Richard Linklater Is Trying To Appeal The Academy's Rejection Of Apollo 10 1/2 For The Best Animated Feature Oscar

It's important to remember that animation is not a genre, but rather a medium. It's a medium that can take on so many different forms, from hand-drawn 2D and computer-animated 3D to stop-motion puppeteering. Nowadays, you can even splice together several still frames of paintings to create fluid, animated movement.

However, it seems like rotoscoping — or the process of drawing over live-action frames and animating them separately — is not considered an animation process. At least, it isn't according to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' animation committee.

According to IndieWire, "Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood" director Richard Linklater was notified that his rotoscope animated movie was rejected from campaigning for Best Animated Feature Film for what the Academy considered "extensive use" of live-action footage. It also contends that any animation style that "could be mistaken for live-action" has to go through a thorough review by the committee.

However, no raw live-action footage appears in the actual film; according to "Apollo 10 ½ " animation director Tommy Pallotta, the outlines of characters are the only things actually sent through the rotoscoping process.

"I've been producing rotoscope animation for 25 years, and I'm done with people telling me it's not animation," said Pallotta. "It's just such an insult."

Indie weirdos, go home

Linklater is far from unfamiliar with rotoscope animation. Back in 2001, he released "Waking Life," an experimental film that used the animation process to convey otherwise unfilmable ruminations of existentialism. He returned to rotoscoping in 2006 with "A Scanner Darkly," an adaptation of a Philip K. Dick novel. Needless to say, Linklater understands that the broad medium of animation is one that can easily be used to depict ideas that otherwise would not be effectively conveyed in live-action. It is this exact train of thought that makes the Academy's rejection of "Apollo 10 ½" sting hard.

"This naturalistic style is not a technical choice but rather an artistic choice in the crucial area of how I want the film to look and feel," Linklater wrote in his appeal to the Academy. "It is accomplished by the hard work of animators drawing character motion and performances frame by frame, not a side effect of some hidden software or automatic process."

When speaking with IndieWire, he also went on to criticize the types of movies that do get nominated in the prestigious Best Animated Feature category. With some notable exceptions, he notes that the category, as well as the mainstream animation industry itself, is concerned primarily with getting the attention of kids and not with making movies that appeal to everyone, including adults.

"The industry is clustered around kids' entertainment," Linklater told the website. "I get this feeling that they're basically like, 'Indie weirdos, go home.'"

Why this needs to change

It's easy to understand why this disqualification on the Academy's part makes no sense. While the character models and some environments appear slightly life-like, it appears clear that every part of the film was animated as day. The human models being traced over shouldn't discredit the hard work the animators gave to bring the film to life. It is still animation, and proof that the medium of animation is fluid and able to create images we may have never seen on film otherwise.

"At the end of the day, rotoscope animation is much more handmade than most CG films," said Linklater. "Live action as reference is just one element of it."

Minnow Mountain from Austin, Texas, and Submarine from Amsterdam, Netherlands were the studios responsible for animating "Apollo 10 ½." Both studios helped animate the similarly-rotoscoped "Undone," the psychological dramedy on Prime Video. All animators on the project deserve to be properly credited and rewarded for their work, so here's to hoping the Academy reverses its decision soon so they have a shot at Oscar glory.

"Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood" is now streaming on Netflix.