The first chart is up and we're starting with the toons since they're the easiest to tackle given a limited slate of contenders. Not that "easy" is a word one should use when surveying the current state of animation which is, shall we say, robust. Give or take live action superheroes, it's the single most popular film genre in the US marketplace. We'd prefer to call animation a "medium" which is more accurate given that there's no reason why there couldn't be animated dramas, noirs, westerns, horror flicks, thrillers, etcetera but in the US at least animation is not a medium but a genre (the computer generated family action comedy... with or without musical numbers).
In terms of the Oscar race ahead, I've already heard whisperings (including my own preemie voice) that this will be a slim or "weak" year but let's not get ahead of ourselves. That's what everyone was saying last year and everyone turned out to be wrong. Last year's shortlist was hardly an embarassment; Frozen, Ernest & Celestine, and The Wind Rises would be a fairly worthy trio of nominees in any year and The Croods wasn't half bad. (I never saw Despicable Me 2 but its popularity with the public was indisputable)
While I still think there's very little cause for this particular category to exist given the expanded Best Picture field, the animated genre produces its fair share of strong movies annually with most of the major studios upping their games steadily after nearly 20 years of watching Pixar horde all the loot & respect. The problem in current perception may well be Pixar itself. They've finally proven themselves fallible critically and awards-wise (they missed even a nomination in 2 of the last 3 Oscar battles) and 2015 is the first year in a decade without a new Pixar film in release. That was bound to cast weird shadows on "The State of Animation." But the sky isn't falling. If you love animation there are still a lot of films to look forward to.
first look at a fictional San Francisco in "Big Hero 6"
Which of these films are you most looking forward to and what you think will become of animation in the next few years? Do you think the race will be hotly contested this year or we'll have another slam dunk like Frozen?