Oscar Producers Talk More Surprise Cameos, and This Year’s Theme of ‘Human Connection, Emotion, Inspiration and Creativity’

Oscar producers Raj Kapoor, Katy Mullan, Molly McNearney and Rob Paine, as well as music director Rickey Minor are days away from the 96th Academy Awards.

But they took time out on Wednesday afternoon to share insight into what to expect from Sunday’s ceremony. In a conversation moderated by Jacqueline Coley, Awards Editor at Rotten Tomatoes, Kapoor said this year’s theme is “human connection, emotion, inspiration and creativity.”

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A major highlight that has both fans and producers excited is the news of five former winners presenting to the five nominees. The idea was inspired by Bill Condon when he produced the 81st Academy Awards. Kapoor said the team had done a deep dive into past ceremonies and that stuck with them the most. Said Kapoor, “It was this lovely storytelling and again it came down to connection. It was past winners speaking to present nominees and that lovely connection and that human interaction. We thought we’d love to try it again.”

Speaking about host Jimmy Kimmel’s return, the team discussed how they strike a balance between the comedic moments and serious while keeping the show moving along. McNearney responded, “Jimmy’s really good at being funny. He’s also good at being serious when he needs to be. But we have a lot of great talent in the show that’s going to help balance that.” She continued, “Jimmy’s job in the monologue is to entertain and be light and be funny.” She added, “There’s always these unexpected moments, that’s what we look forward to.”

And while the Oscars certainly has had it share of unexpected moments, Mullan teased, audiences can expect “surprise cameos as well.”

Visually, the team started working on what the Dolby Theater would look like. Misty Buckley and Alana Billingsley return to production design duty. “The show is going to feel like it’s ever-evolving. It’s going to feel like this joyous part of life. Wherever we shoot, whatever moment happens on stage and even coming off stage, it’s all going to look beautiful.”

As previously confirmed, all five Oscar-nominated original songs will be performed with Ryan Gosling’s “I’m Just Ken” the most anticipated. While little else was divulged on the musical numbers, Minor discussed the musical aspect with the orchestra. “I look for energy and all of the emotions, but I also look to make sure that it’s a wonderful diverse group of music from around the world. We have pieces from Africa and France and places from everywhere.” He added, “I feel if the audience needs something that’s that needs to pump them up. I’ve got it right there in the pocket.”

With the Oscars attracting a global audience, Kapoor acknowledged that by noting there would be diversity among the presenters. He said, “We really tried to give moments to international film. I feel like our entire show has a global approach.” He teased, “We still have some surprises that we won’t reveal yet, because we think they are really special… We’re not going to reveal everything because we still have a few tricks up our sleeves.”

And yes…there will be snacks for those sitting in the audience.

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