What Does the Oscar Race for Best Animated Feature Look Like Now?
by Joey Magidson
November 20, 2013
Never being met with the same respect as the other categories at the Academy Awards, the Best Animated Feature race is always one of the most interesting ones for to analyze and cover each year. This category is about as different from the others as it gets at the Oscars, so it's always worth a little bit of a different focus. It's also one of the harder ones to predict, especially when Pixar doesn't have a runaway frontrunner (which is becoming more normal now) in their prequel Monsters University. With the impending release of Frozen, the final contender for the prize, I wanted to discuss the category to see where the race is headed.
In case you aren't aware, depending on how many eligible animated features come out in a given year, that affects how many nominees there are. If at least 16 are deemed eligible, we get five spots. This year, there are 19 films in contention, so it appears that the full amount of slots will be in play. The cartoons submitted for 2013 are as follows: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Epic, Ernest and Celestine, The Fake, Free Birds, Frozen, Khumba, The Legend of Sarila, A Letter to Momo, Monsters University, O Apóstolo, Planes, Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie – Rebellion, Rio: 2096 A Story of Love and Fury, The Smurfs 2, Turbo, and The Wind Rises. From those 19, we'll eventually get our five.
If you want to separate those flicks a bit, you can categorize them. Basically, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Epic, Free Birds, Frozen, Monsters University, Planes, The Smurfs 2, and Turbo are the big studio contenders, with Frozen and Monsters University appearing to be locked in from there and basically co-frontrunners. Aside from them, the indie players are Ernest and Celestine, The Fake, Kumba, The Legend of Darila, A Letter to Momo, O Apóstolo, Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie – Rebellion, Rio: 2096 A Story of Love and Fury, and The Wind Rises. From there, The Wind Rises seems all but assured of a nod (and could be a dark horse winner too), so we essentially have three spots filled, which leaves 16 movies vying for those final two places at the table.
Which two will make it though? Well, it really depends on who you ask. If you peruse various Oscar predictions, you can see a wide variety of titles predicted in addition to the aforementioned trio of Frozen, Monsters University, and The Wind Rises, which is pretty prudent thinking. The two most popular predictions (and to be honest, these final two slots are just filler, as one of those three will win, but more on that later) seem to be The Croods and Ernest and Celestine. Earlier in the year Free Birds was predicted a lot (including by yours truly), but poor reviews have hurt it to the point where it's no longer in much of an enviable position at all. The other one that is at least somewhat strongly in play is the sequel Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, but it's probably behind the other filler contenders, give or take Free Birds.
Personally, I'm currently predicting (with at least a mediocre degree of confidence) the lineup to look like this: The Croods, Ernest and Celestine, Frozen, Monsters University, and The Wind Rises. From there, I think that unless the emotional vote for Hayao Miyazaki proves too compelling to resist and The Wind Rises wins it all, Walt Disney's phenomenal new princess flick Frozen is in the pole position to take the Oscar. It's still very early though, so don't take that to the bank or anything. After all, Monsters University is still a Pixar film, and that means a lot in this category.
It's worth noting that all three of those top contenders are Disney releases, so the Mouse seems poised to win again in this category. Hell, they also have Planes in play (though don't bet on that one getting nominated), so hypothetically four of the five ultimate nominees could come from Uncle Walt. It may not ultimately mean much (the same thing happened last year too), but it's just another bit of information to have at your disposal.
In the end, you should remember that we haven't even seen any of the precursors talk about this race yet, so a lot is still to be decided. I'm pretty confident that it's going to be the aforementioned three horse race, but it could turn out in any number of ways. Pay close attention to this one, as it could go down to the wire. It'll be fun to watch though, no doubt about that!