served as a senior executive vp at 21st Century Fox for 24 years before leaving the Fox Group last year and left a big imprint on how TV covers sports. He is credited with such innovations as a permanent score box in the corner of the screen and a glowing hockey puck that Fox used in its National Hockey League broadcasts.

When Hill first agreed to serve as one of the Oscar show producers, he told The Hollywood Reporter that he wouldn’t necessarily try to introduce similar elements into the kudocast, saying producing the Oscars “is not a job that involves technical gimmicks at all.”

But after he and Hudlin reviewed previous Oscar shows, they decided something had to be done to eliminate the time-honored awards-show tradition in which a flustered nominee reaches into his breast pocket or her decolletage for a wrinkled piece of paper and then proceeds to read a list of names until the orchestra strikes up the play-off music.

Their solution: Nominees were asked to submit in advance of Sunday’s broadcast, airing live on ABC, a list of those they would like to thank should they win. Then, as winners are called, the appropriate scroll will run across the bottom of the screen.

The producers unveiled the new way for Hollywood’s biggest winners to express their gratitude at the Academy’s annual Nominees Luncheon on Feb. 8. “Acceptance speeches have become a list of names and more often than not, time ran out before something could be spoken from the heart about the art, about the vision, about the experience, about the meaning of the moment,” Hill explained. “We needed to rethink how this could be a better experience for everyone.”

Hill promised that the scroll would serve as “a permanent record of your gratitude” while freeing up the winners, who still will have just 45 seconds to accept their award, to focus on something more personal than just a list of producers, agents, managers and PR reps.

The new approach has already created a fresh wave of anxiety throughout Hollywood, with those who have worked with the various nominees crossing their fingers in hopes that they will see their names march across the screen.

In the past, a winner could always claim that he or she forgot a critical thank-you in the confusion of the moment. But now, since the thank-yous come pre-packaged, if a winner omits a particular thank-you, that’s likely to be viewed as an intentional sleight.

And the word among the nominees is they have been told each thank-you scroll can not exceed 80 words max, which could force winners to pick and choose exactly who deserves their gratitude.