This morning, “ParaNorman” earned an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Picture. Afterward, Moviefone caught up with the film’s co-director — and first-time Oscar nominee — Chris Butler. The British animator, who’d previously served as storyboard supervisor on “Coraline” and storyboard artist on “The Corpse Bride,” was giddy about getting the nod for his first directorial effort. He spoke to us about his love of stop-motion animation and the honor of being nominated alongside Tim Burton.
Congratulations on your first nomination
“ParaNorman” is a first for me in so many ways. It’s the first time I’ve written a movie, the first time I’ve directed, this is the first time, obviously, I’ve been nominated for an Oscar. It’s surreal, to say the least.
Were you expecting to be nominated?
I think I’ve been trying not to think about it. I was hopeful. I had my fingers crossed, but you just never know. I’m over the moon at the moment. I’m slightly dazed, which is probably also due to the fact that I got up at 4:30 a.m. to watch it. I got a text from a friend in London who was over-excited. I set my alarm so I could watch it, because I’m in a hotel at the moment in L.A., so I watched the live broadcast.
Who was the first person you called?
I actually haven’t made a call myself. I’ve had a constant stream of texts and Facebook messages from people. It was lovely to get a text from my mum and that’s surprising in itself, because the fact that she can text is bizarre.
Does it surprise you that the Academy — which often skews older — would connect with your film?
Not really. The best thing I think that I’ve noticed today is that three of the five movies [in the Best Animated Film category] are stop-motion. And I think that says a lot, even though we’re probably not the most commercial or blockbuster movies. But it says that there’s clearly a lot of people out there who love this medium and respect it and understand the huge amount of work that goes into it. It’s lovely to get that.
How did you get started in stop-motion?
“Frankenweenie” is nominated and I got the chance to work with Tim Burton on “Corpse Bride” and I think that’s what really sold me on stop-motion for the rest of my career, having a chance to work with him on that project. That in itself is kind of remarkable that I’m getting to stand shoulder to shoulder when I got my start really working on one of his projects.
Have you seen all the other animated films that were nominated?
I tried my best. I actually don’t even know who all the other nominated films are yet because I just started fielding text messages as soon as I heard. But I’ve done my best this year. The last few years have been really difficult because while we were in production, and certainly on the publicity tour, I’ve missed so much stuff. So I’m still catching up on a lot of the animated movies. I think it’s a brilliant year though. Considering that there were 21 [animated films] in the running for the five nominations, it is such a thrill. It makes it all the more rewarding, I think, that there is so many quality stuff out there. And to get a nomination amongst the group is a real thrill.
Did you feel like the underdog?
I always feel like an underdog, but I think that’s just me. I know that we did something irreverent, something slightly unusual and not quite as mainstream as some of the others, so yeah, I think we are slightly the underdog. But I know that a lot of people out there like it. I was quietly hopeful, let’s say that.
Have you already started thinking about what you’ll be wearing to the ceremony or planning an Oscar speech?
I will probably avoid thinking about it because it makes me too nervous, until a couple of days before.
Is there champagne in your hotel room right now?
There isn’t actually. I mean, it’s only 7:43 a.m. Too early? No.
What else are you doing to celebrate?
Today we’re actually nominated for a Critic’s Choice award, so that’s this afternoon, so I’ve got to make myself look presentable before that. I probably shouldn’t start on the champagne just yet. And the two producers of the movie are here as well so I’ll meet up with them later and we’ll congratulate each other. I just got the chance to talk to [co-director] Sam Fell as well. He’s shooting a commercial in London. It was good to talk to him.
Do you plan to keep working together as a team?
I would never say never, but no plans of yet. We’ve really only just finished all the publicity and promotional stuff. I’m writing again, right now, so that will be my priority for a little while, to get some writing done.
What can we expect from your next movie or is it too soon to talk about it?
It’s probably too soon just yet, but I can’t wait to get back into it. This is my first movie — it’s my first experience doing any of this — but it was such a wonderful experience. I’m staying with Laika [animation studio]. It’s such a fantastic, brave studio, so I can’t wait to get into the next one.