87th academy award nominations

“Oscar” is synonymous with “Academy Award” at this point, but how did it get to be that way? Who is Oscar? Why is he called that? What other forms has he taken on over the years? And once you get your hands on one of him, what happens next?

A fun featurette from the Academy reveals the answers to all those and more. Watch The Origin of Oscar, featuring past Oscar winners Helen Mirren, Whoopi Goldberg, Ben Kingsley, and Benicio del Toro, after the jump.

IMDb presents the Academy Originals featurette, titled The Origin of Oscar.

It took less than a decade for the Academy Award to pick up the Oscar nickname, and yet no one seems quite sure where the name came from. The video offers three different explanations, but I choose to believe my favorite: “Bette Davis claimed she named it Oscar because the rear end of Oscar reminded her of her husband [Harmon Oscar Nelson] when he got out of the shower in the morning.”

The featurette is clearer on where the Oscar design comes from. MGM Studios art director Cedric Gibbons sketched the design, and George Stanley sculpted it. (There’s a longstanding rumor, not mentioned here, that Mexican filmmaker Emilio Fernández Romo served as the model. But that has never been confirmed.)

The basic look has remained the same ever since, though tweaks are made from time to time. A few people have received specially designed Oscars, as described above, and Oscar switched to plaster during World War II thanks to the metal shortage.

Maybe the most amusing revelation is that the winners have to stand in line to get their names engraved on the trophies they’ve won. It just seems like such a mundane way to follow up one of the glitziest, most glamorous events in existence. Not that that stops Natalie Portman or Cate Blanchett from beaming brightly enough to light up the room.

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