Breakdown: The Animated Oscar Race Begins with 20 Films


Yesterday, Variety published the list of films that have made the cut of 20 for the race to get the Best Animated Feature Oscar. These 20 films will eventually be cut down to a list of 5 nominees, rather than the usual 3, and ultimately cut down to the one film that will be named Best Animated Film by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

A few of these animated films are yet to be released, and have not yet been screened by the Academy, so it’s possible that some may be disqualified because of too much live-action mixed in, quality, etc. The final five nominees will not be announced until February 2, with the Oscars being presented on March 7.

For your viewing pleasure (and our own need to inject our opinion into this process), we would like to present the following list with comments:

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

Instantly eliminated due to too much live-action and likelihood of the film being mediocre at best.

Astro Boy

Don’t count out the boy who can fly, but also don’t count out the Academy’s yawn-factor on this glossy style of CG-animation.

Battle for Terra

This came out? In theaters?

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

If there is a dark horse candidate in this category, it is right here. Much better than expected and very well-animated. Don’t be surprised if it ends up in the final five.


If there is justice in this world, Coraline will get the recognition that it deserves. A splendid film that could very well win this category, especially if Pixar gets a Best Picture nod for Up.

Disney’s A Christmas Carol

A great technical achievement, much like The Polar Express, but certainly not a stand-out. Will likely earn a nomination, but not a win.

The Dolphin – Story of a Dreamer

The unfortunate victim of obscurity, this little entry from director Eduardo Schuldt is barely going to get a qualifying release here in the U.S.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Wes Anderson’s clever, energetic and fun stop-motion pic should get a nomination, if for no other reason than it was such a pain in the butt to animated. Those little characters don’t move themselves for each frame, you know.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs


Mary and Max

Fantastic Mr. Fox may be the highest profile stop-motion movie of the year (that, or Coraline), but Mary and Max is certainly the most ambitious. It’s a long-shot for a nomination and an even longer shot for a win, but it would be nice to see this Sundance gem get some recognition.

The Missing Lynx

This Spanish-made CG-animated flick was a last minute entry. The trailer is online and while it looks cool, I’m getting sort of a Doogal vibe. Also, no farting moose voiced by Kevin Smith, no Oscar.

Monsters vs. Aliens

The entry from the Dreamworks camp should get a nomination. But like Kung Fu Panda last year, it will play second fiddle to Pixar’s entry.


So much promise, so much lost in execution. Beautiful animation that deserves recognition, but a story that doesn’t inspire confidence.

Planet 51

This one screens for most critics this week and next. I’m not a betting man, but if I were, my money would be against it. This is the first major release from Spanish house Ilion Animation. Give them time.


Hayao Miyazaki may be batshit crazy, but he sure can bring together a stellar animated experience. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ponyo gets notice from the Academy in the form of a nomination.

The Princess and the Frog

Disney’s first hand-drawn animated film in a long time, and that is something that should turn a few heads. If it turns out to be half-way decent, then it should get a nomination.

The Secret of Kells

Another title destined to be lost in obscurity. It’s an Irish 2D feature that looks like something you might see on Cartoon Network’s late-nite line-up. Not impressive enough, at first glance.

Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure

Disney made a lot of noise about the return of Tinker Bell in the direct-to-DVD release of 2008, yet they didn’t even stick it into theaters for an Oscar qualifying run. They are doing so with the sequel. Who knows why…

A Town Called Panic

If I could put in a good word for any one movie on this list, it would be for the Fantastic Fest favorite that our own Cole Abaius said may cause you to “injure yourself laughing.” If this film gets nominated, we should all have some sort of restored faith in the Academy. There might be hope for them yet.


Pixar’s beautiful human story deserves to get a Best Picture nomination. A nomination and almost assured win in this category will be a consolation prize if it doesn’t.

What is your pick for Best Animated Feature of 2009?

Neil Miller is the Founder and Publisher of Film School Rejects. For almost a decade, he has been talking movies on television, the radio, and the Internet. As of yet, no one has stopped him.

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