VFS OSCAR WATCH: Alumni powered this year’s Visual Effects and Animated Features nominees

By VFS, on March 11, 2023

Filmmakers always say it’s an honour just to be nominated for an Oscar. Well, our alumni must be very honoured indeed! VFS alumni worked on numerous movies that have received Academy Awards buzz, many within departments that were directly nominated for their contributions. With the 95th Academy Awards soon approaching, here’s a look at what our graduates have been up to.

Best Visual Effects

Four of the five films nominated for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects included Vancouver Film School alumni in their visual effects departments, many of whom are graduates of the 3D Animation & Visual Effects program.

VFS alumni were credited on four of the Best Visual Effects nominees: Top Gun: Maverick, The Batman, Avatar: The Way of Water, and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

In order of least to most VFS credits, the nominees are:

Top Gun: Maverick (11 VFX alumni)

Eleven VFS alumni worked on visual effects for this sequel 37 years in the making, which takes our breath away with stunning dogfights and aerial maneuvers. While Top Gun: Maverick aims for a more realistic visual style than its counterparts on this list, visual effects were instrumental in recreating the F-14 fighter jets for the film, as the US Navy retired the model in 2006, as well as bringing together many of the shots featuring more than one aircraft.

The Batman (28 VFX alumni)

The Batman also tried to strike a more grounded look with its use of visual effects, but they were no less an important part of the film. Visual effects artists, including 28 VFS alumni, dialled up the action and explosiveness of the pivotal chase scene between Batman and the Penguin, and brought to life Gotham City staples like the Batcave and the obligatory swarm of bats.

Avatar: The Way of Water (29 VFX alumni)

Avatar: The Way of Water may not win the award for Longest Time Between Sequels on this list, but it does have some championship lineage of its own. The first Avatar film won the award for Best Visual Effects in 2010. Will this return to Pandora reclaim the title? 29 VFS graduates worked on this film’s visual effects, which were relied on heavily for everything from the Na’vi, the underwater environments, and the military arsenal of the invading RDA.

One such asset gained some awards attention of its own. VFS alum Stephan Skorepa earned the Visual Effects Society (VES) award for “Outstanding Model in a Photoreal or Animated Project”, the waterborne base of operations for the film’s antagonists. Avatar: Way of the Water earned numerous other accolades at the VES Awards, as well as visual effects honours from the Annie Awards, Critic’s Choice Movie Awards, and the BAFTA Film Awards.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (30 VFX alumni)

Avatar isn’t the only movie getting attention for the brilliant visual effects of its underwater sequences, however. 30 VFS alumni contributed to Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, sequel to the most critically acclaimed Marvel movie to date. In addition to the aquatic kingdom of Talokan and its inhabitants, visual effects were used extensively for the breathtaking vistas and highly advanced technology of Wakanda.

Former VFS students also worked on visual effects for several other Oscar nominated movies, including The Whale, Elvis, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, The Banshees of Inisherin, and Babylon.

And the Oscar goes to… Avatar: The Way of Water!

Sound Design at the Oscars

Avatar: The Way of Water isn’t only being noticed for its visual effects, however. The film’s sound crew also received a nomination for Best Sound, a team that included sound effect editor VFS graduate Dave Chrastka!

Alumni also made big contributions to the sound departments of Oscar nominees Avatar: The Way of Water, All that Breathes, and Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths.

Although Avatar: The Way of Water was the only film nominated for Best Sound that featured VFS talent, Sound Design for Visual Media alumni were also part of the respective crews for Best Documentary Feature nom All That Breathes and Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths, nominated for Best Cinematography.

Best Animated Feature

VFS alumni were also busy at work on some of 2022’s biggest animated feature films, and are well represented at the Academy Awards with credits in another four of five nominated films.

In another VFS alum packed category, graduates worked on Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, Turning Red, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, and The Sea Beast.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2 alumni)

Two VFS graduates worked on the latest installment of Dreamwork’s Shrek franchise, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish in the animation and production departments. They helped bring a more painterly look to the film, designed to capture the feeling of illustrations from old books of fairy tales.

Turning Red (2 alumni)

A product of Pixar, Turning Red has been turning heads for a stylization that director Domee Shi described as an “Asian tween fever dream.” Two VFS alumni worked in the animation department to help make that fever dream possible. The visual style draws on influence from old Nintendo games and anime, including the Studio Ghibli classic My Neighbor Totoro.

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (6 alumni)

Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion retelling of the classic Italian novel featured the talents of six alumni from the 3D Animation & Visual EffectsClassical Animation, and Digital Design programs. The stunning movie has already won numerous awards, including at the Golden Globes, Annie Awards, Golden Reels Awards, and more.

The Sea Beast (12 alumni)

The Sea Beast has also received attention for the quality of its animation, and with twelve alumni from VFS’s 3D Animation & Visual Effects and Classical Animation programs its easy to understand why! Crisp blue waves, detailed ships, and imposing sea creatures make every moment of this nautical adventure a treat to pour over.

And the Oscar goes to … Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio!

Best Animated Short Film

It’s not just the feature-length animated films with some VFS clout, however. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is an adaption of Charlie Mackesy’s illustrated book of the name. This short film featured the work of over 120 animators from more than 20 countries, including VFS Classical Animation graduate Tim Dillnutt, and took home the top prize.

Another worthy mention goes to Roslyn Kalloo, a screenwriting alum, who was an editor for Women Talking. Sarah Polley’s adaptation of Miriam Toews’ novel earned the award for Best Adapted Screenplay, as well as a nomination for Best Picture.

Congratulations to all of our alumni involved these projects! This slate of well-earned nominations shows what we already know: VFS graduates create amazing, award-winning projects. Be sure to check out our Instagram where we’ll be celebrating the winners next week!

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