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Canadian Piper animator Alan Barillaro reflects on Oscar win

Alan Barillaro, left, and Marc Sondheimer pose the award for best animated short film for Piper at the Oscars in Los Angeles on Feb. 26, 2017.

Jordan Strauss/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Alan Barillaro says he's still unpacking the events surrounding his Oscar win on Sunday for his animated short "Piper."

From watching his parents proudly walk the red carpet with him and his wife, to witnessing the best-picture fiasco, and meeting his "Canadian heroes," it was certainly an unforgettable night for the father of three.

"To see my parents walk down the red carpet was by far worth everything," said Barillaro during a phone interview from California, adding his parents helped foster his love of film while growing up in the Niagara Falls, Ont., community of Chippawa, as well as Markham, Ont.

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"'Saturday Night at the Movies' with my mom every (week) with Elwy Yost is what I grew up on.... If your hockey team was losing on Saturday night, I'd go upstairs and watch a movie with my mom."

The six-minute "Piper," about a baby bird facing her fear of ocean waves with her mother on a beach, screened before "Finding Dory," which was 2016's top-grossing film.

Barillaro said he was a bundle of nerves throughout the Oscars. When he heard his name announced as the best animated short winner, along with producer Marc Sondheimer, his mind went blank. He was brought back to reality when his wife squeezed him hard.

"It felt a little like 'Piper' was an autobiographical story at that moment, of facing your fears," he said.

Barillaro thanked his family during his acceptance speech, including his "three little pipers" – his young children, who were watching from their home in Alameda County, Calif.

"I felt like if I can talk to them, maybe I won't be so scared to be onstage," he said, adding the best moment of the experience came once he'd sat back down.

"I get back to my seat ... beside my wife and she shows me a video that my sister sent of all the kids watching the nomination and winning and just screaming. That just made it really special."

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Then came the best-picture mess, in which "La La Land" was wrongly announced as the winner before "Moonlight" was awarded the big prize.

"Your heart goes out to those filmmakers," he said. "I thought they handled it with such great ... compassion for each other."

Barillaro and his wife attended the post-Oscars Governors Ball and Vanity Fair party.

"I went right for the Canadian heroes – I went to Eugene Levy and (Catherine) O'Hara," he said.

"It was nice that they had seen the picture, and Eugene Levy of course worked on 'Finding Dory.' "It's one of those moments where you can never imagine watching 'SCTV' as a kid that Eugene Levy, someone you adore, might actually like something you make one day."

Barillaro, who previously contributed to some of Pixar's biggest hits, including "A Bug's Life," "Monsters, Inc." and "WALL-E," will next work on "The Incredibles 2."

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"Working with (writer-director) Brad Bird again is exactly where you want to be if you want to learn how to make films," he said.

"It's pretty nice. I'm very fortunate."

As for his Oscar, he's happy to share it with the Pixar crew.

"Right now (the Oscar) is floating around the animation department of Pixar, on people's desks," he said.

"It's a wonderful thing to share and there were so many people who worked so hard on it. It doesn't feel right to put it in a cabinet.

"It must be the Pixar part of me that just wants toys to be played with, so I've been passing it around. I don't usually see it until the end of the day.... To me it truly isn't my award, it's everybody's award, so I like to treat it as such."

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