The animated race begins! The nominations for Animated Feature Film for the 91st Academy Awards have been announced and the category is competitive. Showcasing a range of animation styles, returning favourites and new innovations the nominations demonstrate a great variety of animation that is being produced today.
The first nomination is one of the most anticipated animation releases with 14 years between the first film and the sequel. The Incredibles 2 saw a welcome return by both audiences and critics alike. Continuing on almost simultaneously from where the first film left off, the Parr family have now accepted their duty as superheroes. Mrs Incredible becomes the face of a new campaign to make super's legal again and contends with a digital villain whilst Mr Incredible is left behind in charge of domestic duties with Violet, Dash and Jack-Jack. Incredibles favourites Edna Mode and Frozone return much to the delight of the audience and the film is not lacking in hilarious moments as the family come to terms with their new roles. As is expected it’s hard not to compare the Incredibles 2 to its predecessor and with such an anxious wait for the film the stakes were high for Pixar to deliver. For me it didn't perform as well as the first, the story becoming predictable at times and the animation itself was not revolutionary unlike some of the other films nominated in this category. To its credit, the film demonstrates empowering female roles which is a positive representation for the younger audiences driven to this type of film. In light of Pixar’s win last year with Coco, I argue that Incredibles 2 doesn’t compare. It’s more a treat for the nostalgic millennial than for the artful eye, though acknowledging Disney’s success in this category is still a serious contender.
Ralph Breaks the Internet
The domination of Walt Disney Studios in this category comes as no surprise as previous years saw nominations with Zootopia and Moana. Ralph Breaks the Internet is also a sequel, coming after the success of Wreck it Ralph. Moving on from the confines of their arcade Ralph and Vanellope discover a Wi-Fi router and embark on an adventure to the world wide web. The story concept itself is an interesting development from the first film and the physical manifestations of the internet seen in the animation certainly make for an entertaining watch. The script still maintains the Pixar family-friendly messages of friendship and acceptance, particularly between Ralph and Vanellope. However, the film hit a few bumps in the road in production, whereby the inclusion of Disney Princesses saw backlash due to the colouring of characters such as Tiana where audiences said her skin tone had been lightened. I would suggest Ralph Breaks the Internet is the most child and family friendly orientated film in the category, which does not serve it well for its chances of taking home an award. Its nomination is similar to that of last year with Boss Baby, which was a disappointing inclusion for the Oscar nomination. However, to its credit, Ralph Breaks The Internet is more tasteful and critically relevant with well-established and loved characters, though the chances of a win are slim.
Isle of Dogs
Established director Wes Anderson is a well-seasoned Academy nominee. With six nominations under his belt, he is certainly due for a win, which could hopefully come in the form of Animated Feature film for Isle of Dogs. His second stop motion animation, after Fantastic Mr Fox which was also nominated in 2002, is grittier than his usual style but the story is undeniably heart-warming. Set 20 years in the future the fictional Japanese city of Megasaki is under the rule of mayor Kobayashi who orders the large population of dogs to be shipped to trash island and suddenly a man is without his best friend. The island is then rampant with canine's sick with ‘snout fever' and scavenging to survive where it is every dog for himself. Until young boy Atari embarks on a mission to trash island hoping to retrieve his loved dog spots. An array of stars such as Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Bryan Cranston and Scarlett Johansson feature in the adventure of brilliantly animated puppets set in Anderson's fictional land of symmetry. The stylised animation seems primed for Oscar success though it seems Anderson has become the Leonardo Dicaprio of directors, waiting patiently for his well-deserved award and always coming close. Hopefully, Isle of Dogs can become his Revenant, he absolutely deserves it.
Anime nominations at the Oscars are unfortunately few and far between, so it is refreshing to see feature Mirai no Mirai (English title Mirai) from director Mamoru Hosoda recognised. The win of Spirited Away in 2003 seems a lifetime ago and since then there has been only a handful of nominations for anime in this category, none of which were successful. Alike Spirited Away Mirai explores time travel and fantastical worlds through the eyes of Kun, a stubborn young boy upset by the arrival of his baby sister Mirai (meaning future in Japanese). He begins to resent his family as they take care of the new baby, and in his anger stumbles upon a magical garden where he encounters not only his family members as their younger selves but is visited by Mirai from the future. In many adventures, Kun learns the value of family, love and acceptance. Aside from the foreign categories most films in the Oscars originate from American or western works, and such despite the overwhelming popularity of Anime, this form of animation is rarely successful in the Academy Awards. Though the story and the animation are undeniably cute and heart-warming I don’t see Hosoda’s childhood fantasy taking the award in such a competitive category.
Into the Spider-Verse
With the nomination of Black Panther for Best Picture and Into the Spider-Verse for Animated Feature Film, it's fair to say the Marvel franchise is having a successful year at the Oscars. Their nominations not only demonstrate the popularity of superhero films but more pertinently that Marvel and the Academy are making positive changes for greater
race representation in cinema after the #OscarsSoWhite scandal in 2016. The film follows Miles Morales, the first black Spider-Man, a teen living in New York whose life is turned upside down when he is bitten by a radioactive spider and is unable to get to grips with his new powers. He meets Peter Parker from another universe who is trapped in the wrong dimension and the two team up to get him home. Their adventures lead them to a whole group Spider-people from the Spider-Verse who band together to fight evil and also save each other. The comic book style of animation is one reason why this film was highly anticipated. The visual style was rendered by experimental animation techniques such as the elimination of motion blur and the scaling down of frames per second to 12, not the usual 24. The resulting look is sharper and more defined, designed to replicate comic book strips in a hand-drawn style. The innovative use of computer animation could see Into the Spider-Verse take the Oscar for its entertaining and artistic endeavours in contemporary animation.
Who is most likely to win?
It's due time for Wes Anderson to take home an Oscar for his contribution to not only live-action cinema but also animation. Over the years he has established himself as a modern auteur telling great stories and whose whimsical style is loved by audiences. However, the animated installation from the Marvel franchise could sweep in and take the award. The artistic skill and endeavour to break away from the norm shows the heights that animation can reach, and is a far cry more sophisticated than some of the other features nominated in the category. The Incredibles 2 is still a worthy contender and Disney are known to take the cake in this category so that nomination cannot be ignored. Perhaps a dog will finally have its day, we can only wait.