CalArts Alumni Magazine

‘Hair Love’ Wins Oscar for Best Animated Short

CalArtians Star in Award Season

Representation matters. That was the underlying theme of this year’s Academy Awards, held on Feb. 9 in Hollywood.

Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite made history as the first (South) Korean and non-English film to capture the night’s biggest prize, Best Picture. And with its own Oscar win, the animated short film “Hair Love,” which was directed by Matthew A. Cherry, Everett Downing Jr., and CalArts alum Bruce W. Smith (Film/Video BFA 83), also made a statement about the need for diversity in front of—and behind—the camera.

The seven-minute film focuses on the relationship between African American father Stephen, his 7-year-old daughter Zuri, and her hair. When Stephen’s wife, who usually does Zuri’s hair, is unavailable before a big event, Stephen has to figure it out. But Zuri’s hair has a mind of its own.

The film began as ex-NFL player Cherry’s Kickstarter project, which was fully funded. The story resonated with people who wanted to see more representation in mainstream animated projects, as well as with others who wanted to promote pride in textured hair among young people of color.

“Hair Love” won the Short Film (Animated) category that also featured fellow CalArtian Siqi Song’s (Film/Video MFA 16) “Sister.” Song’s film about China’s one-child policy was her CalArts thesis film.

Other films to take home the Oscar statuettes included Ford v. Ferrari, directed by CalArts alum James Mangold (Film/Video BFA 85), and Toy Story 4.

Mangold’s film won for Sound Editing (Donald Sylvester) and Film Editing (Michael McCusker and Andrew Buckland).

Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 4, which was directed by Josh Cooley, Mark Nielsen, and Jonas Rivera, won the Oscar in the Animated Feature Film category. Several CalArtians were involved in the making of the film, including alum Andrew Stanton (Film/Video BFA 87), who wrote the screenplay with Stephany Folsom. Stanton also served as one of Toy Story 4’s executive producers, alongside CalArtian Pete Docter (Film/Video BFA 90) and others.

Klaus, directed by CalArts alumnus Sergio Pablos (Film/Video 92), was also nominated in the Animated Feature Film category. His film swept the animation industry’s Annie Awards, winning all seven categories for which it was nominated, including Best Animated Feature and Best Direction.