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« The Desolation of Smaug: Accentuate the Positive | Main | Hollywood: Oscar Nom Morning & CCMA Evening »

The Best Animated Feature 2013 nominees

It's Tim, wishing everybody a Happy Nomination Day! Obviously, the above-the-line categories hog most of our attention on this holiest of holy days (and they should – they’re kind of amazing this year), but there are 20 whole categories that have nothing to do with acting. And 19 of those don’t involve gawking at the hypnotically amateurish trailer for Alone Yet Not Alone.

So with that in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of those other categories, and since I’m the resident animation guy, I assume it’s no surprise that I’m heading straight for Best Animated Feature. A race that is already kind of shocking because of an omission that, if not quite Tom Hanks/Emma Thompson scale in its “my God, did they really snub…” outrageousness, still pulled a pretty big gasp out of me this morning. I refer to the absence of Monsters University, only the second eligible Pixar film to ever miss out on a nod since the category’s creation in 2001. [more...]


I don’t really want to go to bat for it, since it’s only decent-to-good in my eyes, but it’s hard to see this as anything but a specific and deliberate “we hate you now” to the studio. Say whatever nasty things one wants to about the film, but surely it’s not any less inspired or accomplished than Despicable Me 2? (I’ll concede The Croods – the character design is outré enough for it to stand out in a homogenous marketplace). At a solely technical level, MU is at least a step up in terms of photorealism; DM2 doesn’t appreciably improve on its predecessor in any obvious way.

But let’s not harp on what didn’t make the cut, but turn to what did, with a quick look at the five nominees.

-The Croods (my off-site review)
DreamWorks Animation’s ninth nominee, and one that I’ve warmed up to ever since it opened: the weird and potentially alienating design is both a help and a hindrance in that process. It suffers from the reflexive anachronisms that are one of DWA’s main stocks in trade, but it pops right of the screen; still, it’s pretty securely in “glad to be nominated” territory.


-Despicable Me 2 (my off-site review)
The first nomination for Illumination Entertainment, and the first nominated sequel whose predecessor wasn’t also nominated (discounting the like Toy Story, and other films that came out before the category was created). I found it a little repetitive and far too reliant on the most easily-marketable elements of its plot, but clearly I’m in the minority: with more than $360 million in the U.S. alone, it’s the highest-grossing of the nominees, and likely to remain that way at least through the ceremony.

-Ernest & Celestine (review)
France has done well in this category: this makes the fifth film from that country to swing a nomination, and the second for studio Les Armateurs, who last showed up with the first French nominee, 2003’s The Triplets of Belleville. It’s the most visually unique of the lot, and the sweetest-natured as well; certainly, it’s my favorite, though that shouldn’t matter to anybody, since I am not an Academy voter. A surprise win would make this the first non-English language victor since Spirited Away in 2002.


-Frozen (review)
The frontrunner at this point, if only for popularity’s sake: at $320 million and still doing brisk business, it has a fair shot at passing Despicable Me 2 by the end of its run to end up as the #3 highest-grossing film of 2013. I assume everybody here has a good handle on this particular film, but here’s a somewhat surprising piece of trivia for you: despite the primacy of Walt Disney Animation Studios in the development of the animated feature as a commercial and (semi-)artistic force in America, a win for Frozen would be the studios’ very first Oscar in this category.

-The Wind Rises (review)
The most serious obstacle to Frozen’s ascendancy, largely because it’s the final film of the legendary animator and director Hayao Miyazaki (though there are rumors that he might un-retire again, just like he did the last four or five times). The director’s Spirited Away won the second Best Animated Feature Oscar 11 years ago, and if he won now, he’d be just the third director with two victories here, after Brad Bird and Andrew Stanton. The Wind Rises would also, arguably, be the first winner made for a primarily grown-up audience.



I see this being a comfortable win for Frozen at this point, but here, with a whole campaign season in front of us, it doesn’t do to be certain. How do all of you see this race shaking out?

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Tim: I actually DIDN'T like the visual upgrades of Monsters U. If anything, the original was already going a bit too far into a relatively "realistic" style and trying to be more so makes it look less interesting. The movements of the characters got a bit stiffer and, worst of all, the realistic aesthetic design wound up clashing with the character concepts. As for Despicable Me 2, when compared to the original? I think they're even with each other. One has way more heart, the other is, when it works, significantly funnier and they both feel like perfectly natural and fully realized aesthetic landscapes and the character designs fit with the rest of the aesthetic. As for future prospects? I also don't think the Despicable Me series can really sustain itself after this shackled to a G or PG rating and continuing at this rating bracket WILL be entirely pointless. I REALLY DO want to see what this team could do with a light R rating, honestly.

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Oh, I certainly wouldn't say that the realism is an artistic merit of MU, just a technical one. A proof of concept, basically, and one that does lead the third act to some weird places, aesthetically.

But DM2 is so nearly on par with DM1, it's weird to me that they'd single it out for praise. Typically at the nomination level at least, this branch favors some innovation.

I wouldn't have nominated either, by any means. It's just hard not to see this as slapping Pixar's wrists for Cars 2 and then for winning last year. And of course it's stupid to assign personal motivation to these institutional votes, but it's a hard habit to break.

Totally agreed that an R-rated DM would be interesting, but I think we're a decade away from a major studio releases a big-budget animated film at even a PG-13. I'd love to be wrong.

January 16, 2014 | Registered CommenterTim Brayton

I'm ashamed to say I've seen only one of these nominees. I really want to see Ernest & Celestine and Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises...I am a weeaboo), but there's no showing near my small town, and the Japanese DVD for the latter film isn't scheduled to be out until well after the ceremony. I would like to see Miyazaki win again, but I've resigned myself to the fact that Frozen would probably take it award. I personally hope it'll win Best Original Song for "Let It Go."

My interest, which is probably very apparent considering my blog, is in the Best Animated Short category. I must admit I was a bit surprised at the inclusion of Tsukumo (Possessions) because of how Japanese it is, and Room on the Broom, because I didn't think it was very good. The race I would say is down to Feral, Get a Horse, and Mr. Hublot. Get a Horse is probably the front-runner, but there may be room for an upset from the other two. Unfortunately, I've only seen Get a Horse and Room on the Broom :(

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterajnrules

Monsters University's snub was one of the sadder one for me, even though I am not entirely surprised. Yes, the prequel has its problems, but I thought it was still a fun adventure with a solid exploration of the theme of talent/destiny. If it is a stand-alone film, with no original that makes much of the conflict admittedly meaningless, I don't think it would be met with such criticisms.

On the other hand, I think people will be sorely disappointed with The Wind Rises. I think it is a gap below Miyazaki's other works, not successful in all that it is trying to do. In fact, I am quite certain that if the last film buzz wasn't there, it would have the same reception as say Ponyo.

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterkin

2013 has been such a... downer of a year for animation, with a bucketload of mediocre films and ghastly projects, though if it results in Disney's first Oscar win, at least that's one side effect. Course, they were robbed of it for Wreck-It Ralph last year, so it's not a dead lock YET, like you say.

When I saw the lack of Monsters University, I went :"WHAAA?" I thought for sure if would be in Despicable Me 2's place, though I expected the rest. One has to wonder if something about the Monsters, Inc. universe doesn't sit we'll with the AMPAS voters: first Monsters, Inc. lost to Shrek in the category's inaugural ceremony, and now this. Maybe they find it too kid-geared (albeit in the best possible manner)? A surprise in the nominations is fine, but not if it's ill-served. I can't for the life of me see how anyone over the age of 12 could prefer to Despicable Me 2 to Monsters University, though neither are very good at all.

I'll check out the two foreign films once they cross the Atlantic, for they both look stunning; Wind Rises won't take much time, but we'll be lucky if Ernest and Celestine gets even a week here.

And on the subject of animation: THEY GAVE A DESPICABLE ME 2 SONG A BEST SONG NOMINATION? Among other things, that means this inferior sequel has two Oscar nominations compared to the first having none. Best Song is such a downer category. At least it's REALLY just between Let It Go and that song from the Mandela films.

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGroudon202

"Happy" was my favorite nominee today because of how much joy it has brought my family. I am proudly rooting for "Despicable Me 2" and the song. That's not a very detailed, thoughtful analysis but if the Academy can vote for its favorites, so can I.

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjtagliere

Tangent: the video for the actual nominated song from ALONE YET NOT ALONE is even more telling. Christians of the Academy unite!:

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTravis C

Despicable Me 2 is surely the very best thing ever....What ever I can forget that Underwear song?????!!!
With the ruthless and vicious El Macho and his dominated purple minions stolen with the mutagen formula,and even cool spy stuff,high action packed stuff and even the importance of family and also protective act when it comes to BGR thing with Margo too,that would possibly boost up the spirit......
There might be much surprising if Despicable Me 2 wins!Thanks to Minion Rush game....
Underwear really moves me man!!!I like the best ending too....thanks to Lucy Wilde that agrees to marry Felonious Gru in the end....

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMr K

Do all the members of the Academy vote for the best animated feature? Because, as much as I love Miyasaki's work and enjoyed Frozen, I feel like Ernest & Celestine would have a real chance to pull a surprise win if the voters had to watch all five nominees. It's a beautiful film.

January 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMaeve

Yes the entire academy votes for animated feature once the nominations are announced.

January 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJtagliere

I think MU is " decent-to-good" too and I would have liked to see it nominated especially since I think it's better than Frozen. Haven't seen the others.

January 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

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