Animated Voices Thrive at Netflix
Netflix not only grabbed a ton of Oscar nominations for its live-action films, it also grabbed three noms for animated fare including “Over the Moon” and “A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon.” They scored in the animated feature category alongside Disney/Pixar’s “Soul” and “Onward,” and GKids/Apple TV Plus’ “Wolfwalkers,” while “If Anything Happens, I Love You” is the frontrunner in animated shorts.
It’s an impressive haul for a part of the streaming giant that is relatively new.
“It’s hard to even find the words to describe how thrilling it is,” says Melissa Cobb, VP of kids and family entertainment at Netflix. She is an animation veteran who was brought over from DreamWorks in 2017 to lead the division.
“I started there about 3½ years ago, and for filmmakers to choose to entrust their film, but also their time — three or four years of their life that it takes to make an animated movie — to a brand-new studio with no track record, with no history of making animated features, for them to choose to come to Netflix was a big leap of faith. So I felt very personally responsible for them having made that decision and wanting it to feel like it was ultimately the right decision for them.”
Animation legend Glen Keane, who nabbed his first Oscar nom for a feature with “Over the Moon” (he won an Oscar two years ago with Kobe Bryant for the short “Dear Basketball”) was one who made that leap.
“I mean, Glen Keane was one of the first people that stepped through the door, and we sort of held hands and talked about what we wanted to build, and would he come and be part of building this really sort of new approach to making animated films that was more creator first and very creator driven,” Cobb says. “And he jumped right in” along with the “Over the Moon” creative team. “So to have a moment for their work to be rewarded is just thrilling for all of us.”
Netflix’s reputation of fostering creative voices and freedom on the live-action side has helped attract animation talent such as Keane, Guillermo del Toro (hit series “Trollhunters,” “Pinocchio”), “Big Hero 6” helmer Chris Williams (“Jacob and the Sea Beast”), “Back to the Outback” from the team of Harry Cripps and Claire Knight, Aardman (“Robin Robin,” “Chicken Run 2”), “The Breadwinner’s” Nora Twomey (“My Father’s Dragon”), “James and the Giant Peach” helmer Henry Selick (“Wendell and Wild” with Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key) and Chris Miller and Phil Lord (“The Mitchells vs. the Machines”).
“We have team members all over the world that are looking for and supporting filmmakers from different countries and different backgrounds,” Cobb says. Netflix is also working with some first- time directors, including long-time VFX supervisor Wendy Rogers, who is filming “The Magician’s Elephant.”
Cobb points out that the short film format is something new to the streamer, but has made a big impact on the team, especially the exquisite “If Anything Happens, I Love You.”
“We hadn’t really been pursuing short films before. … And this year we ended up picking up three short films [“Canvas,” “Cops and Robbers” and “If Anything…”]. The reason that we picked them up was because we were so moved by the content, and we wanted to amplify the stories, the messages of the stories, and also it’s an opportunity for those filmmakers to have their work seen.”
“If Anything …,” from Michael Govier and Will McCormack, deals with what happens to a family after a school shooting.
“It was such a project of passion for them to create that, and it’s such a meaningful, and unfortunately, very timely message, in that story. So we’re just thrilled that they, again, went with us for it. The viewing of it on Netflix has been fantastic, it’s making an impression,” she adds. “The short form being found on Netflix is really exciting to see, with the power of the platform to be able to amplify that kind of story.”
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