Thursday, November 3, 2016

Ready, Set, Go: The Eligible Films in the Animated Feature Race [UPDATE]


That time is upon once again folks...

The Oscar prelude...

Note: The real list was released today - November 11th... What follows is the original article, and then the update, for a lot of the films on the Variety list ended up being on the official list...

Variety has released the (note: unofficial, but still very likely) list of 21 eligible animated features aiming for the five nomination slots. As usual, I'll list them and some premature predictions. Alphabetical order, let's go!

First up is Rovio and Sony ImageWorks' The Angry Birds Movie, based on that app we all know. It wasn't all that well-received, it's not award winner material. After The Lego Movie's snub, I'm not sure the Oscars would consider another big brand-based movie, especially one whose critical reception was nowhere near the unanimous praise for the brick flick.

Next up is April and the Extraordinary World. GKIDS knows how to score with great independent animated features, as their other releases put up a good fight in previous Oscar races, even imported films that were around 2-3 years old! April and the Extraordinary World blended sci-fi, steampunk, and adventure into a beautiful traditionally animated story. With the way the Oscar nom-pickers are now, I can see this being a very strong candidate... But GKIDS has other strong contenders on hand.

Then we get to Finding Dory... Here's where things get a little tough... The Academy has shown little love for non-Toy Story Pixar sequels, but with one of them (Cars 2) the reasons are obvious. Monsters University on the other hand got good enough reception, but Disney themselves didn't push the Pixar prequel, they poured all the Oscar love into "grand event" Frozen from Walt Disney Animation Studios. Monsters University should've gotten into the race, not fluff like Despicable Me 2 and The Croods. Anyways, Finding Dory's critical reception, not to mention its box office, is significantly better. The film also explored disabilities, and was very resonant. And of course, it is Pixar in good form. Those right there guarantee it a nom, right?

No, actually... Ever since the changes to the Oscars were implemented, things have been different in animationland. After 2013, the folk who pick the nominees for Best Animated Feature made it their mission to make more diverse choices. This is why The Lego Movie got left out of the 2014 race, and why LAIKA's stop-motion film The Boxtrolls - a pleasant but unspectacular film - got in. It also made room for great films like Song of the Sea and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. Finding Dory, being a "good" mainstreamer and a sequel in this new climate, was already not quite locked. In 2011, it would've been.


Disney also has two other animated biggies, both from Walt Disney Animation Studios. Zootopia I think is a guaranteed lock given the film's quality and the fact that it tackled timely issues, it's one of the best-received movies of the year. Some have worried that the Oscars could last-minute view it as a Lego Movie-type, but I don't think so. In a year where most of the mainstreamers have been good enough, Zootopia has quite a few advantages. Moana is the one to look out for, for it is a big musical in the Renaissance tradition, it's about a princess (and the marketing is emphasizing the "girl power"), it has all those ingredients they love, is sure to be a box office smash. Oh, and the guy behind Hamilton was a driving force in the film's soundtrack.

(Okay, I guess we can ignore alphabetical order from this point onward...)

If Moana gets Frozen-level reception or higher, I think it's a lock. Zootopia and Moana getting into the race could squeeze the Pixar sequel out, for the three other slots need to go to films that would normally get pushed out by mainstreamers. Since the likes of Kung Fu Panda 3 and The Secret Life of Pets weren't spectacular, there's lots of room. Sing could be a potential candidate. No Illumination film has gotten unanimous praise yet, and early buzz on this feature - screened at the Toronto International Film Festival a few months back - is quite good... But will it be loved enough to get a nod? Since both aren't out yet, Moana and Sing are kind of up in the air, though I think the former has higher chances at locking a slot than the latter. Kubo and the Two Strings is definitely a lock. LAIKA, stop-motion, it's excellent. It's in.

GKIDS is loaded. They have acclaimed films from all around the world, like Phantom Boy and Miss Hokusai. My Life as a Zucchini, a stop-motion film from France and Switzerland, shouldn't be counted out either for it tackles some weighty themes. The last of the GKIDS releases is Mune: Guardian of the Moon, which is definitely more kid-oriented and cutesy. I don't think one really has a chance.

Sony Classics is readying The Red Turtle, which goes wide in January 2017. That's a co-production with Studio Ghibli, so that has a very good chance at getting in. Your Name is the current anime sensation, a blockbuster in Japan that has gotten lots of praise. That is being brought here via FUNimation. Shout! Factory has the 2D Long Way North, which could get in, but the other indies seem stronger. The Little Prince got lots of love, is thankfully eligible, and it's stop-motion... But I still feel that others have a greater chance at getting in.

The rest are the mainstreamers. Ice Age: Collision Course? Nope. Sausage Party? Nada, despite the aggressive push it's getting. Trolls? Nope. Secret Life of Pets? Not really. Ratchet & Clank? Forget it. Storks? Also not really. The Jungle Book is not counted, despite the fact that everything in that movie except Mowgli is CG. I must give the animation branch props for focusing on animated movies that know they're animated, not VFX trying to emulate real life... But still, it's kind of a contradiction, and this is coming from someone who didn't love the film.

Anyways...

The Angry Birds Movie - 5% chance
April and the Extraordinary World - 90% chance
Finding Dory - 80% chance
Ice Age: Collision Course - 0% chance
Kubo and the Two Strings - 100% chance
Kung Fu Panda 3 - 50% chance
The Little Prince - 70% chance
Long Way North - 70% chance
Miss Hokusai - 80% chance
Moana - depends on quality, will update
Mune: Guardian of the Moon - 10% chance
My Life as a Zucchini - 75% chance
Phantom Boy - 90% chance
Ratchet & Clank - 0% chance
The Red Turtle - 90% chance
Sausage Party - 50% chance
The Secret Life of Pets - 50% chance
Sing - depends on quality, will update
Storks - 50% chance
Trolls - 50% chance
Your Name - 80% chance
Zootopia - 100% chance

Buckle up, I think it's going to be a wild race...

Update...

The real list is here, as of November 11th... It includes a record twenty-seven animated features...

Here are the ones I missed, all which are foreign/independent features:

Bilal - From last year, a UAE-produced animated feature based on the real-life Bilal ibn Rabah.

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV - Based on the long-running video game series, this opened theatrically in Japan this past summer.

Monkey King: Hero is Back - Another entry that is actually over a year old. The Chinese animated feature that at one time held the record for biggest animated movie in that country.

Mustafa & the Magician - Apparently an Indian production. Can't seem to find much on this one.

Snowtime! - Another 2015 film, from Canada. I've heard good things about this one.

25 April - A New Zealand production about the 1915 Gallipoli Campaign. This also came out at festivals last year.

I can't say much about these inclusions, because I feel their changes at getting in are similar to some of the other indies that I already went over.

You'll also notice that Norm of the North, The Wild Life, and Ratchet & Clank are completely absent. Not submitted, I see...

Reviews for Moana are already pretty good, so I think it's chances are very high at getting in, but some reviewers seem a bit dissatisfied with the story. From now on, I think this and Finding Dory will compete for a second slot for The Walt Disney Company. I think Zootopia easily locks one, so for the other slot, it's either Disney Animation's Oceanic odyssey or Pixar's return to the big blue. Who gets in?

Anyways, revised:

The Angry Birds Movie - 5% chance
April and the Extraordinary World - 90% chance
Balil - 25%
Finding Dory - 80% chance
Ice Age: Collision Course - 0% chance
Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV - 25% chance
Kubo and the Two Strings - 100% chance
Kung Fu Panda 3 - 50% chance
The Little Prince - 70% chance
Long Way North - 70% chance
Miss Hokusai - 80% chance
Moana - 80% chance
Monkey King: Hero is Back - 15%
Mustafa & the Magician - 15%
Mune: Guardian of the Moon - 10% chance
My Life as a Zucchini - 75% chance
Phantom Boy - 90% chance
Ratchet & Clank - 0% chance
The Red Turtle - 90% chance
Sausage Party - 50% chance
The Secret Life of Pets - 50% chance
Sing - depends on quality, will update
Snowtime! - 25% chance
Storks - 50% chance
Trolls - 50% chance
25 April - 25% chance
Your Name - 80% chance
Zootopia - 100% chance

The plot thickens...

2 comments:

  1. Do you think we'll get any animated Best Picture nominees this year?

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    Replies
    1. I really hope so. I guess 'Zootopia' is the only one that has a shot at getting Best Picture nom. At the same time, I kind of doubt anything gets in, considering 'Inside Out' didn't... But who knows with the Oscars.

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