Left to right: Cordell Barker, Counsel Colin
Robertson and Premier Gary Doer.

A Luncheon For
Cordell Barker

One of the more delightful events of the Oscar season in Los Angeles, animation-wise, is the annual luncheon hosted by the Consul General of Canada at his luxurious mansion in Hancock Park, just south of Hollywood. The purpose is to honor Canadian nominees, which usually means animation filmmakers based at the National Film Board of Canada. The event, held Thursday, March 21, honored Cordell Barker, whose Strange Invader, made for the NFB's Winnipeg studio, has been nominated in the Best Animated Short Film category.

Attendance is small and usually includes friends of the nominees, L.A.-based Canadian filmmakers (such as Jane Baer and Barry Nelson), and local animation folk. This year, Gary Doer, the Premier of Manitoba, helped officiate and informed us the title song for Barker's The Cat Came Back has become their theme for historical preservation efforts, in which they brag about how “The house came back!” Colin Robertson, the Counsel General, also bragged about the 66 or so Oscar nominations garnered by the NFB.

For his part, Barker gave special thanks to Ron Diamond, co-owner of Animation World Network, for his prenomination lobbying efforts on behalf of Strange Invaders, and made it clear he would like to win. He mentioned the 45-second hourglass timers the Academy gave each nominee, so their acceptance speeches would not go on too long. That reminds me, I forgot to ask if the Academy will, for the second time, give a large-screen TV to the person who gives the shortest acceptance speech; last year it was won by animator Michael Dudok de Wit for Father and Daughter, so Barker has a tradition to uphold!

Aside from the brief formalities, most of the afternoon was devoted to schmoozing and gossip. Thus, voice actor and Academy Governor June Foray, who played no small part in creating the Best Animated Feature Oscar, talked about the problems surrounding the Kodak Theater, the new home for the Oscar ceremonies. It seems the recently built theater's 3,200 seats is inadequate to fill all the ticket requests by Academy members; previously, the Oscars were previously held at the more spacious Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Shrine Auditorium. June sympathized with these complaints, though she thinks the new theater is beautiful. She had suggested the Academy use the Universal Amphitheater instead, but it was nixed on the grounds of its name being too closely associated with a major studio. “Well, I guess that means Kodak will not be getting any Oscars this year,” I said.

David Silverman, back in town after co-directing Monsters, Inc., said he was in the midst of doing the new Halloween special for The Simpsons. Next up, he will direct the computer animated feature version of Curious George for Universal. Production,” he said, “will be done at ILM.” “Then that will be their first feature?” “Yes,” he replied, “unless they go with Where the Wild Things Are,” another Universal effort which Eric Goldberg is to direct.

Left to right: June Foray, Libby Simon and
Jerry Beck. Rear left: Jane Baer.

Left to right: Animation World Network's Dan Sarto, David Silverman, Ron Diamond and Cordell Barker.
Cordell Barker's Strange Invaders.
Finally, producer Libby Simon, whose credits include Ren & Stimpy and Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child, said she has dropped out of animation. Instead, she and her boyfriend have taken to buying, renovating and selling homes in the L.A.'s overheated real estate market. Given the continued decline in local employment, highlighted by additional layoffs at Disney Feature Animation, it would seem she made the right decision. One hopes other animation artists have it as easy.

—Harvey Deneroff
March 23, 2002

© 2002 by Harvey Deneroff