Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy Awards, was joined by “Thor,” or as he’s known in real life, Chris Hemsworth, to announce the nominees for this year’s Oscars.
Meanwhile, Kristine Belson ’86, knew that she and her fellow filmmakers of the DreamWorks animated flick The Croods had a good shot at being nominated, so she lay restless the night of the announcements, which were being streamed live.
“I was hopeful that we would get nominated, but you can’t assume,” she said about the night she rolled out of bed in the wee hours of the morning to watch the nomination show. “Then I heard Thor say my name.”
Belson was elated, as was her family when they heard the news later that morning. But about a minute after telling her husband and children the big news, Belson said, the responsibilities of parenthood kicked right back in, as focus shifted to the hustle and bustle caused by the small things in life, such as packing school lunches.
Film and television are in Belson’s blood. Her mother was a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and her father was a comedy writer for television and film. But at Trinity, Belson started on a pre-med track. She tried to avoid her parents’ route until she realized that she was trying too
hard not to follow in their footsteps. She was an avid reader, and once she hit chemistry classes at Trinity, she decided that it was time for a course change, both in life and in the registrar’s office. At that point, Belson shifted her focus to creative writing, while taking any film classes that were available to her at the time.
Belson admired the late Fred Pfeil, a Trinity English and film studies professor she called a “bold thinker,” who shared interesting movies and led lively discussions. Belson took as many of Pfeil’s classes as she could. The most important skills that her liberal arts education gave her, she noted, were learning storytelling and learning how challenging writing can be. In addition to dedicating herself to her classes, Belson rowed crew, worked at the radio station and on the Trinity Review
literary magazine, and spent a good deal of time at Cinestudio
, the 1930’s-style balcony theater located in the heart of Trinity’s campus.
“Cinestudio is amazing,” she said, praising the programmers of the theater. “The programming is incredible. [The programmers] are doing a hell of a job. It’s such a beautiful little theater. I’m so grateful to the existence of Cinestudio.”
Upon graduating from Trinity, Belson moved to New York City for an internship at Sterling Lord Literistic publishing. While in New York, she often came back to Trinity to visit her then-boyfriend, stretching out her Quad days for as long as she could, “which made leaving Trinity a little easier.”
Belson learned that publishing was not the perfect fit for her, so she shifted her focus to films. Her New York-to-Hartford round-trips became less frequent, and Belson moved to Los Angeles to give the movie business a shot.
In L.A., Belson read and wrote scripts for feature films before being offered a position at 20th Century Fox. She was enticed by the opportunity to get a fuller understanding and overview of the industry by working in a major film studio. During her time at Fox studios, she was tapped by Amy Pascal to help start Turner Pictures, where they worked on several movies, including City of Angels, with Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan, and Fallen, with Denzel Washington and John Goodman. These experiences led to Belson discovering her true passion, which was producing.
To further pursue this discovery, Belson joined The Jim Henson Company, where she helped to develop several Muppet movies and many other films, including animated movies. The experience “intrigued” her and led her to DreamWorks, where she’s been for seven years, culminating in the latest Golden Globe and Academy Award nomination.
Pictured right: Kirk DeMicco (writer/director), Kristine Belson (producer), Jane Hartwell (producer), Chris Sanders (writer/director) of The Croods, outside of the Dolby Theater in Hollywood on the evening of the Academy Awards.
It was a long and winding road to the red carpet, as she and her team worked on The Croods for five years. The story changed and developed throughout the process into what became one of the year’s most watched animated films. Voice-over talent included Nicolas Cage, Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone, and Catherine Keener, among others. In the animated film category, The Croods was up against Despicable Me 2, and Disney’s Frozen, which ultimately took home the hardware.
Animated films have become some of the most noteworthy in the history of movies. Top critics consider animated classics, such as The Lion King, the Toy Story series, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Finding Nemo, and Pinocchio, among the best films ever made, animated or not.
Belson recalls the Sunday night that her family got dressed and headed out the door for Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, where the Oscars ceremony was held. The excitement level was high in her home.
“On that day, I felt like a winner,” she said.
So, what’s next for the Academy-Award nominated producer? The Croods 2.
That, and many packed lunches, of course.