Thursday, 27 February 2014

Wide open race for animations

Stop goofing off and get back to rigging the Oscar ballots: Could minion power alone propel 'Despicable Me 2' to victory?

Stop goofing off and get back to rigging the Oscar ballots: Could minion power alone propel 'Despicable Me 2' to victory?

In the absence of a Pixar film, the race for this year’s Best Animated Feature could go any nominee’s way.

A PAIR of Disney princesses, a family of cavemen, a mob of minions, a French/Belgian mouse and a bear, and a Japanese airplane designer. This year’s Oscar nominees for Best Animated Feature – Frozen, The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Ernest & Celestine and The Wind Rises – are an eclectic, enigmatic bunch that truly deserve their nominations.

But wait, something seems missing. Where’s the movie from the animation studio that has been a mainstay of the category since it was created in 2001?

Conspicuous by their absence is Pixar Animation Studios, the company that has won this particular Oscar seven times from a total of nine nominations, through WALL-E, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Brave, Up and Toy Story 3 (the latter two also notched best picture nominations in 2009 and 2010 respectively).

In contrast, Dreamworks Animation has only won two despite being nominated nine times as well – Shrek won the first-ever Oscar in this category in 2001, and Wallace And Gromit: The Curse of The Were-Rabbit won in 2005; while outside these two, only Spirited Away (2002), Happy Feet (2006) and Rango (2011) have triumphed.

So that’s seven out of 12 Oscars that Pixar bagged, though it has only won one out of the last three. Has the giant from Emeryville lost its touch?

The past few years have seen the studio seemingly on cruise control, with just Brave, er… bravely standing out as the only original story amongst sequels Toy Story 3, Cars 2, and Monsters University. The latter two in particular did not resonate as well with critics and audiences as Pixar’s earlier films, and are the only Pixar films NOT nominated for Best Animated Feature since the category was created.

It’s not that they were bad films, just that Pixar had set the bar so high that they were not good enough to be considered Pixar films. Since Monsters University missed out this year, and with no Pixar movies scheduled to be released next year, it’s looking like a barren patch for the studio.

Of course, another way to look at it is that all the other studios have finally caught up. Dreamworks especially has upped its game considerably, with films such as How To Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda and this year’s Despicable Me 2 coming close to the quality in terms of story and animation that we have come to expect from Pixar.

Despicable Me 2 in particular is one of the forerunners for this year’s award, thanks in part to the immense popularity of those annoyingly cute Minions.

Frozen, possibly the closest thing to a Best Animated Feature Oscar favourite, still has a Pixar connection, even though Pixar itself is not represented in the race.
Frozen, possibly the closest thing to a Best Animated Feature Oscar favourite, still has a Pixar connection, even though Pixar itself is not represented in the race.

With Hayao Miyazaki announcing that The Wind Rises would be his final feature film, the Ghibli Studios effort can be considered a dark horse for this year’s Oscar; while The Croods and Ernest & Celestine are probably outsiders.

But wait, just take a look at who is the favourite for this year’s Oscar – Frozen, which already beat The Croods and Despicable Me 2 at the Golden Globes.

Who made the film? Walt Disney Pictures. And who is Disney’s chief creative officer? John Lasseter, co-founder of Pixar, and creator of Toy Story. Pixar itself may have been shut out of the Oscars, but it sure isn’t ready to let go just yet.

Tags / Keywords: Entertainment , Oscars 2014 , Academy Awards , animated features , Frozen , Pixar , Best Animated Feature


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