Oscars 2020: Annie Award Nominations

The Annie Award nominations were announced this morning. Somehow I knew they’d be out early. Something about a medium whose films are largely designed for children, it just feels like they’d be releasing earlier in the day than most other guilds.

But anyway, this is all kind of meaningless, since I think, list most years, we’re all pretty sure Pixar is just gonna win with Soul and there will be no drama whatsoever in the category (and I know there are gonna be some people who make the ‘I don’t know… Wolfwalkers’ argument. But I’ve been around this category way too many years than to try to delude myself with that. So really all we’re gonna get out of this is help in figuring out what the other four (or, I guess, three) nominees are gonna be outside of the obvious two in Soul and Wolfwalkers. Animated Feature is one of those categories that sets up obviously, but most of the time the branch will throw a curveball or two by going with more ‘artistic’ films over the obvious mainstream studio films. So I’m interested in seeing what the branch has for us this year.

Here are your Annie nominations:

Best Feature

The Croods: A New Age

Onward

Soul

Trolls World Tour

The Willoughbys

Obvious American studio choices. The only real surprise is that Over the Moon didn’t make it on. That can’t bode well (though I will ignore it if it makes BAFTA next week).

 

Best Indie Feature

Calamity Jane

On-Gaku: Our Sound

Ride Your Wave

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

Wolfwalkers

Whoa. Calamity Jane. Good for them. That was fun. Otherwise, Shaun the Sheep, Wolfwalkers… literally all your major choices are represented here. And you get On-Gaku and Ride Your Wave for extra fun. Solid category, though the lack of No. 7 Cherry Lane and Bombay Rose makes me think twice about things. I’ll have to look into the correlation between Annie nominations and Oscar nominations, but that is something that makes me raise an eyebrow for the moment.

 

Best Direction

Calamity Jane

Over the Moon

Ride Your Wave

Soul

Wolfwalkers

Whoa. Calamity Jane and Ride Your Wave on Direction. Interesting. And there’s Over the Moon, which leads me to believe it was just a squeeze scenario as to why it didn’t make it on.

 

Best Writing

Onward

Over the Moon

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

Soul

Wolfwalkers

Over the Moon is rebounding well, otherwise all obvious choices here.

 

Best Editorial

Calamity Jane

Onward

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

Soul

The Willoughbys

Calamity Jane on Editing. Interesting, interesting.

 

Best Music

Onward

Over the Moon

Soul

The Willoughbys

Wolfwalkers

Yeah, these all make sense. Good year for animated music.

 

Best Production Design

Onward

Soul

Trolls World Tour

The Willoughbys

Wolfwalkers

Has The Croods been nominated anywhere else outside of Best Picture at this point? That’s curious.

 

Best FX

The Croods: A New Age

Over the Moon

Soul

Trolls World Tour

Wolfwalkers

There it is. VFX. That’s not a ringing endorsement. Over the Moon feels like it’s been perfect since the Picture snub. So yeah, not gonna put any credence into that one.

 

Best Character Animation

The Croods: A New Age

Onward

Soul

The Willoughbys

Wolfwalkers

Oh, here are the Croods nominations.

 

Best Character Design

The Croods: A New Age

Soul

Trolls World Tour

The Willoughbys

Wolfwalkers

Pretty much the same six movies everywhere.

 

Best Storyboarding

The Croods: A New Age

Earwig and the Witch

Over the Moon

Soul

Wolfwalkers

Earwig gets one. Interesting. They threw it a bone.

 

Best Voice Acting

Nicolas Cage, The Croods: A New Age (Grug)

Robert G. Chiu, Over the Moon (Chin)

Tom Holland, Onward (Ian Lightfoot)

Vanessa Marshall, Earwig and the Witch (Bella Yaga)

Eva Whittaker, Wolfwalkers (Mebh Óg MacTíre)

CAGE. Overall, solid choices, though.

Also, three more categories worth noting:

Best Special Production

Baba Yaga

Libresse/Bodyform – #WombStories

Nixie & Nimbo

Shooom’s Odyssey

The Snail and the Whale

 

Best Production Design – TV/Media

Baba Yaga

Shooom’s Odyssey

The Adventures of Paddington

To Gerard

Trash Truck

 

Best Editorial – TV/Media

Cops and Robbers

Hilda

If Anything Happens I Love You

Lamp Life

To: Gerard

The Snail and the Whale, To Gerard and If Anything Happens I Love You are all shortlisted for Best Animated Short. So that might lead to one thinking those have a stronger chance at getting nominated there.

– – – – –

So, to break all those down, here are the number of nominations each film got (* means not nominated for Best Picture or Best Indie):

  • Soul — 10
  • Wolfwalkers — 10
  • Onward — 7
  • The Croods — 6
  • Over the Moon — 6*
  • Willoughbys — 6
  • Trolls World Tour — 4
  • Calamity Jane — 3
  • Shaun the Sheep – 3
  • Earwig and the Witch — 2*
  • Ride Your Wave — 2
  • On-Gaku — 1

So basically this tells me essentially what I knew all along — there are only about eight total real choices in this category. The surprise omission for me is Bombay Rose, since that feels like it might have been up their alley. But I’m wondering if maybe it wasn’t eligible for this year and will show up next year? Dunno. But barring that, this is all in line with what I expected. I never considered On-Gaku a contender and with only one nomination, it’s really not. Earwig got token ‘we respect Ghibli’ nominations but I don’t think anyone expects that to contend. Ride Your Wave getting on Best Direction makes me respect it a little more, but at best that’s a fringe contender you probably just have to let beat you (even though I, personally, would nominate it. But if that mattered, the nominations each year would look much different than they do). Calamity Jane is the one that gained the most ground for me. I really didn’t think they’d go for something like that, as charming as it is. But Best Indie, Direction and Editing… maybe that’s just because it’s a western, but that makes me think it has an outside chance, especially with what we’re gonna get into in a second.

Your category, as evidenced by the nominations here, begins and ends with Soul and Wolfwalkers. Those are the two sure things and you already have 40% of the category done for you before you even start to think about it. So that’s two. And then you have five other films with sizable nominations from this guild: Onward, The Croods, Over the Moon, The Willoughbys and Trolls World Tour. And Shaun the Sheep, which only has three but is Aardman, who have a history in this category. So six. Which again brings me back to the eight I said at the top. There usually aren’t more than eight major contenders and once you get your eight, you’re usually set.

NOW… this is where the intriguing parts come in.

Because, as much as Trolls World Tour got four total nominations here, and as much as, on paper, it got the requisite requirements to fit in this category (70+% on Rotten Tomatoes, a high enough profile and, to a lesser extent, great financial success), the first one wasn’t nominated and I don’t think anyone truly thinks of that as a major contender. Could it happen? Sure. Anything could happen. Uwe Boll could sweep the Oscars one of these years. You don’t know. But Trolls does not remotely feel like the kind of film they go for here, so in my own personal thinking, I’m gonna put one of those more ‘artistic’ contenders on there in that spot, like a Calamity Jane or a Ride Your Wave. Which is why I was so confused at the lack of Bombay Rose love, since that felt a lot like something they might consider in this category. But the point is, they almost never exclusively go for American studio stuff. And even that one year I always want to point out, with Ferdinand and The Boss Baby, you forget that two of the high profile contenders that year were The Breadwinner and Loving Vincent, which were the artistic films. It’s just rare for those to be the sure things over the studio stuff. Usually it’s the artistic stuff that sneaks on, like I Lost My Body or Boy and the World.

So taking Trolls off, that leaves me with Soul and Wolfwalkers on and three spots to go. The obvious contenders for those three spots now become Onward, The Croods, Over the Moon and The Willoughbys. Which brings two major questions to the forefront: will they nominate Pixar twice and will two Netflix movies make it on? It’s extremely rare for Disney and/or Pixar to make it on this list twice. They did in 2016 with Moana and Zootopia, but those were considered especially good films for that year. Will Onward be considered of that level enough to make it on? I don’t know. If you remember, last year, they had Frozen II and Toy Story 4 and they left Frozen off even despite it having gotten the most Annie Award nominations (8, I think, if I remember correctly) of anything. So no matter how much Onward looks like a sure thing, it never is when you’re dealing with the possibility of dual Pixar nominations. They tend to find a way to leave them off over putting them on twice. Though there are arguments to be made on both sides there. Namely — a lot of what was left off were sequels: Finding Dory, Monsters U, Cars 3, etc. The only original Pixar movie to be left off was The Good Dinosaur. And again you can argue about why that was left off, but the fact is that it was. So you never really know for sure whether Onward is a definite contender or not.

I tend to lean toward yes over no, just because you don’t want to be the idiot who left it off when they so obviously were gonna nominate it and also because this one feels like a lot of people felt emotionally connected to the narrative of the film more so than a Frozen II or something that didn’t really have that going for it. Most of the time we just assume Pixar or Disney will get on because of who they are and because even their mediocre films tend to be better than 80-90% of all other American studio animation. Look — you’ve got arguments on both sides here. Frozen II was left off last year, but Ralph Breaks the Internet and Incredibles 2 both got on in 2018. We’re not gonna know what the deal is until we get a final category. But right now, I personally am leaning toward Onward getting on versus being left off. We’ll see what the next ten days bring us.

So if I assume Onward gets on, then it’s two spots, and three films to look at: Over the Moon, Willoughbys and The Croods. Which brings us to question two — Netflix. I can’t see them going for two Netflix movies, but you never really know (also Bombay Rose is also Netflix, not that it matters, since it’s pretty clear by this point it’s not gonna get on). I don’t really know how they feel about Netflix as a company at the moment. So I’m hesitant to just assume they’re gonna go for them like that, even though they do tend to put the animation first most of the time (even though you do tend to see them heavily favor American studio stuff for the most part).

Both films got six total nominations here and, while Over the Moon missed the Picture list, it did really well elsewhere. I don’t really know how you parse that one except to say, Over the Moon feels like the better choice of the two, given who co-directed it and the overall feel of the film. I wanna see where BAFTA goes with their category (since their longlist is The Croods, Onward, Over the Moon, Soul, Willoughbys and Wolfwalkers). They tend to nominate three films (though occasionally there are four). And I want to see what makes their final spot. Whatever it ends up being will greatly enhance my belief that film will make the final list (I’m expecting to see either Onward or Over the Moon there, honestly). But right now, my gut says Over the Moon is more likely to get on over Willoughbys and that Netflix is unlikely to get on twice.

So that’s four films and one spot remaining. Which leaves The Croods and Shaun the Sheep. Which makes this such an interesting year here, because Aardman is almost always guaranteed that final spot. Shaun the Sheep was nominated at BAFTA last year and the Academy tends to love their stuff. And The Croods — studio movie, well-reviewed,  first one got on — also fits. And then you have to consider the notion of something like a Calamity Jane potentially getting on as well. This year’s a lot tougher for something like that, which leads me to believe it probably won’t. But even if you take the more indie stuff off, you still have to decide if Onward is getting on as well. There’s a lot of delicate architecture that’s gonna go into guessing this one, which will make it fun for me to guess the category. And then we’ll just get Soul winning and the outcome will already be decided. Which will make it less fun for Oscar night, even if it becomes one of the categories you can count on to get you an easy win.

– – – – –

So that was a lot of rambling to ultimately get me to the same place I was a month ago (with maybe some slight shifting in the lower ranks). Right now, if you asked me to pick the category, this is what I’d tell you:

Onward

Over the Moon

Shaun the Sheep: Farmageddon

Soul

Wolfwalkers

Alternate: The Croods: A New Age

Dark Horse: The Willoughbys

Surprise: Calamity Jane; Ride Your Wave; Trolls World Tour

Shocker: Bombay RoseEarwig and the Witch

I even stretched it a bit with some of those bottom ones. But I wouldn’t go any further than that in trying to guess nominee. MAYBE you wanna consider a Calmity or Ride Your Wave on a surprise entry spot, but below that, just let it happen. Even with the ones I didn’t list here that are eligible. Just let them happen.

This feels a lot like it’s gonna be five of those top seven, with maybe a potential surprise coming in, but even then they feel slight at best. Nothing feels like a truly legitimate spoiler. Plus you can make the case that Wolfwalkers and Shaun the Sheep are the ‘artistic’ films of the year, which allows for those final two spots to be a combination of Over the Moon, Onward, Willoughbys and Croods.

I’m gonna do some digging into Annies vs. Oscars to see if anything illuminates for me in terms of being able to pick out the ‘Boy and the World/I Lost My Body’ surprise, but I’ll probably just default to the usual of ‘it’s typically pretty obvious what’s gonna happen here’ because it feels like if there was a pattern you could spot, we’d have figured it out by now.

Given what the BAFTA map looks like, it’s only really gonna potentially shift the top seven around a bit, so I think we might just be looking at chalk this year, despite some of the mini-complexities (double Pixar, double Netflix) going on inside the chalk. But still, odds are you’re probably set for 4/5 in this one no matter how you slice it, and maybe 3/5 if you happen to go with the wrong set of two on the bottom. But overall, if you are guessing what nominations are gonna be, this has to feel like one of the more comfortable categories. If I’m gonna worry about bombing something, it’s not gonna be this one.

– – – – –

UPDATE:

As this article was posted, I started looking through the Annie Awards over the past decade (the Oscar category was three films in 2010, so I started from 2011 forward) to see what the correlation between Annie nominations and Oscar nominations is. Here’s what I found:

  • 2011: The top three nominated films at the Annies (Kung Fu Panda 2 with 10 and Puss in Boots and Rango with 9) were all nominated. Rio and Winnie the Pooh, with 8 nominations, were not. Arthur Christmas and Cars 2 both had 6 and Tintin had 5 and weren’t nominated. The two final nominees, if you remember, were Chico and Rita and A Cat in Paris, which both only got nominated in the big Best Feature category. Neither of the two surprises were nominated anywhere else, which is why they remain one of the biggest curveballs a branch has given us over the past decade.
  • 2012: Three of the top five nominated films were nominated (Brave, Wreck-It Ralph, ParaNorman). All had between 7 and 10 Annie nominations. The two that weren’t were Rise of the Guardians (10 noms) and Hotel Transylvania (8 noms). Guardians did manage to get both PGA and BFCA nominations, so it does rate as a minor surprise it didn’t make the final list. The other two nominees, Frankenweenie and Pirates! Band of Misfits, both got 5 Annie nominations (Frankenweenie was nominated across the board at the precursors, marking Pirates as the surprise fifth entry. Which, as we know now with Aardman, makes some sense).
  • 2013: Four of the top five nominated films (between 6 and 10 nominations) made the Oscar list. The one swap was Monsters University, which, as we know now, is part of the ‘not voting for Pixar sequels’ thing they have. 2011 and Cars 2 could be taken as an outlier if they didn’t routinely keep doing it. The next-highest vote-getters were Turbo and Epic, neither of which really felt like legitimate choices. The eventual fifth nominee, The Wind Rises, only got 3 Annie nominations (and was pretty much the biggest lock on the board next to Frozen).
  • 2014: The top four nominated films all got nominated (7-13 nominations). The fifth was Lego Movie, with 6, and we all know how that turned out. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, the fifth nominee, only got 2 Annie nominations and had zero precursors on top of that.
  • 2015: Three of the top five nominated films made the Oscar list, Inside Out (14 noms), Anomalisa and Shaun the Sheep (5 noms each). Three movies tied at 5 noms, so there are six top nominated films, but it’s all the same. The Good Dinosaur had 10 nominations but wasn’t nominated (again, the Pixar thing). Minions had 7 and wasn’t nominated (didn’t feel like one that would) and The Peanuts Movie had 5 and wasn’t nominated (doesn’t fit what we know to be their style). Boy and the World and Marnie Was There both had 3 nominations apiece and had no precursors. But we know they like Ghibli, and Boy and the World shakes out as one of those surprises that fits the kind of surprise they like to give us.
  • 2016: The top four nominated films all were nominated (Zootopia (11 noms), Kubo (10), Moana (6), The Red Turtle (5)). The next most nominated films, Kung Fu Panda 3 and Trolls, both had 4 nominations apiece but never felt like they seriously factored into that category. Below them were Finding Dory and My Life as a Zucchini with 3 apiece, and that again speaks to the Pixar sequel snubbing, as ‘Zucchini’ made the final spot. Of note is that Finding Dory was nominated across the board in precursors and was still left off in favor of ‘Zucchini’ (which only got a Globe nomination that year. BAFTA nominated it the following year).
  • 2017: The top three nominated films made the Oscar list Coco (13), Breadwinner (10) and Boss Baby (6). No other film that year managed more than three nominations. Which includes Lego Batman Movie, Despicable Me 3, The Big Bad Fox and Captain Underpants (all with 3). None of them felt like legitimate contenders. Then you have, at 2 nominations, Cars 3, Ferdinand, Loving Vincent and Mary and the Witch’s Flower. And again, by now you understand the Pixar snub, we knew ‘Vincent’ would get on and then it came down to the final spot, which ended up being Ferdninand (which did get PGA and Globe nominations).
  • 2018: Three of the top five nominated films were nominated; Incredibles 2 (11), Ralph Breaks the Internet (10) and Into the Spider-Verse (7). Early Man also had 7 nominations and was left off. Isle of Dogs tied The Grinch with 4 nominations (but we all knew it would get on and The Grinch wouldn’t), and Mirai only had 2 nominations (but did hit the Globes and BFCA).
  • 2019: Frozen II tied for the most Annie nominations with 8 and was left off (Pixar sequel) and the next five most-nominated films comprised the Oscar list (all between 6 and 8 nominations). So basically, top six and then take off the Disney sequel. That’s as smooth as I’ve seen it.

So, if I were to apply what I saw here to this list:

  • Soul — 10
  • Wolfwalkers — 10
  • Onward — 7
  • The Croods — 6
  • Over the Moon — 6*
  • Willoughbys — 6
  • Trolls World Tour — 4
  • Calamity Jane — 3
  • Shaun the Sheep – 3
  • Earwig and the Witch — 2*
  • Ride Your Wave — 2

Soul, Wolfwalkers, Onward, Croods, Over the Moon and Willoughbys are six tied. And Onward could be left off, but you also have the Willoughbys situation as well. Trolls doesn’t feel like something that will, Calamity Jane is there as a sleeper, and Shaun the Sheep is there as the Aardman entry. Though it’s their lowest number of nominations in a decade, so I don’t know what that means. Though Early Man had 7, their most, and was left off. So who knows.

Basically I did all the work and came out going, “The Annies do help let you know which films are generally the most liked,” but I never paid attention to them before and came out almost exactly the same as I did here with pure logic. So I guess this is just one other measure I could’ve used and maybe it would have helped me if I hadn’t instinctively known The Willoughbys was gonna be a contender.

So yeah. Same seven films with the one sleeper right there. Basically just confirmed what I already thought.

– – – – – – – – – –

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