‘Inception,’ ‘Dragon’ Top VES Awards

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Christopher Nolan’s Inception was the big winner at last night’s Visual Effects Society Awards, taking home four honors, including Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects Driven Motion Picture.

DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon came in close behind with three awards (Outstanding Animation in an Animated Feature, Outstanding Animated Character and Outstanding Effects Animation in an Animated Feature). The underdog feature was able to defeat Golden Globe and PGA Award winner Toy Story 3 in what was one of the unexpected surprises of the evening. However, the team at Pixar didn’t go home empty-handed. Director Teddy Newton’s acclaimed Day & Night won the trophy for Outstanding Achievement in an Animated Short.

One of the evening’s highlights was the special tribute paid to visual effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen, who was awarded the special Lifetime Achievement VES honor. Although the 90-year-old veteran wasn’t able to attend the event in Los Angeles, some of the his biggest fans (including director Peter Jackson, Weta’s topper Richard Taylor, and effects master Phil Tippett) sent in wonderful taped segments in which they praised the honoree and talked about how much he influenced their lives and career. Jackson included hilarious footage of himself at age 16 in which he re-enacted the legendary skeleton-fight sequence from Jason and the Argonauts on a rocky seashore. Multiple Oscar-winning vfx artists Dennis Murren and Randy Cook also provided heart-felt tributes.

The other special honoree of the night was director Chris Nolan, who was presented the society’s inaugural Visionary Award. He also thanked Harryhausen for being an inspiring figure in his life. “I feel somewhat guilty about receiving this award as I sometimes talk about using CG the way an actress may talk about using Botox!” he joked. He praised the fusion of on-set special effects and CG post-production methods and thanked the visual effects supervisors with whom he has worked on his movies. He added, “Visual effects professionals are known for saying yes to the impossible, but they should also be encouraged to say no to the unreasonable.”

The 9th Annual VES Awards was hosted by comedian Patton Oswolt (the voice of Remy the rat in Ratatouille) who provided just the right mix of irreverence and acceptable nerd-boy credentials. (He dubbed the event the “gateway to the Scientific and Technical Oscars.”)

The awards will air Feb. 19 at 10 p.m. on the Reelz Channel, with encore presentations throughout the month. Here’s the complete list of winners:

  • Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual-Effects Driven Feature Motion Picture: Inception. Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Mike Chambers, Matthew Plummer.
  • Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Feature Motion Picture: Hereafter. Michael Owens, Joel Mendias, Bryan Grill, Danielle Plantec.
  • Outstanding Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture: How to Train Your Dragon. Simon Otto, Craig Ring, Bonnie Arnold.
  • Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Miniseries, Movie or a Special: The Pacific. John Sullivan, David Taritero, William Mesa, Marco Requay.
  • Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Series: Caprica. Michael Gibson, Gary Hutzel, Davey Morton, Jesse Mesa Toves.
  • Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program: Boardwalk Empire. Robert Stromberg, Dave Taritero, Richard Friedlander, Paul Graff.
  • Outstanding Achievement in an Animated Short: Day & Night. Teddy Newton, Kevin Reher, Michael Fu, Tom Gately.
  • Outstanding Visual Effects in a Live Action Commercial: Halo: Reach. Dan Glass, Dan Seddon, Matt Dessero, Stephanie Gilgar.
  • Outstanding Animated Commercial: Cadbury’s Spots V Stripes. Jake Mengers, Julie Evans, Jorge Montiel Meurer, Michael Gregory.
  • Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project: King Kong 360 3D. Matt Aitken, Kevin Sherwood, Eric Reynolds, R. Christopher White.
  • Outstanding Real-Time Visual Effects in a Video Game: Halo: Reach. Marcus Lehto, Joseph Tung, Stephen Scott, CJ Cowan
  • Outstanding Visual Effects in a Video Game Trailer: World of Warcraft. Marc Messenger, Phillip Hillenbrand, Jr.
  • Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 – Dobby. Mathieu Vig, Ben Lambert, Laurie Brugger, Marine Poirson.
  • Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature Motion Picture: How to Train Your Dragon – Toothless. Gabe Hordos, Cassidy Curtis, Mariette Marinus, Brent Watkins.
  • Outstanding Animated Character in a Broadcast Program or Commercial: Citron C3 The Spacebox – Citro. Michael Nauzin, Anne Chatelain, Gregory Mougne, Cedric Nicolas.
  • Outstanding Animated Character in a Video Game: StarCraft II – Sarah Kerrigan. Fausto De Martini, Xin Wang, Glenn Ramos, Scott Lange.
  • Outstanding Effects Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture. How to Train Your Dragon. Andy Hayes, Laurent Kermel, Jason Mayer, Brett Miller
  • Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture: Inception – Paris Dreamscape. Bruno Baron, Dan Neal, Graham Page, Per Mork-Jensen.
  • Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Broadcast Program: The Pacific – The Battle of Iwo Jima. Marco Recuay, Morgan McDermott, Nick Lund-Ulrich
  • Outstanding Models & Miniatures in a Feature Motion Picture: Inception – Hospital Fortress Destruction. Ian Hunter, Scott Beverly, Forest Fischer, Robert Spurlock
  • Outstanding Models & Miniatures in a Broadcast Program or Commercial: Boardwalk Empire – The Ivory Tower. J. John Corbett, Matthew Conner, Brendan Fitzgerald
  • Outstanding Compositing in a Feature Motion Picture: Inception. Astrid Busser-Casas, Scott Pritchard, Jan Maroske, George Zwier
  • Outstanding Compositing in a Broadcast Program or Commercial: The Pacific – Peleliu landing. Jeremy Nelson, John P. Mesa, Dan Novy, Tyler Cote
  • Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project: LOOM. Regina Welker, Jan Bitzer, Ilija Brunck, Csaba Letay

  • — Ramin Zahed also contributed to this article