With all the magnificence that 2011 has already provided us, it is lacking one major addition that the years prior have always had – an excellent Pixar film. Four years in a row a Pixar film has won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature to the point where Oscar prognosticators just assume the category belongs to the powerhouse animation studio. However, with the poor critical reception of Cars 2 it seems like a certainty that the legendary Pixar streak will not continue. It could actually be the first time since the category was created in 2001 that the year’s Pixar entry will not even be nominated.
Perhaps it is inappropriate of me to even spend this much of the conversation even talking about Pixar because there have been numerous films released this year from other animation studios that are quite good and worthy of discussion. Rango, Rio, Kung Fu Panda 2, and Winnie the Pooh have all received positive ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. There are also numerous films upcoming from reliable animation studios that could be strong players in the Oscar race.
Best Animated Feature is one of the rarest categories at the Oscars in that most of the strong contenders have already been released by the year’s midway point. Here are my thoughts on this category so far:
Best Animated Feature Predictions
This film is almost custom-tailored to please the Oscar voting crowd with clear references to classic films and even a scene with a Clint Eastwood doppleganger toting around a golf cart full of replica Oscar statuettes. While not the best reviewed animated film of the year, Rango has star power and should definitely appeal to Academy Award members.
2) Kung Fu Panda 2
If Box Office is to be taken into consideration Kung Fu Panda 2 should definitely be taken seriously. It is the second highest grossing animated film of the year and it also managed to get some appreciation from critics. The original Kung Fu Panda was one of Dreamworks’ best received movies and lost because it faced the Pixar film Wall-E. There may be some within the Academy who think Dreamworks is due for some recognition after their recent string of hits.
3) Arthur Christmas
The animation studio that brought us films like Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and Chicken Run has a great reputation with the Academy. This film has a fantastic voice cast including James McAvoy, Bill Nighy, Hugh Laurie, and the eternally brilliant Jim Broadbent. Christmas movies risk becoming cliche, but this one should be the exception.
4) Winnie the Pooh
I only counted 12 mainstream animated film releases this year which means it could fall short of the 16 required to have five nominees. There will likely be a few more cropping up that I missed, but for now I am going to assume we will have another three nominee year. Winnie the Pooh is the best reviewed animated film of the year, so if there are five nominees it seems like a shoe-in.
5) Happy Feet 2
The original Happy Feet was the last non-Pixar film to win this Oscar. That film came out in an admittedly weak year as it faced only Cars and Monster House. However, based on the trailers I have seen so far for this sequel I imagine this will be too silly to beat movies like Rango or Arthur Christmas.
Other contenders could include Puss in Boots or Rio, the former is from a very Oscar-friendly franchise and the latter is the third highest grossing animated film of the year. The Adventures of Tintin would be a probable choice, but it is motion-captured which the Academy has ruled is not technically animation. Perhaps even Cars 2 could sneak in if the Academy’s allegiance to Pixar is strong.