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Cartoon Character:
Shane Acker


By Randi Schmelzer, Photos by Edward Carreon

Published Apr 1, 2006 12:00 AM

Shane Acker has two master's degrees from UCLA, in architecture ('98) and animation ('04). Now he's also got an Oscar nomination and a movie deal. His post-apocalyptic animated short, 9, has been picked up by the specialty arm of Universal as a full-length feature.

Trailer for Shane Acker's Oscar-nom'd film, 9

Q. What inspired you to turn to animation?

A. I'd always been a cartoonist, [but] I leaned towards architecture because I didn't know you could make a living being an animator. In architecture, with all these building codes, all these historical codes, you start to realize how restrictive an art it really is — and for good reason. Because if the building falls down, someone gets hurt, that's a career-ender right there. No one'’s going to sue me if they don't have a good experience watching a film.

Q. Your mother must be thrilled.

A. She's really excited. She's always been really supportive of me as an artist — she's an artist herself. When I was a kid, I was hyperactive. My grandmother told her to put me on Ritalin and my mom was like, "Let’s just get him drawing supplies and see what happens."

Q. You've said the UCLA Animation Workshop "breeds independent filmmaking."

A.You’re surrounded by a whole peer group of students, all struggling, all running around in the dark, but you’re all there to support each other because you’re all in the same boat. And of course, the school has the equipment, the facilities and tools, too, which are necessary for creating animation. And amazing film libraries. I studied a lot of hard-to-find, stop-motion animation. A lot of Jan Svankmajer films, and the Brothers Quay.

Q. What impressed you?

A. Street of Crocodiles, a Brothers Quay film. Their big thing is they use detritus, old discarded things: old dolls, old pieces of machinery, things like that. That creates a different, off-kilter kind of mind-set, brings about a lot of metaphor. I found that very inspirational and in tune with the kind of design I wanted in 9, the experience I wanted in that world — a world that's destroyed and all that's left are these bits and pieces. But from all that, this form is beginning to emerge that is finding ways to negotiate a new landscape and create a life for itself.

Q. What current animation really stands out for you?

A. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Just an amazing film. That kind of offbeat humor, it's real witty but also really dry. Even though it's completely wild, there's a lot of truth in that world. I think that was one of the best movies I saw last year. But now, being on this side of filmmaking, it's hard for me to be supercritical, because I realize how much goes into it, there are so many chances for things to go wrong. I'm surprised that any good films get made at all.