"The Lion King" Wins Marquee Feature Film VFX Honor At VES Awards
A scene from The Lion King, which won three VES Awards, including the marquee honor of outstanding VFX in a photoreal feature (photo courtesy of Disney).
"Missing Link" garners best effects in an animated feature; "The Irishman" earns supporting VFX distinction
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The Visual Effects Society (VES) Awards bestowed its marquee honor for outstanding VFX in a photoreal feature upon The Lion King during a gala ceremony at the Beverly Hilton on Wednesday (1/29) evening. In his acceptance remarks, Robert Legato, overall VFX supervisor on The Lion King, described the effects work that went into the other nominated films in the category--Alita: Battle Angel, Avengers: Endgame, Gemini Man and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker--as being “spectacular.” He credited the team effort on The Lion King as putting it over the top, noting that some 1,600 artists contributed to the film.

The Lion King, directed by Jon Favreau, topped the VES Awards competition with three wins--the other two coming for best created environment in a photoreal feature, and best virtual cinematography in a CG project.

Among those accepting the latter honor was famed cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, ASC, a six time Best Cinematography Oscar nominee (Never Look Away, The Passion of the Christ, The Patriot, Fly Away Home, The Natural, The Right Stuff). Deschanel noted that while not known for lensing VFX-heavy films, he took to The Lion King because it afforded him the opportunity to film in virtual reality as if “making a real movie, with real dollies and cranes” and giving him the capability “to move the sun around.” Deschanel said that The Lion King was “the most fun I’ve ever had on a movie.” He added that the artists worked well together, likening them to collectively functioning with the precision of “a great sports team.”

Director Chris Butler’s Missing Link was named top animated film by the VES competition, winning two awards. Also scoring a pair of VES Awards was Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, garnering best supporting visual effects in a photoreal feature, as well as best feature compositing.

On the TV side, The Mandalorian topped the best photoreal episode category, picking up two VES Awards, with Game of Thrones and Stranger Things 3 also winning two apiece. Hennessy’s “The Seven Worlds,” directed by Ridley Scott of RSA Films, won twice as well, including earning distinction for best visual effects in a commercial.

Andy Serkis on tape from London presented the VES Award for Creative Excellence to acclaimed visual effects supervisor Sheena Duggal.  Joey King presented the VES Visionary Award to director-producer-screenwriter Roland Emmerich.  And VFX supervisor Pablo Helman presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Academy, DGA and Emmy Award-winning director-producer-screenwriter Scorsese, who accepted via video from New York. Helman of ILM served as VFX supervisor on The Irishman, continuing a collaborative relationship with Scorsese which began with the film Silence

In his remarks kicking off the VES Awards ceremony, Society executive director Eric Roth called for the powers that be in the industry to value the contributions of VFX artisans. Roth pointed out that there were some 530 scripted TV shows this past year and that Netflix alone is expected to spend some $17 billion on content. He said that “the insatiable demand for new programming” relies on “compelling imagery” to help tell these stories. Thus the people who create that imagery--not just the high-profile VFX supervisors, but the many working at facilities worldwide--are more important than ever. Roth affirmed that it behooves industry leaders to make sure these talented members of the VFX community are “not only compensated appropriately but recognized appropriately as well.”

Comedian Patton Oswalt served as VES Awards emcee for the ninth time. The ceremony drew a turnout of more than 1,000 who were on hand to celebrate VFX talent across 25 awards categories.

VES Award presenters included: helmers Favreau, J.J. Abrams, Rian Johnson and Josh Cooley, actors Storm Reid, Madeline Brewer, Janina Gavankar, Sophie Skelton and Maxwell Jenkins. Lisa Campbell, Autodesk’s SVP and chief marketing officer, presented the Autodesk Student Award to Marc Angele, Aleksandra Todorovic and Noel Winzen for The Beauty.

Winners of the 18th Annual VES Awards are as follows: 

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature 
Robert Legato
Tom Peitzman
Adam Valdez
Andrew R. Jones

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature
Pablo Helman
Mitchell Ferm
Jill Brooks
Leandro Estebecorena
Jeff Brink

Outstanding Visual Effects in an Animated Feature
Brad Schiff
Travis Knight
Steve Emerson
Benoit Dubuc

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode
Richard Bluff
Abbigail Keller
Jason Porter
Hayden Jones
Roy K. Cancino

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode
CHERNOBYL; 1:23:45
Max Dennison
Lindsay McFarlane
Clare Cheetham
Paul Jones
Claudius Christian Rauch

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Real-Time Project
Janne Pulkkinen
Elmeri Raitanen
Matti Hämäläinen
James Tottman

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial
Hennessy: The Seven Worlds
Carsten Keller
Selçuk Ergen
Kiril Mirkov
William Laban

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
Jason Bayever
Patrick Kearney
Carol Norton
Bill George

Outstanding Animated Character in a Photoreal Feature
Michael Cozens
Mark Haenga
Olivier Lesaint
Dejan Momcilovic

Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature
Rachelle Lambden
Brenda Baumgarten
Morgan Hay
Benoit Dubuc

Outstanding Animated Character in an Episode or Real-Time Project
STRANGER THINGS 3; Tom/Bruce Monster
Joseph Dubé-Arsenault
Antoine Barthod
Frederick Gagnon
Xavier Lafarge

Outstanding Animated Character in a Commercial
Cyberpunk 2077; Dex
Jonas Ekman
Jonas Skoog
Marek Madej
Grzegorz Chojnacki

Outstanding Created Environment in a Photoreal Feature
THE LION KING; The Pridelands
Marco Rolandi
Luca Bonatti
Jules Bodenstein
Filippo Preti

Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature
TOY STORY 4; Antiques Mall
Hosuk Chang
Andrew Finley
Alison Leaf
Philip Shoebottom

Outstanding Created Environment in an Episode, Commercial, or Real-Time Project
GAME OF THRONES; The Iron Throne; Red Keep Plaza
Carlos Patrick DeLeon
Alonso Bocanegra Martinez
Marcela Silva
Benjamin Ross

Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a CG Project
Robert Legato
Caleb Deschanel
Ben Grossmann
AJ Sciutto

Outstanding Model in a Photoreal or Animated Project
THE MANDALORIAN; The Sin; The Razorcrest
Doug Chiang
Jay Machado
John Goodson
Landis Fields IV

Outstanding Effects Simulations in a Photoreal Feature
Don Wong
Thibault Gauriau
Goncalo Cababca
François-Maxence Desplanques

Outstanding Effects Simulations in an Animated Feature
Erin V. Ramos
Scott Townsend
Thomas Wickes
Rattanin Sirinaruemarn

Outstanding Effects Simulations in an Episode, Commercial, or Real-Time Project
STRANGER THINGS 3; Melting Tom/Bruce
Nathan Arbuckle
Christian Gaumond
James Dong
Aleksandr Starkov

Outstanding Compositing in a Feature
Nelson Sepulveda
Vincent Papaix
Benjamin O’Brien
Christopher Doerhoff

Outstanding Compositing in an Episode
GAME OF THRONES; The Long Night; Dragon Ground Battle
Mark Richardson
Darren Christie
Nathan Abbott
Owen Longstaff

Outstanding Compositing in a Commercial
Hennessy: The Seven Worlds
Rod Norman
Guillaume Weiss
Alexander Kulikov
Alessandro Granella

Outstanding Special (Practical) Effects in a Photoreal or Animated Project
Sean Mathiesen
Jon Savage
Toby Froud
Phil Harvey

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project
Marc Angele
Aleksandra Todorovic
Pascal Schelbli
Noel Winzen


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