And the Oscar Goes to ...

As a kid, Jed Schlanger ’96 spent many happy hours drawing cartoons, flipping through concept art and doing theatre. He was even one of the few in his high school willing to be seen at a princess-based animated feature just to watch the animation. He knew the arts were where he was supposed to be.

This weekend, the former theatre major will stroll the red carpet, hoping “The Sea Beast” wins the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Schlanger served as one of the film’s producers.

While many animated features from the past 15 years have been family comedies — like last year’s “Encanto” or 2019’s “Toy Story 4” — “The Sea Beast” is about a young girl who stows away on the ship of a legendary sea monster hunter, launching an epic journey into uncharted waters and making history to boot.

“I think a family comedy is one way to (appeal broadly), but I think there’s more to be explored,” Schlanger said. “‘The Sea Beast’ is a perfect example of that because it’s an action-adventure movie first. While it has humor, it’s not really a comedy at all. It’s actually quite dramatic in spots.” 

Adding to the drama was the COVID-19 pandemic, which threw everything out of whack and forced the team into virtual workspaces. Schlanger said the film became a kind of refuge as the they talked about big monsters and battles. He said doing so helped them bond through the adversity.

“A really important theme that I love in this movie is this idea of found families. You may not have everybody you need in your life, but once you start to look around for the connections that you make with humans, with other people, and see them caring for you and caring for them — that is a family. To me, that always spoke to the dedication and the work that everybody put in on ‘The Sea Beast.’”

Schlanger learned about the nomination from his wife, Nickella Moschetti Schlanger ’96, when she told him to check the messages on his endlessly buzzing phone that morning. He said the moment was a total surprise. And the events leading up to the big day have made him feel as if he’s already won. However, the real win is the audience reaction.

“Just the outpouring to see people really loving the movie and honoring it like this, it’s a huge win for us already,” Schlanger said. “I’m so thrilled for Chris (Williams, the director) and our team who worked so hard. Just to be in the running with all these other great films, too.”

And if “The Sea Beast” wins?

“Win? I can’t even fathom it.”