Friday, April 7, 2017

Squashing the Little Guy?: New Academy Rules May Affect Non-CG Animation

Oh the Academy... At it again...

Up until now, animated features were nominated by two branches: The animation branch, the majority of the branch being animators and people who are waist-deep in that world. The other is the short films branch.

A new rule now says that everyone has a say. Everyone from every other branch of the Academy. Now the actual voters who pick the movies will have more of a say on what gets into the race in the first place.

That's... Troubling, to say the least...

The animation and shorts branches were responsible for getting some little indies into the limelight for a good few minutes. In their attempts to give more mediums a chance, they made at least one controversial decision. The Lego Movie, arguably 2014's greatest animated film, was completely snubbed. Why? Those same pickers wanted traditionally animated works and stop-motion filling some of those slots. The Lego Movie snafu was so big, it was a bigger trending topic than the Oscar nominees on the morning it all went down.

Now as frustrating as that hiccup was... Without these nominating folks, would the likes of Song of the Sea, Ernest and Celestine, any Studio Ghibli film, and so on... Would the likes of those ever have a chance at getting into the race? We know very well that the voters - a whole other group - don't watch most of the films, let alone the animated choices. We also know very well that a chunk of them either have contempt for the medium and/or are tone-deaf.

Do we all remember that leaked ballot back in 2014? Do we all remember that one anonymous voter who nonchalantly called Song of the Sea (an acclaimed Irish animated film) and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (an acclaimed Japanese animated film) "obscure freakin' Chinese f*ckin' things that no one freakin' saw"? Another close-minded individual abstained from picking an animated feature, saying he was done with those things since he/she was 6, and whenever his/her kid wanted to see one... He/she would drop them off at the theater and hang outside on their phone. This past race had a real gem, a fellow who said that he doesn't like animation or even animators! And went on to talk about his "turtle fetish"...

Academy, alright.

Now they'll have more of a say...

Will this push those "obscure freakin' Chinese f*ckin' things" out of the races for good? Will future marvels that aren't from the big guns have a hard time even getting nominated for Best Animated Feature?

Eric Beckman, founder of GKIDS, doesn't seem to think so. In speaking to Cartoon Brew, he expressed hope that the Academy will still nominate a diverse range of features each year. However, the Brew's piece mentions a Wrap article that hints at the whole rule change being a conspiracy to squash "old school" forms of animation (read: traditional, 2D, and stop-motion) out for good.

The committees have been under increasing criticism in recent years for shunning films like The Lego Movie and showing a marked preference for hand-drawn or stop-motion films over CG movies…The move should substantially increase the number of voters in the category, and perhaps lessen the bias toward old-school animation.

Bias towards "old-school animation"... Give me a bloody break.

Like the industry doesn't have a CG bias, 99% of the damn time.

It might be too early to tell, but... I don't like the sound of this. The Academy has shown time and time again that they are stuck in 1987 when it comes to evaluating animation. The Academy has never given it much consideration before then, even. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs should have been nominated for Best Picture of the year it was given a general release (1938, ceremony in early 1939), several of Walt's early films should've been nominated in their respective years. No, it took the Academy until the early 1990s to do it... And then they wouldn't do it again for another 18 years, creating the token category we have now.

Ever since Toy Story 3's nomination in 2010, no animated film has been in the Best Picture race. Inexcusable, but the Academy group is like most Americans - they think animation in almost every form is inferior to films shot with flesh-and-blood people in real-life locations. Imagine an art show only nominating photographs for Best Artworks of the Year. I don't need to spell it out for you animation fans of course, but doesn't that sound so absurd? Who in their right mind thinks a painting is simply inferior because it's not a capture of a real-life subject?

C'mon... Get. With. It.

The Academy Awards are really just an overblown advertisement for Hollywood, it is not the great decider of film excellence. It's an excuse for movie companies to put sexy "Winner of 5 Oscars" blurbs on DVD/Blu-ray jackets. That being said, I felt that some indies and traditionally animated films getting nominated gave them some spotlight that they probably wouldn't get elsewhere. Now, that might be a thing of past.


The Brew and others warn that this rule change could mean that the 5 nominees of this year will be The Lego Batman Movie, Emoji Movie, The Boss Baby, anything mainstream and CGI regardless of quality. Those folks in the feature animation and shorts branches don't have a bias, they want to spotlight high quality works of every kind of animation. Now, leaving out Lego Movie in 2014 - I agree - was a big mistake. If I were them, I would've swapped Big Hero 6 (a very good movie, don't get me wrong) for Lego. That way, we still would've had the 2D Song of the Sea and Kaguya in the race, alongside the stop-mo Boxtrolls.

Honestly, this news and the reports of the change being due to fear of "bias towards old-school animation" is another slap in the face, in a year that I think is - so far - kind of a bummer to begin with. Yeah, I'll say it now, the first quarter of 2017 has been relatively dour and I'm not quite sure on the rest of the year's mainstream output. Couple that with all these photoreal/live-action remakes of animated classics coming out left and right, studios setting up shop only to make the same ol' same ol', things like Emoji Movie happening... Yeah... I'm bummed right now. Not going to lie.

It might've always been this way in some way or another, but I never thought it was this... Worrisome.

What say you?

1 comment:

  1. To be honest I'm just as bummed as you are. In recent years where animated movies have ended up being better than most of the piece of sh*t movies we see today, it really is stupid that people are still in the mindset of that animation is nothing but a kids medium. With great films like The Lego Movie, The Wind Rises, Zootopia and Kubo telling more mature and adult themes than other movies out there really is surprising. The Academy needs to pull their heads out of their asses and acknowledge that animation is an art form and not a kid's medium.