Tim here. Right at the end of last week, the Academy very quietly issued a rules change pertaining to the Best Animated Feature Oscar: instead of requiring that members of the nominating committee had seen at least 80% of the films on the eligibility list (an onerous task indeed, given that these are people who care about animation for a living, and that list can sometimes be, like, 20 films long), now the voters can pick any animated films they darn well want to, which is potentially going to do away with all those fun little nominees like A Cat in Paris and The Secret of Kells, things that badly need the exposure. Perhaps not. But if we’re about to enter a world where Planes can snag a nomination over Ernest & Celestine (please oh please Oscar gods, don’t let that happen), something is even more broken with a dodgy category than we’ve thought.
Now comes the news that the European Film Academy has announced its own list of nominees: the modeling clay stop-motion of Jasmine by Alain Ughetto and a new version of Pinocchio by Italian director Enzo d’Aló. And The Congress featuring Robin Wright which played at Cannes and is the new film by Ari Folman, director of Waltz with Bashir (which famously attempted three specialty nominations for Documentary, Animated Feature and Foreign Film but was disqualified from the first, failed the second and became the first animated film ever nominated for Best Foreign Film.)
We have no way of knowing if any of these will be squeaked into the United States in time for Oscar qualification – the vagaries about what counts as “qualifying run” for this category is especially dubious – but given how everyone in the world agrees that we’re looking at the weakest year for animated features since the category was born, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if some canny distributor decided to use this nomination as the spur for a Hail Mary pass.
Is there a possibility of repeating 2011, when two functionally un-released foreign films made the nomination list? It’s hard to say, especially with the rules change in the nominating process, but faced with tiny niche releases that nobody has heard of getting national attention, and the possibility of the phrase “Oscar nominee Turbo” ever being said by anybody, I know which one I’m hoping for.