One of the semi-unexpected joys of the birth of the Animated Feature Oscar category in 2001 has been the steady stream of international cartoons that the Oscars have spotlighted. The first truly big surprise was a nomination for a film few had heard of at the time called The Secret of Kells (2009) -- that "what's that?" nomination has become something of a tradition in the category since then. The Oscar nomination for that hypnotic and singularly gorgeous tribute to Irish folklore did a lot to put Cartoon Saloon, an Irish animation studio, on the map.
Cartoon Saloon's co-founder and Kells co-director Tomm Moore has crafted another magical Irish winner in Song of the Sea, an adventure about a boy who discovers his little sister is a "selkie" and holds the key to saving all the faerie folk who are slowly turning to stone (long story!).
I had the pleasure of speaking to Moore by phone where he was in San Francisco on his Song of the Sea tour and about to meet with Pete Docter (Up). He peppers his conversation with plentiful references to other animation giants (also sharing a story about hanging out with the Big Hero 6 team). It all paints a wonderful picture of a very tight mutual-appreciation niche within Hollywood's larger ecosystem.
We talked Oscars, storytelling, and Cartoon Saloon's next project...
NATHANIEL: This is your second time nominated for the big show. Does it feel different this time?
TOMM MOORE: For sure yeah. It’s more fun because we know a little bit more what to expect and am able to enjoy it a bit more rather than just be like “what?”
NATHANIEL: It’s been five years since your last movie.
TOMM: In the meantime I’ve joined the Academy myself and I understand a little bit better how it all works.