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Two Animated Films I'm Excited About (Will Oscar Be, Too?)

This year I had made a silent goal to myself to talk about animated films more often at The Film Experience since I sometimes really enjoy them even if I don't say so and you definitely enjoy them but we tend to not cover them. So far so getting better. Here are two films I'm looking forward to that I didn't even realize I was excited for because I almost forgot they existed.

1. Me and My Shadow (2014) 
This upcoming effort released a teaser poster a few days ago and has a cute concept. It will reportedly be a blending of traditional animation and CG animation with the traditional being the shadow world and the CG being for the "real" world. From the official synopsis...

Stan (Bill Hader), our hero's shadow, yearns for a more exciting life but happens to be stuck with Stanley Grubb (Josh Gad), a timid guy with an extreme aversion to adventure. When a crime in the shadow world puts both of their lives in danger, Stan is forced to take control of Stanley...

 My mind immediately lept to Steve Martin's body controlled by Lily Tomlin's spirit in All of Me (1984) and Linguini's body going all marionette for Remy in Ratatouille (2007) so the concept is just rich for potentially golden physical slapstick and awkward charm. Not that it's easy to be as good as either of those pictures!

More after the jump including Oscar potential...

Dreamworks Animation has been improving steadily over the years and now seem to have (mostly) shaken off their once vomitous Shrek-induced need for incessantly dating their pictures with pop-culture spoof jokes. They still can be super lame when it comes to Voice Casting Solely Based on Celebrity (seriously, will anyone see this because they can hear Kate Hudson's voice? And is there anything special about her voice as an actor?) But anyway... crossing my fingers.

2. Paranorman (2012)
This one opens very soon (August 17th) and I hadn't really thought about it at all -- though it sounds like something Tim Burton would like since it's about a boy who speaks to the dead -- but last night walking through Lincoln Center at midnight I was enchanted by its three-dimensional window displays at Lincoln Square 13. Those are so much more exciting than the tacky massive cardboard cutouts you get indoors for Total Recall and Expendables 2. You normally only see window displays this elaborate from name window display artists at clothing stores for holidays.

I apologize that my photos came out so poorly. Time for a phone upgrade.

The director is first-timer Chris Butler who is graduating from storyboard work on two of my personal favorite toons of the past decade (Coraline and Corpse Bride) so at the very least we can all expect Paranorman to look deliciously cutesy spooky.

As for the Oscars...

I've gone on record often as being no great fan of the Best Animated Feature category. It's an extraordinarily generous category. Only 16 submissions are required for a 5 wide shortlist. If Oscar's top category operated on that same ratio of eligibility to nomination, there would have been 85 Best Picture nominees in 2011. That is not an exaggeration. I did the math. The expansion of the Best Picture category, thankfully only from 5 to 5-10 rather than 85 (!) makes the Animated Feature even more disposable; if an animated feature is wildly embraced, it's going to end up a Best Picture nominee anyway (see: Up and Toy Story 3) so what's the point?

That said, it's fun to Oscar speculate anyway and this year I can't say that I have a strong bead on which films they'll prefer.

ALREADY RELEASED (in order of box office dominance)
01. Brave (Pixar) 
Sure thing! Unless the love affair with Pixar is in needed of major infrastructure repair post Cars 2, their first Oscar miss and critical flop.
02. Dr. Seuss' The Lorax (Universal)
Big box office but competition is stiff
03. Madagascar 3 (Dreamworks)
Oscar hasn't expressed any interest in this series at all but people seem to love the third one best. Will that get their attention?
04. Ice Age: Continental Drift (Fox) 
Oscar only cared about the first one and at the time the Animated Category was still a novelty.
05. The Pirates! Band of Misfits (Sony/Aardman) 
Aardman is a class act but this movie didn't seem to make a dent. Will Oscar care?
06. The Secret World of Arrietty (Disney/Studio Gibhli)
Prestige may help it compete but can it work its way in past the wall of blockbusters? 

08/16 Paranorman 
09/28 Hotel Transylvania 
10/05 Frankenweenie
11/02 Wreck-It Ralph
11/21 Rise of the Guardians 

Given that Hotel Transylvania, Wreck it Ralph, and Rise of the Guardians are all working the same groove (collect famous characters and put them in a new shared setting for extreme franchisability!) it'll be interesting to see if they cancel each other or wear the public out and what Oscar will think of any of them.

King of the Elves, Trouble Down Under, and more foreign entries we don't know about yet that nobody will hear of in the States unless they submit or get nominated.

In short we'll have a five wide shortlist this year. But which films will be able to call themselves "Oscar Nominees"? Share your guesswork please!



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Reader Comments (8)

I liked Pirates! Band of Misfits quite a bit. More people should see it. It has an A+ Elephant Man joke.

Really looking forward to Paranorman. Was a big fan of Coraline. It was my #3 of that year behind Basterds and Girlfriend Experience, but, in retrospect, it really should have been my #1.

July 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWill H.

My guess:

If three (unlikely I'll admit): Either Wreck-It-Ralph (Mainline Disney, who's due for a critical AND commercial hit) or Hotel Trannsylvania (Genndy Tartakovsky!!? I mean, I don't care that Adam Sandler is the voice of Dracula (voice acting is very freeing in that sense), I want to see what the guy who did Samurai Jack can do on a feature film budget.) I think they'll both get in if it's five.
If five: Frankenweenie (I know, I know, but I'm putting this here because these days I'd rather bet against Burton then bet for Burton) or King of the Elves.

July 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Nat: On Kate Hudson's voice, I think V/O is very freeing in some respects, allowing you to play the kinds of people you don't look like. Also: If some of the projects Dreamworks has "in development" are an indicator, they might be stretching to some PG-13 or R territory as well with titles like Truckers (based on Discworld), Lidsville (Sid and Marty Kroft show named after pot-slang), Interworld (Neil Gaiman, who is delightfully spooky even at his most kid friendly) and Gil's All Fright Diner (A fantasy kitchen sink novel about fighting Zombies.)

July 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I've read in a few places that Arietty is not eligible for the Oscars. Something about the Japanese release window compared to the American release or some nonsense. Shame. It's going to fit into my year end categories, for sure.

July 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

if an animated feature is wildly embraced, it's going to end up a Best Picture nominee anyway (see: Up and Toy Story 3) so what's the point?

A shot at winning? It means that great artists like Brad Bird, Andrew Stanton, etc. can win an Oscar, which they never will in the general category.

July 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSean C.

Bold Prediction: Tim Burton will win his first and only Oscar for "Frankenweenie." The trailer makes it look like a return to form. if it hits with critics, I think it'll be an easy win.

July 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

John: Burton just doesn't have the kind of career they respect. He absolutely barnstormed Hollywood and the critical conversation for nine years, ESPECIALLY in 1990 and 1994. However since then...Sweeney Todd and a bunch of bad or average films (2001 Planet of the Apes, 2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland, Big Fish and Corpse Bride in ascending order of quality). Also: The trailer looks like could be good, but I wonder if it the result will come across as over-stretched.

July 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I don't see Dreamworks missing a nom, so Rise is probably in. I also think Frankenweenie will be a strong contender, but at least one nominee will come from the indie/foreign crop.

Rise of the Guardians
Foreign entry we don't know about yet that nobody will hear of in the States unless they submit or get nominated :-)

August 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer
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