Animators have their day at Oscar tech awards

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Actress Jessica Biel (bottom center) and Academy President Sid Ganis (bottom center right) are surrounded Saturday by honorees and award recipients of the 81st annual Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Scientific and Techinical Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Gus Ruelas/AP)

Host Jessica Biel wore Oscar de la Renta, but it was bearded, buttoned-down Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull who got whoops and whistles at the first Academy Awards presentation of the year.

Attendees yelled and stood for Catmull, president of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, as he accepted an Oscar statuette Saturday night for a lifetime of work in computer animation. He said he was inspired by early Disney films "Peter Pan" and "Pinocchio," then name-dropped collaborators George Lucas, Steve Jobs and Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter.

"In each of the communities that I've been in, we know that when we make the movies look good, we make each other look good," Catmull said. "It's really been a great adventure."

Pixar celebrates its 23rd birthday this year and is set to release "Up" -- its 10th feature -- in May. Its "WALL-E" is favored to win the animated feature category at the main Oscars ceremony Feb. 22.

Nine other men were honored at the annual scientific and technical awards ceremony, which put a spotlight on the geekier side of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Biel, who was not accompanied by boyfriend Justin Timberlake, picked her way through tricky jargon like "anamorphic de-squeezers" and got cheek-peck greetings from European honorees.

Philippe Parain, CEO of French lens maker Angenieux, checked with a cameraman to ensure that his company's product was being used to record the host of the black-tie ceremony.

"I just want to make sure Jessica's image is as perfect as she is beautiful," he said. "Vive le cinema!"

Biel, 26, who starred most recently in "Easy Virtue" and "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry," said she's far from tech-savvy but has been steadily learning about equipment used behind the scenes on her films.

"The older I get, the more movies I do, the more aware I am," she said. She praised "WALL-E" and said animated films deserve a place among best picture nominees.

"They're so emotional," she said. "And most of the Pixar films, I usually laugh, cry, am frightened. Those types of movies could and should -- if they're good enough -- win an Oscar. Why not?"

Among the other honorees Saturday: the makers of the Arrimax lighting system, the Hylen lens system, and Transvideo monitors. Computer scientist Mark Kimball, formerly of Disney, glanced from Biel to the medallion he'd been awarded for his technological achievements on films ranging from "Tron" to "Beauty and the Beast."

"What a gorgeous thing!" he said, smiling broadly.


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