Editor’s Note: February is Oscar month and we’re going through the nominees leading up to Oscar night on the 28th. We turn to the youngest of the main categories, animation!
Anomalisa (Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson and Rosa Tran)
Boy and the World (Alê Abreu)
Inside Out (Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera)
Shaun the Sheep (Mark Burton and Richard Starzak)
When Marnie Was There (Hiromasa Yonebayashi and Yoshiaki Nishimura)
Trivia: Pixar has won this award seven times out of fifteen previous nominees, were Inside Out to reign surprise it would mean they have won this category 50% of the time. Peter Docter is the only previous winner nominated, he won for Up.
At first glance this year’s nominees for the Best Animation Oscar are worlds apart; Disney’s Inside Out was the fourth top grossing film of 2015, When Marnie Was There is the latest offering from the renowned Studio Ghibli and Shaun the Sheep from Aardman. Anomalisa won the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival. Then there is Boy and the World from the relatively unknown Brazillian Alê Abreu, which is not as well known.
Boy and the World should not be underestimated, however, as it has already won the Annie Award for the Best Independent Animated film beating When Marnie Was There in the same category. The overall winner for Best Animated film at the Annie’s was Inside Out which beat Anomalisa and Shaun the Sheep there. All of these films have clearly shown their quality across various awarding platforms, it will be interesting therefore to see what happens when the films are all pitted directly against each other for the first time.
It’s also refreshing, in an age of ever improving digital animation, that two of the nominees are classic stopmotion offerings; both Anomalisa and Shaun the Sheep have avoided the temptation of ever improving digital technology to bring their characters to life. Additionally, Boy and the World employs a very simplistic animation style akin to the drawings of a child. These simpler styles however, often show their worth in the types of stories and intrigues they create it will be interesting to see which of these styles will win over the members of the Academy.
Taking each film individually we should start with the blockbuster, Inside Out. Inside Out has reached almost $900 million at the box office receiving rave reviews across the board. Praised for its portrayal of growing up and feeling sad it has often been said that the film is more suited to adults than children who are more likely to understand its contents. It is hard to see a universe where this won’t win an Oscar, though the competition is tight.
Anomalisa hasn’t even been released two months but it has caused quite a stir. Where Inside Out blurs between the adult and the child Anomalisa is very much in the adult, an R Rated film as the Americans put it. If you are thinking that animation is a strange medium for an R or 18 film then you would be correct as far as the Oscars are concerned anyway. It’s a first for the animation category to accept a film of this rating. Could success for this film change the contents of animation films for good?
Shaun the Sheep is the best of British animation on show. The experienced team at Aardman were able to work their magic once more to bring one of the world’s most famous sheep from TV to the big screen. Critics were unsure as whether Shaun would be able to hold an entire film on his own but together with an expanded cast the film brought together some rather tender and well-crafted moments.
Studio Ghibli should never be underestimated of course and with classics like Spirited Away in their past a win would not unsurprising for When Marnie Was There. It would also be a fitting end for the studio who are currently on hiatus with little known about their future prospects after the retirement of Hayao Miyazaki. A classic animation style with all the intrigue of the studio’s magic could make them a winner on results night.
Finally, Boy and the World has the film festival backing behind it and even from the trailer you immediately want it to win. To call it an underdog would perhaps be unfair but it’s relatively unknown status outside festival circles may be its downfall. However, the sheer vivacity of colour and sound that it brings to the screen could see it rise to new levels amongst the Academy’s members.
But if you want me to place my bets I would like to put them on Shaun the Sheep. Aardman are not unfamiliar to Oscar success; having won twice for best animated short film and a Best Animated Feature for Wallace and Gromit the Curse of the Were Rabbit. A tried and tested formula perhaps, but one that surely deserves all the recognition available and I have a sneaking suspicion that members may vote against the obvious and well known choice of Inside Out. What is certain is that these contenders show that there is still a great deal of variety and life in animation and that just because you can work with high tech animating techniques doesn’t mean you have to.