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Oscars 2016: Best Animated Feature Eligibles

The Academy announced the list of films that will compete for a nomination in the Best Animated Feature category and lose to Disney/Pixar. I think I speak for all of us when I say — where’s Norm of the North?

There are 27 films eligible this year, which is an all-time high. Most average people will recognize about ten of them. I think I’m at a 18 or 19. I happened to get fortunate on a few and come across them before the list was announced. There’s always a handful nobody’s ever heard of, but that’s fine, since those pretty much never get nominated anyway.

So we’ll do what we always do, break down the category even though we already know what at least 3/5 of it will look like, and then find some other cool shit to check out on top of that.

Here are your eligible films for Best Animated Feature:

The official list is:

  • The Angry Birds Movie
  • April and the Extraordinary World
  • Bilal
  • Finding Dory
  • Ice Age: Collision Course
  • Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV
  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • Kung Fu Panda 3
  • The Little Prince
  • Long Way North
  • Miss Hokusai
  • Moana
  • Monkey King: Hero Is Back
  • Mune
  • Mustafa & the Magician
  • My Life as a Zucchini
  • Phantom Boy
  • The Red Turtle
  • Sausage Party
  • The Secret Life of Pets
  • Sing
  • Snowtime!
  • Storks
  • Trolls
  • 25 April
  • Your Name
  • Zootopia

Norm of the North couldn’t even make it onto this list. What does that say?

To get the easy part out of the way, here are the ones you need not pay any attention to whatsoever because they will not be nominated:

April and the Extraordinary World — It looks lke it’s well-animated, but if this makes it onto the final list, I will take complete blame for that. I just can’t see it, and am willing to bet it stands no shot than to waste my time thinking it has a little shot and then not taking it anyway.

Bilal — Saudi Arabian film. Good for them, but this stands less than a zero percent chance at a nomination and doesn’t look good enough to check out.

Ice Age: Collision Course — the first one was nominated, and none of the sequels have been.

Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV — I think when you saw the words “Final Fantasy” you pretty much knew what this was.

Monkey King: Hero Is Back — Chinese film. They haven’t taken over everything yet. If this does get nominated, then we should be terrified at how easily they bought it. Until then, ignore.

Mune — The full title is Mune: Guardian of the Moon. So yeah.

Mustafa & the Magician — when a film doesn’t have an IMDB page, that’s usually a sign.

My Life as a Zucchini — This was actually submitted as Switzerland’s entry in the Foreign Language film race. It will get neither. Looks fun, but it’s not gonna make any headway here.

Snowtime! — I’m pretty sure it’s obvious to those who open this film’s IMDB page that it won’t be nominated and why it won’t be nominated. I know it sounds like I know what I’m doing, but certain things are pretty self-apparent.

Storks — if this gets nominated over some of the other, more successful, more critically acclaimed films on this list, then someone got paid off. A lot of someones. And if that’s the case, you stood no chance.

25 April — It’s a documentary about Gallipoli. Sounds cool, but documentaries don’t get nominated here. (Persepolis was autobiographical, but not a documentary. And Waltz with Bashir was not in this category.)

Your Name — Japanese animation. I think we know which Japanese films on this list have a chance. This isn’t one of them.

– – – – – – – – – –

So that’s 12 films off the top. That leaves us with 15. Don’t worry we’re about to take off more. That was just the introduction.

Now we’re gonna take off the films that, for one reason or another, stand a chance at consideration for thinking they’ll be nominated, but ultimately will probably go nowhere.

The Angry Birds Movie — I mean, right? Sure, the app was big, but the movie was shit, everybody hated it and it didn’t make a lot of money domestically. So why would they even consider it? Normally I’d toss this off in that opening segment, but the fact that it says “Angry Birds” on it gave me a moment’s worth of pause. But now that I’m using the rational part of my brain, it pretty much immediately gets thrown off. Wait til we get to the contenders section. When you get there, you tell me what this can replace. That’s why it won’t get nominated.

Kung Fu Panda 3 — The first two in the franchise were nominated, but this film was such an afterthought this year. They quietly dumped it in January, and it made a nice amount of money, but to nowhere near the acclaim nor the haul the previous films in the series made. This won’t be nominated. There are bigger players to be had.

The Little Prince — This was really well done and looked great, and Netflix has a lot of money to throw around in the way of getting things nominated (though Documentary seems to be their power category, if last year was any evidence), but I don’t think this made enough waves to really stand a chance in this category. I’ll be happy to be wrong, but I just can’t see this happening. For what it’s worth, this is the highest ranking film on this section. That is to say, if I’m ranking all the films, from 27-1 in terms of their likelihood of being nominated, and this were the 15-11 section, this would be #11. So there’s that.

Long Way North — We got a screener for this super early, which doesn’t usually mean anything, but the fact that they got it out there means that at least they’re trying. The film was just okay. Looked good and was well-animated, but this isn’t something enough people will see and vote for. Maybe in a weak year, like 2011 (more on 2011 in a second), but this year has what looks like four locks, and that’s before we get into the other big money players. So I’m thinking they won’t go indie here, and if they do, there are more high profile and prestigious entries to select from.

Phantom Boy — the only reason this is here is because the director made A Cat in Paris, which shocked everyone with a nomination in 2011, along with Chico & Rita, over heavy hitters like Tintin and Cars 2. That was their big rejection of computer animation and a shot across the bow of Disney and Pixar (followed by prompt return to form, giving Pixar or Disney every single animated award since). I highly doubt this will get any sort of notice, but it is worth mentioning that this theoretically has more of a shot than most “anonymous” eligible films because the director has made it on before. I highly doubt it will happen again, but one never knows. (P.S. I have a copy of this film and will be watching it soon. So there’s a chance I may reverse course and claim it as more of a contender, but in all likelihood we’re looking at a red herring.)

– – – – – – – – – –

So now we’re left with ten films. I thought about counting this down, but honestly, we all know what the top four are, so I’m gonna go from the top down. Tell you which films are the most likely nominees and then figure out who fills out the rest of the category.

Right now, for just about anybody looking at this category from afar, you would think that these films would make it on without problem:

Finding Dory — the predecessor won this category, there were some people who (wrongly) said this was better than the original, and it made a shit ton of money. I think we’d all be shocked if this didn’t happen. Since the category was created, Pixar was only not nominated for three of their films. Cars 2, Monsters University and The Good Dinosaur. Notice any similarities there? Cars 2 is typically thought of as the worst of their films, Monsters was a delightful but unnecessary sequel, and The Good Dinosaur was released last year alongside Inside Out and no one much paid attention to it. You could make the middle argument for this not being nominated, but does anyone really believe it? I’d call this a safe bet. Would you rather take your chances saying it won’t be nominated?

Kubo and the Two Strings — Laika had released four films before this one, and all four of them were nominated. Corpse Bride, Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls. And this was the most critically acclaimed of all of those. It has not as yet been as commercially successful as those films, but I think that anyone who’s seen it will agree that it’s really fucking well animated, and for a group who loves to nominate a film that puts in great work in terms of animation and love to nominate stop-motion or hand drawn films as much as possible (even at the expense of the big studios), I would say this is gonna make it on.

Moana — This is Disney’s big musical of the year. Reviews aren’t out as of yet, but unless this falls completely dead and people hate it, this will be nominated for at least one Oscar. It’s not guaranteed to be in this category, but I’d wager this is a pretty good one to put a wager down on. (The category I’ll bet it will be nominated in is Best Original Song, because do you really think that in the year of Hamilton they’re gonna pass up a chance to nominate Lin-Manuel Miranda? And I don’t even know what song’s gonna be eligible for this. This is just straight up gut feeling.)

Zootopia — This was the most beloved animated film of the first half of the year. It made a shit ton of money, and for a long while it was at some crazy high percentage rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It made some ungodly amount of money ($340 million domestic, $1 billion worldwide), and pretty much the only thing that could keep this out of the category is a situation like last year, where Pixar had two entries and they only nominated one to make room for something else. A billion dollars is a lot of money, and I don’t think they can ignore that. But they might. So while I won’t call both Disney films mortal locks, until I see a reason not to nominate one of them, I’m gonna keep them both on here. (And even then, at that point you gotta pick which one isn’t gonna make it on. So you then risk picking the wrong one, when you can just put both on and at worst, miss one film that you could have anyway.)

That’s four films right there. And there are still some really heavy hitters left to go.

Here are your remaining eligibles, who all have varying degrees of possibility:

Miss Hokusai — Okay, so sure, there’s really no reason for me to take this seriously. It’s not Studio Ghibli, and the only real reason I have it here is because it got a U.S. release. And in such a year as this, I should have already thrown it out by now. Sue me. But I think it has a little shot. But yeah, it’s probably 10 of 10 on this list, if not out of the top ten altogether.

The Red Turtle — This is the non-English language film that has the biggest shot. This is Studio Ghibli and Wild Bunch, Japan and France. Which is pretty cool. And the film looks gorgeous. Sight unseen (though if all goes well, I might be seeing it this week), I’d straight up nominate this on my ballot. And this looks like exactly the kind of film they’d go for. It’s got a real tough road, as three of the next four films look to be major contenders on the commercial side of things. While this one only makes it on if the Animation branch is feeling artistic, which admittedly they’ve been doing for a few years now. So there’s hope for this.

Sausage Party — Just because it would be so amazing to see a filthy movie featuring a food orgy make it onto the Best Animated Feature list. This will never happen because they don’t have the balls to vote for this. My advice is to treat it like a contender, don’t put it on your list no matter what you do, then be really fucking surprised and happy if this gets nominated. But this is definitely the lowest on my list of serious contenders, after Hokusai, which isn’t really that serious a contender anyway.

The Secret Life of Pets — If I were putting money down, I’d say the fifth spot is between this and The Red Turtle. Solid enough reviews, and a cool $366 million domestic gross (more than Zootopia) and $871 million worldwide. That’s not always a sign of a nomination, but I’d say this is your mainstream, non-Disney contender for 2016.

Sing — I won’t know what to make of this until next month. It’s opening over Christmas, and if this is a huge breakout hit, it could happen. Though it doesn’t look like it’s gonna get the critical acclaim to make it onto the list. Because, as I always say, and will bring up yet again when I breakdown nominations in January — you need a certain Rotten Tomatoes score to make it onto the list. There has been no “rotten” film in over past decade nominated in this category. It’s only happened four times, and all of them came in 2004 or earlier. So, the first four years of the category. And two of them were 69% and 68%. So only twice were films straight up poorly reviewed nominated in this category. So if this film fails with critics then it’s out.

Trolls — This is holding at 73%, so theoretically this has a shot. And it opened to $46 million, so it’s a hit. Doesn’t look like the type of film that will be nominated, but one never knows. I’d put my money on Illumination over DreamWorks, but theoretically this has a shot.

– – – – – – – – – –

Right now, if I were picking, I would say your most likely category is going to be:

  • Finding Dory
  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • Moana
  • The Red Turtle
  • Zootopia

alt: The Secret Life of Pets

dark horse: Trolls, Sing

holy fucking shit: Sausage Party

I’m feeling more optimistic now, so I’ve not as of yet gone the soulless route, assuming they’ll go with the moneymaker and Secret Life of Pets, but it’s certainly possible they do that. And we still have Moana, Sing and The Red Turtle to come out. The reactions to those (and my reaction to those) will have some impact on my opinions on this. So until then this is all just guessing.

Sure, my guessing tends to mirror what will actually happen in January in terms of my guessing, since not much really changes and you can pretty much scope out the categories with a shortlist instantaneously. But I like to get into Oscar mode with these things. Gets me amped up for my favorite time of year.

– – – – – – –

P.S. They also announced the Documentary Short shortlist a few weeks ago as well, but I’m not putting that category up until I watch the contenders that I have the ability to watch. So look for that probably over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend when I have the time to sit down and watch those without having to deal with work, a backlog of movies at home and a bunch of screenings to go to.

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One response

  1. “Your Name — Japanese animation. I think we know which Japanese films on this list have a chance. This isn’t one of them.”

    =====
    I wouldn’t underestimate Your Name if I were you.

    While Miss Hokusai is currently winding down on its limited U.S. release and The Red Turtle as a Studio Ghibli/Wild Bunch collaboration with heavy festival acclaim remains highly anticipated, Your Name has been KILLING it at the Japanese box office (likely the reason why they’re going for Oscar contention). It has spent 10 non-consecutive weekends at #1 and has made nearly 18 billion yen ($172 million USD). It’s the first non-Studio Ghibli anime film to make more than $100 million USD (about 106.35 million yen) at the Japanese box office. (To compare, Miss Hokusai has only made a reported $222.7 thousand USD.)

    Having just surpassed Ponyo’s 15.5 billion yen, here are the remaining animated films that have grossed more than Your Name (ordered by ascending box office gross):
    …..
    — Princess Mononoke
    — Howl’s Moving Castle
    — Frozen
    — Spirited Away (which, as we all know, is the highest grossing film in general in Japan).
    …..
    Only Princess Mononoke lacks a Best Animated Feature nomination due to it pre-existing before the category’s creation, while Frozen and Spirited Away have won the category.

    As for critical reception, Your Name does admittedly have less reviews overall (4 on Metacritic, 8 on Rotten Tomatoes) than Miss Hokusai (16 on Metacritic, 42 on Rotten Tomatoes) due to the fact that the latter had its limited American release already. Nevertheless, Your Name remains more positively received. It has an 82 on Metacritic and a perfect 100% Tomatometer rating so far, compared to Miss Hokusai’s 74 on Metacritic and a 95% Tomatometer rating.

    Unless Your Name botches its eventual American release—whether limited or wide—I’ll continue to have high hopes for its Oscar contention. Director Makoto Shinkai has developed quite a strong and unique reputation in this post-Miyazaki/Takahata/Kon anime period—something I don’t feel as much with Miss Hokusai’s director Keiichi Hara, despite Hara’s longer and more varied career. Hara is a television animator of several decades that has only started in the past decade to transition more to feature-length works, whereas Shinkai hit the ground running, making critically-acclaimed, short and feature-length anime works since the turn of the millennium that have caused people to refer to him as “the next Miyazaki.” I wouldn’t be surprised if the Academy’s Animation branch has been itching to recognize him.

    =====
    My Current Personal Nominations for the Best Animated Feature Oscar
    (as of 11/13/2016):
    …..
    — Finding Dory
    — Kubo & The Two Strings
    — Kung Fu Panda 3
    — Your Name
    — Zootopia

    November 13, 2016 at 1:19 am

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