The best of the rest

"The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers"

Jim Rygiel, Joe Letteri, Randall William Cook, Alex Funke

Given the much talked-about achievement of creating the character Gollum alone, it was hard to imagine any other film winning in this category.

Visual-effects supervisor Jim Rygiel and animation designer-supervisor Randall William Cook became repeat winners, having taken the statuette last year for the first film in the J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy, "The Fellowship of the Ring." Alex Funke, director of photography on the miniatures unit, won an Oscar for "Total Recall" (1990). First-timer Joe Letteri was digital visual-effects supervisor on "Two Towers."

Although their competition comprised the web-slinging "Spider-Man" and the thousands of computer-generated creatures of "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones," the wizardry that created Gollum and Treebeard wowed Oscar voters. The tragic Gollum was based on actor Andy Serkis' movements, which were remade digitally into a deformed Hobbit. Treebeard, oldest of the ancient forest creatures known as Ents, interacts with Merry and Pippin throughout the film and was composed of animatronic and computer-generated imagery. Overall, the film contained 800 visual-effects shots.

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