When the winner of the finest animated characteristic film is declared Sunday at the Academy Awards, Jeff Smith will be pulling for Dan Scanlon.
Smith, the Columbus cartoonist greatest-regarded for the comic reserve “Bone,” 1st met Scanlon more than two decades ago. In the late 1990s, Scanlon, then a current graduate of the Columbus Faculty of Art & Layout, went to work for Character Builders, a now-defunct animation studio that had been co-established by Smith.
By the early 2000s, Scanlon had identified his way to Pixar Animation Studios in California, the place he has worked as a storyboard artist, member of the senior resourceful workforce and, most just lately, the co-author and director of the hit computer system-animated attribute “Onward” — just one of 5 movies nominated for finest animated element film at this year’s Oscars.
The Oscar levels of competition is rigid
Smith is rooting for Scanlon, but he acknowledges that he’s up against some stiff level of competition this calendar year.
“He is particularly proficient. I desire him the very best of luck,” Smith stated. “Boy, he has obtained a rough roster he is up towards this yr. Ordinarily, a Pixar film is a shoo-in.”
(The other nominated animated films are “Over the Moon,” “A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon,” “Wolfwalkers” and a different Pixar feature, “Soul.”)
For his aspect, Scanlon is merely thrilled to get the opportunity to satisfy many of his fellow nominated filmmakers at the ceremony, which will choose place primarily at Union Station in Los Angeles.
“It’s certainly going to be a one of a kind yr,” Scanlon, 44, explained in a modern cellular phone interview from San Francisco, where by he resides. “It’s an honor to see how it’s all heading to function — hopefully, to get to see some of the other nominees whom I’ve only ever talked to on Zoom.”
Scanlon’s Oscar nomination — the filmmaker’s first — is just the hottest fortuitous twist in a occupation that has taken him from the Midwest to the upper echelons of Hollywood.
A native of Clawson, Michigan, Scanlon and his more mature brother, Bill, were being elevated by their mother, Betty (their father, a chemist, died when his sons were 1 and 3 years aged, respectively). Like several youngsters, he was fascinated by cartoons, but he took things a move additional in trying to make his individual.
“I would file the animation that was on Television set and then look at it in sluggish-movement to test to figure out how they did it,” Scanlon claimed. “I would shell out several hours drawing my individual animation and filming it with my 8-millimeter camera.”
During his teenage decades, by then self-mindful about his appreciate for animation, he experienced moved on to drawing and painting.
“I didn’t consider it was great anymore, so I desired to get away from it,” claimed Scanlon, who, drawn by its potent name and its shut proximity to his property condition, attended the Columbus College of Artwork & Layout.
CCAD helped rediscover passion for animation
Whilst Scanlon formally majored in Illustration, and says he acquired a very well-rounded great-arts training, CCAD assisted him rediscover his enthusiasm for animation.
“I commenced using elective animation classes, and I fell back in appreciate with it,” Scanlon reported. “It wasn’t right until midway as a result of faculty that I recognized: ‘I appreciate this, and I don’t actually care if it’s amazing or not.’”
Scanlon, who graduated from CCAD in 1998, commenced as an intern at Character Builders, but speedily rose as a result of the ranks, operating on the storyboards on Disney’s “The Very little Mermaid 2” (2000) and “101 Dalmatians 2” (2002) — equally of which had been farmed out to the Columbus studio.
“It was such a modest studio, but they have been doing massive tasks,” Scanlon mentioned. “You actually acquired to don a quantity of hats.”
About three decades later on, sensing it was time to make a vocation move, Scanlon started applying for employment at animation homes in California, which include Pixar.
“I applied to Pixar pondering, ‘Well, there’s no way I could get employed there due to the fact I’m not excellent plenty of still,’” he said. “And no 1 responded apart from Pixar. Which is yet another lesson for kids: Just go for it.”
Unfamiliar in the means of Hollywood, Scanlon at 1st believed he would have to acquire his individual plane ticket. In simple fact, the studio paid out for his airfare — and made available him a work.
“I favored being a tale artist since you could impact the story and you could generate, but you didn’t have all the stress and responsibility of becoming a director,” reported Scanlon, who labored guiding the scenes on a plethora of Pixar hits, including “Cars’ (2006), “Toy Tale 3” (2010) and “Brave” (2012).
In 2013, Scanlon, who had already directed an unbiased dwell-action film named “Tracy,” was tapped to direct “Monsters University,” the observe-up to the 2001 blockbuster “Monsters, Inc.”
“The difficult section is they already instructed a fantastic story working with individuals people, and now you have to attempt to use the identical people and inform a various terrific tale,” Scanlon stated.
He had no trouble, having said that, coming up with the tale that inspired “Onward.”
The film — an elaborately conceived fantasy about a pair of fatherless elfin brothers, Ian and Barley Lightfoot (voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt) — has its roots in Scanlon’s possess longing for his deceased father.
“The secret of who he was and how we were being like him was just a significant part of the issue of my daily life as I grew up,” Scanlon explained. “That was the seed of it. We then extra a bunch of elves and magic.”
In the movie, Ian and Barley use magical means to revive their dad to among the the dwelling.
“We necessary a way in which that was feasible, and that’s exactly where magic arrived up,” Scanlon mentioned. “Originally, we talked about it becoming some sort of scientific product that they made use of to bring their father back, but the magic felt a little warmer and fewer creepy.”
Audiences embrace ‘Onward’
Audiences, for their component, have found plenty to embrace in “Onward,” which, just before the pandemic hit, was on its way to blockbuster standing: The movie occupied the major location at the box workplace when it opened in early March 2020, but did not get pleasure from a complete theatrical run immediately after the pandemic compelled practically all motion picture theaters to near. The film had a second daily life on the streaming provider Disney+.
“I would see on-line kids finding to watch ‘Onward’ in their residence and they’d have their dwelling embellished to search like a motion picture theater simply because they couldn’t go to just one,” Scanlon explained. “The film is about earning the ideal of what you have when you cannot get what you want.”
In fact, for the duration of the pandemic, Scanlon was equipped to reconnect with his alma mater: Last Could, he participated in a Q&A through Zoom with pupils at CCAD.
“He can place himself again into the shoes of staying a university student all over again,” Animation Chair Charlotte Belland mentioned. “They felt that sense of him supporting them in their dreams. It was just these types of a pleasant discussion.”
The filmmaker, who is married to wife Michele and has no small children, remains grateful for the robust training he obtained at the university.
“It actually taught me additional about becoming accountable, scheduling my time and doing the challenging operate of getting expert than it did (about) artwork — or as nicely as it taught me (about) art,” he explained. “I nevertheless have a operate ethic to this day that has assisted me for the reason that of that faculty.”
Naturally, Scanlon will have a cheering portion Sunday in Columbus.
“The pupils, personnel and college of the Columbus School of Artwork & Design and style are quite fired up for Dan’s nomination,” explained Belland, adding that Scanlon is the first CCAD graduate to be nominated as the director of an animated aspect film.
“This is one of their peers receiving this intercontinental recognition from the Academy of Movement Picture Arts & Sciences,” she stated.
Win or lose, however, Scanlon looks to agrees with Jeff Smith: He’ll be in rather great business on Oscar night time.
“To have (‘Onward’) nominated in a calendar year with so many wonderful animated films is really amazing,” Scanlon stated. “It’s quite surreal.”
At a glance
The 93rd Academy Awards will air at 8 p.m. Sunday on ABC, such as WSYX-TV (Channel 6).