It has been awhile since there has been any real discussion on the Best Animated Film category. Along with The Boxtrolls opening up this Friday, it seems like an excellent time to get an update. While How to Train Your Dragon 2 and The Lego Movie lead the pack, there's a lack of strong competitors out there to make this an exceptional year. However, while Studio Ghibli head Hayao Miyazaki has retired, his company still continues to flourish, at least for a little while long. With director Isao Takahata's The Tale of Princess Kaguya, there is a change of pace for animation: hand draw animation with water colors. With a successful debut at Toronto International Film Festival and the first trailer recently released, it is time to start considering the international cinema that may be applicable in this category.
Outside of Miyazaki, it is likely that an average animation fan will not know the films of Studio Ghibli. While it is a testament to the creator of such masterpieces as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, it also is unfortunate for any potential breakouts from somebody else outside of Japan. Takahata does have a few noteworthy films including Grave of the Fireflies and Pom Poko to his name, though their recognition isn't nearly as big. Still, he keeps the company alive with some of the most audacious animation that has been seen this year.
For those that have become burned out on CGI animation, it seems like Studio Ghibli is the only real sanctuary. Sure, Laika Studios continues to be the great American counterpart, but for those classicist out there, few names have been consistent in quality. It is how they become so anticipatory and often result in a realization that just because CGI is cheaper doesn't mean it is always better. These films have a soul and a feeling of handmade effort. There's a lot of magic to them.
So, does the film stand any chance at the Oscars? Check out the first trailer:
It is striking to say the least. Much like last year's nominee Ernest & Celestine, this film takes minimalist, sloppy techniques and makes it into something more free formed and exciting. The trailer has vibrant images that may look a little dated compared to the current polished culture. However, it still looks really striking and beautiful. It isn't what some immediately think of when they think of Studio Ghibli, but considering its already huge praise and credible director, there's little to doubt.
Here's the plot synopsis according to IMDb:
"An old man makes a living by selling bamboo. One day, he finds a princess in a bamboo. The princess is only the size of a finger. Her name is Kaguya. When Kaguya grows up, 5 men from prestigious families propose to her. Kaguya asks the men to find memorable marriage gifts for her, but the 5 men are unable to find what Kaguya wants. Then, the Emperor of Japan proposes to her."
It could be good. However, the question is if it is capable of competing at the Oscars. There's a strong chance because the competition has been rather weak so far. As stated, How to Train Your Dragon 2 and The Lego Movie appear to be the only definites as of this point. With The Boxtrolls potentially filling a third slot, there's chances for any wild card selections to interfere. Speaking as The Wind Rises received a nomination last year, international cinema has become more noteworthy in this category and it's clear that the Academy recognizes a wider array of talents.
As of this writing, The Tale of Princess Kaguya is in sixth place according to statistics website Gold Derby with odds of 100:1. The top position is held by The Lego Movie with odds of 8:5. While it seems unlikely that the toy-based film will be beaten, there's hope that it can merge past a rather American array of runner ups including How to Train Your Dragon 2, Big Hero 6, The Boxtrolls, and The Book of Life respectively. Even then, it may be that the film doesn't have quite the same hook as the other ones. It is almost too simple in theory, even if the style takes more effort. Its only chance is if it manages to sneak into the race on the international vote, which has been more prevalent in the past few years.
Even then, it is nice to know that Studio Ghibli is still releasing high quality films after all of these years. Even if it doesn't have quite the same level of anticipation as a Miyazaki film, it does have the world cinema fans likely waiting with joy. Most of all, it suggests that there's something out there to counter argue the mainstream, modern take on the format. While I still would hope that How to Train Your Dragon 2 can pull an upset, I would be happy if this film managed to get nominated alongside it.
Is The Tale of Princess Kaguya standing any chance at the Best Animated Feature category? Will the Academy recognize more world cinema every year? Is anyone besides Hayao Miyazaki capable of getting Studio Ghibli a Best Animated Feature Oscar?