Ever since the Academy split off the honorary Oscars into a separate, non-televised event (this year’s dinner will be held Saturday, December 1), lucky attendees have noted it makes for a more intimate and entertaining evening than the big show that follows. An obvious reason is that each winner has (much) more time to tell stories when they accept a prize.

The anecdotes should be rich and plentiful for 2012, thanks to the Academy’s announcement late last night that AMPAS will honor stuntman Hal Needham, documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker, AFI founding director George Stevens Jr. and Dreamworks exec Jeffrey Katzenberg with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. THR was first to pick up the news, followed by EW and the LA Times. In his quick-take separate analysis, THR awards watcher Scott Feinberg notes an important aspect to this year’s choices:

This is the first time since the creation of the Governors Awards in 2009 that an actor will not be among the honorees. Early responses to the announcement of this year’s selections have included surprise and dismay that a woman and/or a person of color is not among this year’s honorees…

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