Visual Effects: Introduction

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About the Academy and Its Awards

The first Academy Awards were handed out on May 16, 1929, not long after the advent of “talkies.” By 1930, enthusiasm for the ceremonies was so great that a Los Angeles radio station did a live, one-hour broadcast, and the Awards have enjoyed broadcast coverage ever since. The number and types of awards have grown and changed over the years to keep up with the development of the motion picture industry. Awards of Merit—Oscars—are presented in each of the following categories and their subdivisions: acting, animation, art direction, cinematography, costume design, directing, documentary film, film editing, foreign language film, makeup, music, best picture, short film, sound, visual effects and writing. In an age when awards shows seem as common as nightly news programs, the Academy Awards are unique because the judges—the more than 6,000 Academy members—are the top filmmakers from around the world. The question, “Who gets the Oscar?” is decided by a true jury of peers. The awards process provides a wonderful opportunity to teach your students about the many craft areas and the many communications techniques that play a part in creating a motion picture. The Academy Awards is only one of many activities sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Filmmaking is by nature a collaborative process, with each creative area supporting and being supported by the others. Because our space is limited, this kit focuses on visual effects.

Selecting Films for Student Viewing

Students may select the films they wish to view for the following activities, or you may wish to suggest films that are appropriate.

The following films, which have won Academy Awards for Visual and Special Effects, are available on DVD or VHS and may be suitable for your students: Mary Poppins (1964); Fantastic Voyage (1966); Star Wars (1977); Superman (1978); Alien (1979); The Empire Strikes Back (1980); E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982); The Abyss (1989); Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991); Death Becomes Her (1992); Jurassic Park (1993); Forrest Gump (1994); Babe (1995); Titanic (1997); The Matrix (1999); The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003); King Kong (2005).

Other features that have been nominated for Academy Awards for Visual Effects, which are available on DVD and may be appropriate for your students, include: Hawaii (1966); When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1971); Blade Runner (1982); Ghostbusters (1984); Little Shop of Horrors (1986); The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989); The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993); Twister (1996); Stuart Little (1999); Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003); The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005).

For a complete list of Academy Award winners and nominees, visit

Visual Effects: Seeing is Believing

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Complete Visual Effects Activities Guide (PDF)

Activity 1: Visual Effects Beginnings

Activity 2: Physical Effects

Activity 3: Computer-Generated Effects

Activity 4: Visual Effects in Non-Effects Movies

Bonus Material Related to the 79th Annual Academy Awards Poster

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