Nominee: Animation supervisor David Clayton with orcs from the Hobbit films. Photo: Ross Giblin Bombur barreling along in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Photo: Warner Bros.
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Dwarves in barrels racing down a river. A dragon buried beneath gold and jewels. Battles against exotic creatures.

Animation supervisor David Clayton has the kind of job he would never have imagined while he was growing up in Australia: creating visual effects for the Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy in New Zealand.

Nor would he have imagined being nominated for an Academy Award two years in a row, with every chance of a third consecutive nod, given there are plans for a spectacular finale to the trilogy.

After making an animated short film, Clayton was offered a job on The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King more than a decade ago.

As he moved on to King Kong, X-Men: The Last Stand and Avatar, he joined dozens of Australians working behind the scenes in the film industry that Jackson built in Wellington.

”The ultimate challenge is to make sure any character we create is realistic and engaging and entertaining and holds up to the live-action performers they’re surrounded by,” he said.

Clayton is most proud of the dragon and dwarves-down-the-river scenes in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

”I started working on the barrel sequence years and years ago [when it was planned for the first Hobbit movie],” he said. ”The shot where Bombur bounces down the slope and he’s squashing all the orcs, that was originally my idea so I’m always stoked to see that go down well with an audience.”

While Clayton has been looking forward to his second trip to the Oscars, expecting it to be less nerve-racking than the first, he has no expectations of winning.

”I definitely feel like Gravity is a foregone conclusion,” he said. ”The visual effects were totally integrated into the story itself – the visual effects were the story – so they deserve everything they get.”

When the Hobbit trilogy wraps, Clayton has no shortage of work options at Weta Digital.

”We’ve got the Avatar sequels 2, 3 and a prequel,” he said. ”If I sign up for that, that’s going to be six or more years of steady work.”

Australia’s other Oscar nominees are Cate Blanchett for best actress on Blue Jasmine, Catherine Martin for both best production design, with Beverley Dunn, and best costumes on The Great Gatsby and Michael Wilkinson for best costumes on American Hustle.

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