26 animated films have been shortlisted to be nominated at the 2018 Oscars, but which will be short-changed?

Earlier this year, it was reported that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was changing up the voting criteria for the Best Animated Feature race. Starting this year, in an attempt to increase voter turnout in the category, the Academy ruled that all members “willing to join a nominating committee” (per Variety) would be eligible to vote for films that will eventually land in the animation category.

Now, Deadline has announced that 26 shortlisted films could be nominated for the award. They could also compete for a Best Picture slot overall, although that has been rare in Oscars history. The final animation category is tiny, wherein only three films will be nominated, should there be less than sixteen eligible movies in the lineup (up to five animated films can be nominated for the award if there are more than sixteen eligible movies).

At first glance, the Academy opening up the animation category to a whole new range of voters seems to up the inclusivity factor that could allow more diverse films on the final ballot.

But one of the biggest concerns over such a practice involves the ability for major studio pictures to elbow their way back into the race, after being edged out by promising indies (given that the new pool of voters don’t necessarily need animation expertise). The prior system maintained a good selection of indie versus commercial pickings in this relatively small category, what with the specially-invited committee being “a 50/50 composition of animators and members from other branches” at the time. It ensured that more traditional animated films could compete with the gargantuan commercial stuff.

CEO of indie distributor GKIDS, Eric Beckman, told The Hollywood Reporter (THR) that this probably doesn’t mean much for the overall category: “I don’t see this rule change as dramatic, but it might be harder and more expensive for a smaller film to get attention”.

A highly optimistic scenario is that anyone “willing” to join the nominating committee for the Best Animated Feature category would actually have a baseline interest in animation in the first place, and would be knowledgeable enough to make informed choices based on the typical tenets of filmmaking. As it is with any live-action movie, technicalities and narrative both play a big part in what makes a great animated film, and even in a small category, creativity and freshness should be the utmost priority. There is, subsequently, a hope that these voters wouldn’t overlook the thoughtful indies in the selection in favor of more commercial movies.

But whether this will actually increase voter turnout in any discernible fashion is truly up in the air, given that there are those out there who don’t even bother watching animated films in the first place. This portion of THR’s 2014 interview with an anonymous “cranky” Oscar voter regarding animated movies will probably be seared into my mind forever: “I have seen none of them. I have no interest whatsoever. That ended when I was 6. My son dragged me to a few when he was 6; I would seat him and go outside and make phone calls”.

That being said, context is key here. The above quote comes from someone in the process of voting for an actual winner during that year’s Oscar race. However, it also indicates a general dismissal of the validity of animated films as a whole, which could be a sentiment echoed by enough Academy members who wouldn’t opt to vote to keep actual gems in the race.

Of course, no one is saying that The Breadwinner is going to have to go up against The Emoji Movie, despite the latter’s eligibility. But other heavy-hitters in the list are forces to be reckoned with. According to THR’s breakdown of animation contenders, studio films like Despicable Me 3, The Boss Baby, Cars 3 and The Lego Batman Movie have made enough of a financial impact to be considered. Indies of note include The BreadwinnerThe Girl Without Hands and Studio Ponoc’s Mary and the Witch’s Flower.

View the full list of eligible animated films below:

The Big Bad Fox & Other Tales
Birdboy: The Forgotten Children
The Boss Baby
The Breadwinner
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
Cars 3
Cinderella the Cat
Coco
Despicable Me 3
The Emoji Movie
Ethel & Ernest
Ferdinand
The Girl without Hands
In This Corner of the World
The Lego Batman Movie
The Lego Ninjago Movie
Loving Vincent
Mary and the Witch’s Flower
Moomins and the Winter Wonderland
My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea
Napping Princess
A Silent Voice
Smurfs: The Lost Village
The Star
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