In the 82-year history of the Oscars, no animated feature has ever won the Best Picture award. Despite the fondness felt toward Disney classics and the critical acclaim given to modern Pixar features, the Academy ignores animation when giving out its most prestigious award. Now, it looks like this could start to change.
That animated features have difficulty shedding the labels of ‘cartoon’ and ‘kid’s movie’ is the explanation most commonly offered for their being snubbed. Whilst these descriptions aren’t inaccurate, they’re not the only obstacles facing animation. Much emphasis is put on the aesthetic elements of these pictures, such as their visuals and sound, and as a result an animated film’s credentials for having an intelligent story are overlooked. Pixar classics such as Toy Story, Monsters Inc. and Up have won Oscars, as well as for Best Animated Feature, for Special Achievement, Original Song and Original Score respectively, yet missed out on the likes of Best Screenplay and, of course, Best Picture.
The large number of actors that make up the Academy too plays a significant role, as they are generally more prone to rewarding films with outstanding performances, something very difficult to achieve for actors restricted to voice-overs.
However, in recent years we have witnessed an increased recognition of animated features. It’s fair to say that Pixar are almost solely responsible for this trend, after their outstanding films WALL-E, Up and this year’s Toy Story 3 amassed sixteen nominations between them over the last three years, with the latter two becoming the only animations other than Beauty and the Beast (1991) to be nominated for Best Picture.
Though it could be argued that both these nominations were aided largely by the Academy’s recent doubling of nominated films, what’s for certain is that there have been an increasing number of calls from critics and the public alike for these films to be honoured. Up and Toy Story 3 both received the highest rating of the year on Rotten Tomatoes, WALL-E was ranked movie of the decade in TIME magazine, and all three are much loved among the public.
None more so than this year’s hope Toy Story 3. Pixar’s latest hit has become an instant classic, revered as a comedy, tearjerker and homage to childhood. As a trilogy the films have been described by some as the greatest of all time, ahead of Academy favourites The Godfather and Lord of the Rings. Yet whilst its uplifting tone and sentimentality should make it typical Oscar-winning material, the Academy seems set to overlook Toy Story 3, with bookies offering odds on its victory of over 100-1.
This year may be too early for an animation’s first ever Best Picture accolade. The Academy is renowned for its conservatism, so any change that does occur will be slow. But if Pixar continue making such outstanding films, the Academy will not be able to ignore them much longer.