Oscars 2019 Category Breakdown: Best Animated Feature

Here’s how this works: every day leading up to the Oscars, I break down each of the 24 categories. The goal is to both familiarize everyone with the category itself (how it works, what its history is and how you go about figuring out what’s gonna win) while also making it easier to reference when I write my giant article with picks and everything. A lot of the leg work is already here. But really, the goal is to see if there’s anything to look for leading into Oscar night that could be a shortcut to me picking the category.

What we do is — I give you all the winners of the category throughout history, go over all the recent trends if there are any, discuss the precursors and whether or not they matter, and then we talk about this year’s category and how we got to it, and then just look at where we are and rank the nominees in terms of their likelihood of winning (at the current moment in time. Of course, things can and will change going into the ceremony). It’s all pretty simple. I’ve done this every year. Everyone should know the drill.

Today is Best Animated Feature. AKA, ‘Is it Disney or Pixar that’s winning this year?’

Year Best Animated Feature Winners Other Nominees
2001 Shrek Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius

Monsters, Inc.

2002 Spirited Away Ice Age

Lilo & Stitch

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron

Treasure Planet

2003 Finding Nemo Brother Bear

The Triplets of Belleville

2004 The Incredibles Shark Tale

Shrek 2

2005 Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit Corpse Bride

Howl’s Moving Castle

2006 Happy Feet Cars

Monster House

2007 Ratatouille Persepolis

Surf’s Up

2008 Wall-E Bolt

Kung Fu Panda

2009 Up Coraline

Fantastic Mr. Fox

The Princess and the Frog

The Secret of Kells

2010 Toy Story 3 How to Train Your Dragon

The Illusionist

2011 Rango A Cat in Paris

Chico and Rita

Kung Fu Panda 2

Puss in Boots

2012 Brave Frankenweenie


The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Wreck-It Ralph

2013 Frozen The Croods

Despicable Me 2

Ernest and Celestine

The Wind Rises

2014 Big Hero 6 The Boxtrolls

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Song of the Sea

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

2015 Inside Out Anomalisa

Boy and the World

Shaun the Sheep Movie

When Marnie Was There

2016 Zootopia Kubo and the Two Strings


My Life as a Zucchini

The Red Turtle

2017 Coco The Boss Baby

The Breadwinner


Loving Vincent

2018 Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Incredibles 2

Isle of Dogs


Ralph Breaks the Internet

I’ll let Jack Black explain the methodology in picking this category:

That’s really all you need to know. Disney or Pixar is the favorite unless they have a sequel or a really subpar effort, and then you can see the clear winner emerging, a la last year and Spider-Verse. It’s pretty simple, and they made it easy for us this year by halving the two potential Disney/Pixar nominees.

Best Animated Feature

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

I Lost My Body


Missing Link

Toy Story 4

Frozen II got left off. That was the big ‘surprise’, even though it totally fits with what they’ve done in recent years with Pixar, leaving off sequels and lesser efforts. Although this is a first for Disney. In fact — the Animated Feature category started in 2001. The only Disney theatrical animated features to not be nominated in this category are Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Home on the Range, Chicken Little, Meet the Robinsons, Winnie the Pooh and Frozen II. Everything pre-Winnie the Pooh was when the category had only three nominees (and most of those are ‘lesser’ Disney films), Winnie the Pooh happened in the year where they eschewed all traditional options (Tintin was left off, etc). So this is a first. That’s a big slap in the face for Disney. And frankly, it’s one they deserved and hopefully need to get their shit together.

Otherwise, three of the expected nominees got on, and the ones we figured were in contention for the last spot were Klaus, I Lost My Body and Abominable. So they ignored the obvious studio film and went for the better, smaller, more artistic choices. I like their thinking here and I respect the hell out of the category.

If you remember, they opened up the voting for this category and made it so anyone who wanted to could opt in and vote. Which could make big studio voting members just vote for their studio’s film even if it sucked. That first year, The Boss Baby and Ferdinand got on. But so did Loving Vincent and The Breadwinner. Last year, Mirai got on. And Spider-Verse won. So maybe that part was overblown and maybe they’re just about as artistic as they used to be and people voting in the categories are all about what actually is the best animated film. What a novel concept.

But that was all a roundabout way of saying — this is still probably business as usual. I have no reason to think Pixar isn’t winning this.


5. I Lost My Body — It’s a foreign nominee… though it is on Netflix as a dubbed version. It’s the film the least amount of people are going to have heard of, and in an open vote, that’s never a good sign. This needs a big precursor win for it to even remotely feel like it’s in remotely in contention, and guess what… there isn’t one left. It’s gotta be seen as the fifth choice.

4. Klaus — Also Netflix. Generally not particularly well known, but likable and might have been seen by enough people, since BAFTA nominated it. Still don’t think it’ll get enough votes to contend. This definitely feels like the ‘nomination is the reward’ situation.

3. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World — I know people are gonna argue for this as the second choice. Go ahead. Consider it the second choice, make it your second choice, tell me about how it can win and how it’s gonna win. But here’s the thing: it’s a third film. The first two got nominated but none won. The first one lost to the last Toy Story. The second one actually felt like it could have won. But Disney and Big Hero 6 beat it. And… here’s another fact — Toy Story is the only sequel to ever win in this category. None of the other Toy Story movies came out while this category was in existence, so 3 was the first one to win. It was also nominated for Best Picture that year too. But the point is… it’s hard enough to get any sequel to win, let alone get a Pixar sequel even nominated. If I’m betting on any sequel to win, it’s Toy Story and not this. So make it the second choice, but it’s got no precursor and I can’t see why you’d say that except ‘people really liked it and it was great’. Which isn’t what’s gonna happen, it’s what you think. Until this wins BAFTA or the PGA, I can’t see making it more than the third choice.

2. Missing Link — It won the Globe and people respect the shit out of Laika. That’s why it’s second choice. And that shows you the wide gap between Pixar and everyone else. Because this stands no chance and was a nominations quirk away from maybe being a fourth choice in this category. But the Globes voted for it, so we’ve got that, and I think some people will respect the stop-motion and maybe it’ll get a few votes. But I still can’t see enough people having seen this to get it the win over Toy Story. Everyone saw (or at least respects enough to vote blindly for) Toy Story. Maybe this gets Laika votes, but this movie did not do well financially and it got solid but soft reviews (especially as compared to Kubo, which got multiple Oscar nominations). Second choice at best, and honestly the fact that it’s not a sequel and the Globes win is the only thing keeping it here. This is a really locked category, and while that is good for us trying to guess winners… that does make it kinda boring in the end.

1. Toy Story 4 — Having just worked through the other four nominees, I can’t see any universe where this loses. This feels like a lock. Which is crazy. Because theoretically this could have been an open year. I mean, not like last year was, where Incredible 2 and Ralph 2 got on and both lost. But here, with Toy Story and Frozen, something could have snuck right in between while we were figuring out what was gonna win between the two. And here, they just halved the competition? There’s no way this loses. They vote for Disney or Pixar by rote. Big Hero 6 won this category, and that movie sucked. Brave won this category! This is Toy Story! They love this franchise. There’s no way this loses. It won BFCA, it’s gonna win PGA and BAFTA (probably). Something crazy has to come down the pike for me to remotely think anything else has a chance, and even then I’ll probably still say this is gonna win. There’s no Spider-Verse in this category. This is the choice and this is the favorite until it loses.

– – – – – – – – – –


3 responses

  1. HTTYD not having won beforehand is actually a mark FOR it, not AGAINST it. The first two movies are very beloved, and it is kind of like the Academy to give a franchise the nod it deserved after having lost out previously. The only thing which really plays against it is the fact that it was released so early in the year.

    Klaus is my second contender…there is a LOT of buzz around this movie. And the voters might want to jump on the opportunity to honour traditional animation again.

    Link is my third because of the Golden Globe win.

    Believe it or not, but Toy Story 4 is just on place 4. There is just not enough buzz around this movies, and people are just tired of Disney doing sequels.

    January 17, 2020 at 12:58 am

    • Btw, Brave was a typical “the voters wanted to honour past achievements” moment (if it had been about picking a movie by Disney, Wreck-it Ralph would have won), and Big Hero 6 actually was a highly praised movie and, imho, deserved its win. It wasn’t a shoe-in, but it was a strong contender for the year, no matter what you think about the movie, it was extremely well reviewed.

      January 17, 2020 at 3:46 am

  2. Chinoiserie

    I am upset about Frozen II left out, it was more deserving than the other nominees and certainly more than the two other sequels (even though I enjoyed Toy Story 4). And WDAS hasn’t been over-rewarded, if the Academy is tired of Disney it’s due to Pixar.

    January 17, 2020 at 4:58 am

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