Where Do Oscar Statuettes Come From – Who Produces Them?
No one really knows where the name Oscar came from but many people suspect, it may have been an innocent comment from then Academy librarian Margaret Herrick that said it looked like her Uncle Oscar. This iconic image, designed in 1928, is known to anyone who has ever watched an awards ceremony. It was officially named the Academy Award of Merit, but the nickname “Oscar” was so widely used that by 1939 it had become official and everyone, including the press was using it.
The Chicago-based company of R.S. Owens & Co. had been responsible for manufacturing Oscars since 1982 but that job has now been passed to the New York-based company of Polich Tallix Fine Art Foundry. Polich Tallix has changed the appearance slightly so that today’s Oscar more closely resembles the 1928 original. According to a statement from the Academy, the new company has “restored subtle features” by using an original cast bronze example from 1929.
The Process of Making an Oscar
Polich Tallix began the Oscar makeover by digitally scanning both the 1929 original they had obtained and a modern pedestal base version. The next step was 3D-printing and molding so the digitalized version could be cast in wax. Wax statuettes are then coated in a ceramic shell which is cured at a high temperature melting the wax away, and leaving behind the hollow form of the Oscar.
The next step for these forms is being cast in liquid bronze at a temperature of nearly 2000-degrees, and after cooling, they are then sanded to perfection but are still far from complete. The figure part of each statuette is then electroplated with reflective 24-karat gold by Brooklyn-based Epner Technology, a company well known for its high-tech, specification electroplating process. Oscars bronze base is coated in a black patina, and hand-buffed to a smooth, glowing finish.
The Long Road to Perfection
Polished to a luxurious shine, many actors may not realize or care what the 13.5-inch tall, 8.5-pound Oscar went through before being presented as an award. Like the recipients themselves, the long road to perfection that ends at the podium in Los Angeles where it is handed over to the lucky winner, is a long one. The entire process takes 10 days from beginning to end, and at any time during this period, even the slightest imperfection will send it to the recycling pile and the process begins again.
The last step in the entire process is coating the Oscar in a lacquer finish to protect it from casual damages, and then placing it in protective Styrofoam for a flight under guard to Los Angeles. Every Oscar is engraved with a serial number and guaranteed for life. Damaged statuettes may be sent back to the manufacturer for replacement or to be brought back to its original luster. Now, instead of returning their Oscars to the Academy while they wait for an engraved plaque to be affixed, this service is offered on awards night so anxious winners don’t have to part with it for any length of time.