James Corden and Rebel Wilson presented the award for Best Visual Effects at the ceremony, dressed in cat costumes that mimicked their appearance in the film.
The pair of them said in chorus that no one understands the importance of “good visual effects” like they do, a quip targeted at the film which was criticised for the way it turned actors into nightmarish felines.
The joke was widely deemed one of the more memorable moments of the night, but the Visual Effects Society has hit back saying that the effects were the least of the film’s problems.
In a statement, they said: “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. The Visual Effects Society is focused on recognising, advancing and honouring visual effects as an art form — and ensuring that the men and women working in VFX are properly valued.”
They added: “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.”
Cats was directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) and attempted to adapt Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s eccentric musical, which has been a hit on the stage for decades.
The film’s visual effects were in production until the eleventh hour and Universal actually sent out a revised version after the film was released, a move which is virtually unheard of.
The sentiments of the Visual Effects Society have been echoed on Twitter by VFX artist Yves McCrae, who says he was “working 80 hour weeks” prior to the release of Cats, at which point he was “laid off.”
Hey guys I haven't watched all of the Oscars but I assume these two were really classy and thanked me for working 80 hour weeks right up until I was laid off and the studio closed, right? https://t.co/dolAwK2xbr
— Auto Erotic Exfoliation (@YvesTM) February 11, 2020
Visual effects artists are under a lot of pressure at the moment, with studios like MPC Vancouver recently closing down despite their involvement in highly profitable films like last year’s remake of The Lion King.
Cats is out in cinemas now.