If there was a success story at the box office this year, it was Toy Story 3. The highest-grossing film of the year and the 5th highest-grossing film of all time made over a billion dollars and – crucially, considering that its closest contender for the biggest box office sales in 2010 was The Twilight Saga: Eclipse – received almost universal critical acclaim. It was a film that appealed to pretty much everyone: those in their late teens and early twenties who have grown up with the franchise, older adults who took their kids to see the first film, and of course the children of a new generation (it’s not a film that presupposes much knowledge of the original two to make sense).
With that in mind, it’d be a shock if it wasn’t a shoe-in for Best Animated Feature at this year’s Oscars – the jury would have to be insane not to nominate it, and only slightly less nuts to let another film win the award. With such high acclaim, it’ll almost definitely get a Best Picture nomination too, like last year’s Up. But can it win?
With pretty much everyone in agreement on the category TS3 should win, and dispassionate about the host of technical awards Pixar could also rake in, the potential nomination for Best Picture is one that has some in Hollywood up in arms, and others nodding with smug satisfaction. On the one hand, it is controversial: an animated feature has never won Best Picture (though both Beauty and the Beast and Up have been nominated), and it’s perfectly possible that this isn’t just because the opportunity hasn’t arisen. Purists might argue that with animation, the job of the actor is significantly reduced – they only need to concentrate on their voice, and for all we know they could be gurning in the recording studios where they provide their creative input. Half of the emotion is arguably transferred to the talented animators and technical teams who put in the hours to make sure that every character resonates perfectly.
A closer look at the Oscar nominations for last year back this up a little: five of the nominations for Best Actor or Actress were from films nominated for Best Picture, and – notably – it was The Hurt Locker, with Jeremy Renner nominated for Best Actor, that won Best Picture in the end.
Of course, this all sounds very intuitive – it doesn’t take a genius to work out that sometimes an otherwise dire film can be elevated to new heights because of the performance of its starring actors. But if there’s anything that Avatar showed us, it’s that sometimes the reverse can be true. With lacklustre performances and a plot lifted entirely from Pocahontas, two of the elements one would think were essential ended up being more than made up for by stunning visuals, a breathtaking setting and perfectly executed action sequences – it was technical mastery that lifted it out of the dirt and made it the highest-grossing film of all time. That, and the fact that it was rubbish if you didn’t pay extra to see it in 3D.
Back to Toy Story 3: a film with excellent voice acting, a killer story, a fantastic world to explore and some genuine moments of catharsis. It’s a film where everything fits into place, something Pixar have always been good at: where Tom Hanks’s impeccable voice work ends, Woody’s facial expressions pick up seamlessly. If it wins Best Picture, it’ll be a shock to the system – the first time in a long while where a film hasn’t won because of an astounding lead performance, but instead a groundbreaking collaboration on all fronts. But then, the PR division at Pixar know that, and that’s why they’re leading their posters with lines like “not since Lord of the Rings: Return of the King…” – they know that a win would be unorthodox, so they’re championing past winners that shocked the world. With any luck, somewhere down the line the phrase “not since Toy Story 3” will be used by future Oscar hopefuls.