As I did last year, I will be doing a brief overview of this year’s best animated picture award competition- and while the probable winner is fairly obvious this time around, it’s worth taking a look at where the field stands on the eve of the Academy Awards.
A year’s already flown by since I lasted breached the topic of the Oscars, and here we are with a brand-new crop of films up for the honor, albeit in a far less compelling race than 2016’s films. This year’s nominees are headlined by the superb Coco, which I wrote a review of for Christmas, and which also marks the return of Pixar with a nominee after Finding Dory’s snub last year; a couple of interesting foreign films in The Breadwinner and Loving Vincent, as well as the somewhat bizarre inclusion of The Boss Baby and Ferdinand. The latter two’s unlikely nominations came from a rules change in the selection process, where anyone in the Academy could help nominate the films, and so instead of animation-focuses professionals, it largely became “what have you seen?” With all due respect to the last two films, congrats on making it, but you’re both two of the weakest nominees I’ve ever seen in the category. Moving on then to a bit of history…
As I said last year: “Generally, I only care about results when it comes to award shows, much the same way as when I watch shows. I don’t follow the Oscars for their over-bloated pageantry, self-aggrandizing celebrities who pat each other on the back and give meaningless compliments to other influential people they know, or to watch people on the Internet have meltdowns over “x amount” of diversity or lack thereof. I’m just interested in the movies themselves, the people who put the work into said films, and the statistics behind it. So, here’s a list of the past 10 winners, with studios, to give a recent historical representation of this category (and note, the year is when the movies came out, not the award ceremony date, which is always the following year.)”:
2016: Zootopia (Walt Disney Animation Studios)
2015: Inside Out (Pixar)
2014: Big Hero 6 (Walt Disney Animation Studios)
2013: Frozen (Walt Disney Animation Studios)
2012: Brave (Pixar)
2011: Rango (Paramount Pictures)
2010: Toy Story 3 (Pixar)
2009: Up (Pixar)
2008: WALL-E (Pixar)
2007: Ratatouille (Pixar)
So going back a decade, Pixar has unsurprisingly dominated the category, taking 6 out of the past 10 awards- but only twice in the past 5 years (although it’s been Walt Disney Animation in the other years.) However, Coco is the heavy favorite this cycle, which will likely keep the studio at that 6/10 ratio for the decade (can you believe Ratatouille was a decade ago? Me neither.) Meanwhile, Walt Disney Studios, who won two out of the last 3 times, is actually sitting this one out this year, though next year we’re getting Wreck-It Ralph 2, which should be interesting… As for the outliers on this list, Rango was a surprise in a very weak year (2011) and Happy Feet in 2006 was much the same, beating out the underwhelming (by Pixar standards, anyways) Cars and Monster House when the category only had 3 entrants in that year.
Historically speaking, the trends are not favorable for foreign entrants, a sentiment I said almost verbatim from last year’s pre-Oscar piece. In a year with a strong Pixar movie as well, that chance falls to almost 0%, especially given that the other Western contenders (The Boss Baby, Ferdinand) aren’t really seen as true threats in this race. Often harmed by their lack of exposure to wider audiences, foreign and niche animated films often suffer the reverse affect of the live action counterparts- if a lot of eyeballs among the general populace saw it and it was good, that film tends to win the category. In this year’s case, both foreign entrants are worthy of their place at the table, but are still definite underdogs; if either The Breadwinner or Loving Vincent won, it would be possibly the largest upset in the history of the category (shy of the lackluster Western entries I mentioned winning), so I’m not holding my breath too tightly on that.
This year’s nominees featured three 3-D CGI films, one traditional hand-drawn film, and most uniquely, an entire painted film in Loving Vincent. The latter’s unique style is probably what lifted it to a nomination over other niche entrants; however, while the Academy traditionally likes a range of animation styles in its nominations, it often has little bearing on what movie ultimately wins. In fact, every animated film that has won in the past decade has been 3-D animated, and you have to go back to 2005, when Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-rabbit won to find a different style (and that was also the last foreign film to win as well, marking a 12 year drought.) In fact, since 2001 when the category was created, only one other winner was a non-CGI film- the Miyazaki classic Spirited Away in 2002.
So who wins? The obvious pick of the litter based on both historical trends and overall quality is Coco, and it’s a worthy pick in a generally underwhelming year for animation. It’s arguably one of Pixar’s best two films this decade along with Inside Out (and we’re counting Toy Story 3 as the final year of the first decade of the 2000’s) and it’s got a wonderful charm to it…but if you want my full thoughts on the film, I linked the review at the beginning of this piece, so check it out if you haven’t! As for a quick word on the rest- The Breadwinner is definitely worth a look, as it has both some stunning depth and cultural significance, with a premise that takes off, and for the artsy crowd, Finding Vincent may be worth a look. As for the other two films…neither is terrible, but they’re run of the mill animated flicks in all honesty that will probably be long forgotten in a few short years by all but the most devoted of animation fans. Enjoy the show, and I’ll have an afterword once the results finally come in!
Like what you see? Have thoughts on the Oscars? Leave a comment! Also, credit to Cartoon Brew for the picture.