Oscars: Kobe Bryant Denied an Invite to Join Film Academy

The recent Oscar winner had been recommended for membership by the executive committee of the Academy's short films and feature animation branch.
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Kobe Bryant and Glen Keane accept Oscars for 'Dear Basketball.'

When this year's list of new members invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is announced next week, Kobe Bryant — the basketball legend who won the best animated short Oscar in February for his autobiographical film Dear Basketball — will not be on it.

Bryant — who wrote, executive produced and lent his voice to Dear Basketball, which animator Glen Keane directed — was recommended for membership by the executive committee of the Academy's short films and feature animation branch, but his name was removed after the list was reviewed by a second committee, the general membership committee, which is composed of one governor from each branch. That list of potential new members will be presented to the full board of governors, which is set to meet Saturday.

The general membership committee apparently felt that Bryant does not yet possess a substantial enough body of work to merit an invitation, since Dear Basketball was his first filmmaking venture.

Cartoon Brew broke the news, which The Hollywood Reporter has independently confirmed with a source close to the situation.

It is not unusual for filmmakers who receive an Oscar nomination or win for a project early in a career to be denied membership; in fact, one of last year's two winners in the same category, Piper's Marc Sondheimer, also was not invited after the ceremony at which he won. (Sondheimer's co-winner, Alan Barillaro, was invited in 2015, and Keane, Bryant's co-winner, was invited in 2000.)

Still, some will inevitably wonder if, in the #MeToo era, Bryant's past legal troubles deterred the organization from bringing him into its fold. Fifteen years ago, Bryant was accused of sexual assault, but the case was dropped after his accuser refused to testify. The accuser later filed a separate civil suit, which Bryant settled with an apology but without an admission of guilt.

Bryant, through his company Kobe., Inc., is already at work on his next film projects, so an invitation to join Hollywood's most elite club still could conceivably come his way in the future.