Oscars 2013: 'Adam and Dog,' an animated short funded out of pocket

When a filmmaker pays $25,000 of his own money, and when the crew members are all volunteers, the stakes are high enough that it's worth having a slumber party the night before the Oscar nominations.

On Wednesday, "Adam and Dog" producer-director Minkyu Lee, 27, and his crew crowded into an animating assistant's home to wait out the night. Animated short nominees wouldn’t be announced during the news conference Thursday morning, they knew, but would be posted online afterward.

Before 5:30 a.m., when announcements were slated to start, the crew hooked up a laptop to a TV and settled onto the couch.

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As Seth MacFarlane and Emma Stone finished talking, they began refreshing the Academy Awards homepage.

The list appeared.

“I was like, ‘It’s just too scary to look,’” Lee said later. “Scrolling down, finding the category ... the suspense was just too much. And then we saw our names.”

Lee sat on the couch, stunned and exhausted. It was a little too early for the team to process any kind of news, he said.

Hours later, the shock was still sinking in.

“I saw our film there, and there was a moment of relief,” Lee said. “Then I kept going back and reading it again and again, because I kept thinking, ‘Did I read that right? Is it really there? Yes, it’s there. Yes, it’s there.' ”

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“Adam and Dog” is a hand-drawn, 15-minute animation short that tells the story of the world’s first dog (named Dog) and his relationship with Adam in the Garden of Eden. The short, Lee said, tries to explain why dogs are so special to humankind.

The movie is unusual because it doesn’t have a traditional animated feel, Lee said. The dog isn’t anthropomorphized. He doesn’t talk. He doesn’t have human facial expressions. His friends, Lee said, have sent him videos of their pets sitting in front of the TV, watching Dog.

Lee and his crew had spent nearly two years working on the movie, mostly at night and on weekends. He financed the $25,000 production cost of “Adam and Dog” through his day job as a character designer at Disney. (There, he helped with “Wreck-It Ralph,” which was nominated for animated feature film.)

“I felt sometimes that I was running a marathon and I’m on the start line with my bare feet,” Lee said. “And then I look over at everyone else, and they have full rocket gear and a full team polishing them. But we both got here."


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