The Academy Award for Best Animated Feature was penciled into the program starting with the 74th installment covering 2001’s releases, and the award went to Shrek. There were only two other nominees that year, Monsters, Inc. and Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, and yeah, one of those things is not like the others.
Most folks would be forgiven for thinking only U.S. productions are eligible, but that’s not the case. Of course, in the twelve years since its inception only seven foreign language films have been nominated with only one going on to win the award (Japan’s Spirited Away). This isn’t exactly surprising, and while a lack of Academy awareness when it comes to foreign animation is the biggest culprit, the power of a homegrown juggernaut can’t be discounted.
Pixar has won the award in seven of the last ten years culminating in last year’s win for Brave, and in fact the only time they were nominated and lost was for 2006’s Cars. This surprised no one. That statistic may be about to change this year as the list of the nineteen films submitted for the Oscar has been released, and Monsters University is facing some stiff competition… mostly from outside the United States.
Here are the submitted movies in alphabetical order:
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2
Despicable Me 2
Ernest and Celestine (France)
The Fake (South Korea)
Khumba (South Africa)
The Legend of Sarila (Canada)
A Letter to Momo (Japan)
O Apóstolo (Spain)
Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie – Rebellion (Japan)
Rio: 2096 A Story of Love and Fury (Brazil)
The Smurfs 2
The Wind Rises (Japan)
The first take away from this list is simply that every animated film from 2013 was submitted as evidenced by the presence of The Smurfs 2. Because seriously. At best only five of the above films will make the cut to the nomination stage. Of those only one can win, and while it’s way too early to make predictions the list can be pared down a bit using common sense.
Only three sequels with numbers in their titles have ever been nominated in this category, and of those only Toy Story 3 won, so Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, Despicable Me 2, and The Smurfs 2 are out. DM2 may slip back in though as it’s the highest grossing animated film of the year by a wide margin. A few other domestic releases stand little to no chance for reasons that are obvious to anyone who saw them. Epic? Free Birds? Planes? Turbo? All gone.
I see the domestic shortlist consisting of The Croods, Monsters University, DM2 (possibly), and Disney’s Frozen. That last one hasn’t even been released yet, but advanced word has been strong so it’s a real possibility.
The majority of the nine foreign titles above will be axed, and the first two to go will be the extraneous Japanese submissions, A Letter to Momo and Magica the Movie. It’s cute that they try to compete against their countryman, Hayao Miyazaki, but it’s also a bit naive seeing as he’s the man behind Spirited Away. Granted, his new film lacks that one’s mystical and magical elements and is instead about the real-life man who designed Japan’s WWII Zero fighters, but he still remains a favorite.
Three of the remaining foreign titles stand out to me as possible contenders. Spain’s O Apóstolo is the only stop-motion animated feature submitted, and the Academy may very well have gotten a taste for it after last year’s one-two punch of ParaNorman and Frankenweenie. At least we can hope so seeing as it’s a nice change from the sea of CGI. Of the seven foreign language films to see a nomination over the years four of them were French, so expect France’s Ernest and Celestine to be a possible contender too.
Finally, and solely because I’m partial to the stark, brutally affecting nature of it, I’m hoping to see The Fake make the list too. The director’s previous animated film, The King of Pigs, was equal parts heartbreaking and hardcore, and his latest seems to follow suit serving as a reminder that animation isn’t just for kids. In case you were wondering, it’s that sentiment that led me to select a header image from the excellent and powerful 1982 animated film, The Plague Dogs.
The Academy Award nominations will be announced on January 14th, 2014.