The Visual Effects Society is Upset About a ‘Cats’ Joke

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Who would’ve thought someone would take jokes about the disastrous Cats so personally? Well, the Video Effects Society (VES) wasn’t having it during last night’s Academy Awards. Two cast members from the musical, James Corden and Rebel Wilson, took the stage as cats to crack a few jokes about the movie’s horrific special effects before presenting Outstanding Visual Effects.

It was one of the better laughs of the night, but the VES Society wasn’t laughing. To those unfamiliar, VES is the entertainment industry’s only organization representing the full breadth of visual effects practitioners including artists, animators, technologists, model makers, educators, studio leaders, and more. It consists of a diverse group of over 3,700 members in more than 35 countries.

What Corden and Wilson Said 

Corden himself hasn’t even seen the movie, but he didn’t miss the toxic reaction to the movie. For the most part, audiences and critics loathed it or laughed at it and couldn’t accept the uncanny special effects. The cats looked freakish and gharish, like creatures from hell doing Satan’s bidding. On stage, Corden and Rebel cracked the following joke: “As castmembers of the motion picture Cats, nobody more than us understands the importance … of good visual effects!” It was a solid punchline to a funny sight gag. 

It’s Just a Joke 

Nobody took the joke as more than a joke. The audience got a good laugh. It wasn’t a serious dig undermining all the hard work that went into the movie and its visual effects. Yes, years of visual effects work were ridiculed and reviled, but at the end of the day, it’s a movie adaptation of the musical Cats. What’s not to laugh about? 

The Visual Effects Society Disagrees

Boy, the Visual Effects Society sure is a buzzkill, huh? They just can’t take a joke, apparently. Nobody in their right mind thought the Cats joke made fun of visual effects artists. The visual effects society isn’t happy about the joke; they want the world to know it, too. In a statement almost sillier than Corden and Wilson’s jokes, the Visual Effects Society aired their disagreements: 

The Visual Effects Society is focused on recognizing, advancing and honoring visual effects as an art form – and ensuring that the men and women working in VFX are properly valued.

Last night, in presenting the Academy Award for Outstanding Visual Effects, the producers chose to make visual effects the punchline, and suggested that bad VFX were to blame for the poor performance of the movie CATS. The best visual effects in the world will not compensate for a story told badly.

On a night that is all about honoring the work of talented artists, it is immensely disappointing that The Academy made visual effects the butt of a joke. It demeaned the global community of expert VFX practitioners doing outstanding, challenging and visually stunning work to achieve the filmmakers’ vision.

Our artists, technicians and innovators deserve respect for their remarkable contributions to filmed entertainment, and should not be presented as the all-too-convenient scapegoat in service for a laugh.

Moving forward, we hope that The Academy will properly honor the craft of visual effects – and all of the crafts, including cinematography and film editing – because we all deserve it.

Lighten Up, Francis 

A week from now, nobody is going to remember the Corden-Wilson gag. It was a fun throwaway moment nobody except one visual effects society took seriously. These awards shows are often a reminder of how thin-skinned some people are, especially about comedy and movies. Hollywood doesn’t have a great sense of humor about itself.

For example, every time Ricky Gervais hosts the Golden Globes, makes fun of the rich and powerful, and does nothing but punch up, people still complain and call him mean-spirited. It’s equally hilarious and sad when filmmakers, such as the visual effects society, simply can’t take an innocent joke in a world with far greater horrors happening every minute.

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