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February 23, 2009

An Oscar shout-out

'WALL-E' director praises Rockport teacher in acceptance speech

ROCKPORT — Writer and director Andrew Stanton thanked his wife, children and colleagues while accepting the Academy Award for best animated feature film, "WALL-E," in Hollywood's Kodak Theater on Sunday night.

But the Rockport native's gratitude also extended 3,000 miles east to Cape Ann, where his former high school drama teacher, Phil Perry, sat weeping in his living room upon hearing Stanton thank him by name during the acceptance speech.

"He caught me and made me cry," Perry said yesterday, from his East Gloucester home. "I got telephone calls until 11 p.m. and it started again (Monday) morning. I wasn't surprised at all that he (Stanton) would succeed ... I've always been very proud of him."

Sunday's Oscar was Stanton's second — he first won in 2003 for "Finding Nemo" — and his honor proved to be the only win of the night for the robot romance "WALL-E," which was nominated for six awards, including another nod to Stanton for best original screenplay.

"It's been such an inspiration to spend time with a character who so tenaciously struggles to find the beauty in everything that he sees. It's a noble aspiration to have at times like these," Stanton said from the podium.

"I dearly want to thank everyone that's been on this film: the cast, the crew, everybody at Disney and Pixar Studios. To my wife Julie, my kids Ben and Audrey, I love you so much — and I guess I'd be remiss if I did not thank my high school drama teacher Phil Perry for 28 years ago casting me as Barnaby in 'Hello, Dolly!'

"Creative seeds are sown in the oddest of places," he added.

Perry, 74, started the drama department at Rockport High School after starting as a chemistry teacher in 1962. Stanton impressed Perry both academically as a student in his science class and as an actor in "Hello, Dolly!," Stanton's first major role.

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