|Scene from How to Train Your Dragon 2|
On the heels of the Best Foreign Film and Best Documentary eligible nominees coming out, the Best Animated Film nominees are officially out. While the others have an impressive quantity, those in this category have been narrowed down to 20 films featuring a lot of the familiar names. As a result, it isn't nearly as exciting, but should help us to get a better understanding of how the race could shape out. As per usual, I will list all of those selected for competition and then provide whatever commentary I want immediately following.
Big Hero 6
The Book of Life
Henry and Me
The Hero of Color City
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart
Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return
The Lego Movie
Minuscule – Valley of the Lost Ants
Mr. Peabody and Sherman
The Pirate Fairy
Planes: Fire and Rescue
Rocks in My Pockets
Song of the Sea
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
While this is a slightly more impressive year than 2013, it still isn't an exciting year for animation, save for a few films. With that said, I want to explore how I think that this race will go. It will be a very obvious year, in my opinion. The selections will reflect a big studio output without any real emphasis on the little guys. The one benefit is that the Academy has gotten into the habit of throwing in at least one foreign film nominee, if just for diversity. This is an interesting tactic to put into play when guessing.
The Boxtrolls is a film from Laika Studios, so you already know how much I respect it. However, unlike Coraline or ParaNorman, I am not as immediately in love with it, as I feel that the animation is a little crass and the story is a little juvenile. It is still fun and exciting, but it pales in comparison and I don't know that this is going to be the breakthrough that Laika needs to get the top prize. It may get nominated for being a stop motion film that is different than its competitors.
The Book of Life is a film that I forgot to talk about during its initial release. However, I remain thoroughly unimpressed by and personally found the animation a little repulsive. Also, the story wasn't interesting despite its rich subject matter. I didn't care about this at all and when considering that the fifth slot is likely to come down to between this and The Tale of Princess Kaguya, I hope that the Studio Ghibli film stands a chance, if just for diversity.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 is my favorite film of the year, so you already can suspect how much I want this to win. While I am confident that it can lock in a nomination, I think that there's too much heat going around the overrated The LEGO Movie for this one to stand a chance. Also, despite me being completely in awe of the film, the sequel was more divisive and thus doesn't stand as much of a chance as being a clear favorite.
The LEGO Movie is a film that I avoided because I felt it conceptually was hypocritical to the infinite possibilities of LEGO products. When I finally saw it, I became increasingly irksome over the final product, which passed off oblivious humor for intelligence and the lowbrow nature just never quite connected. While the third act reveal has some interesting aspects, I don't like a lot about this film and loathe any current campaign to get "Everything is Awesome" into the Best Original Song race. I sincerely say that this is the overrated favorite.
As for films that I haven't seen, here's my thoughts on what could make the cut:
Big Hero 6 is likely to be something special. I am not saying that in terms of quality. I am saying that in terms of being Marvel's first film to actually garner a legitimate Oscar nomination. The studio has been stuck in technical fields for most of its nominated existence (which is basically just The Avengers). To have this film get nominated in a competing film category will be a big boost for the studio's reputation. Seeing as Wreck-It Ralph managed to sneak into the race despite being a very colorful and aggressive film, this stands a whole lot of chances, especially on the back of Disney winning last year with Frozen.
The Tale of Princess Kaguya is a special film through and through. I haven't seen it, but after initially writing it off, I saw the trailer on the big screen and had a visceral relationship with it. I thought that it looked gorgeous and felt that it deserves to be seen on a big screen. I also already had investment because it was Studio Ghibli, who are a reliable source for quality animated films. I just wonder if its unique animated style is going to play too much against it in the long run. However, I feel like this film will only get mileage out of being the foreign film and thus will be nominated on that platform.
Other than that, I cannot really recommend too much else. I doubt that Rio 2 or Penguins of Madagascar stand any chance. Instead, I will just end with my predictions, which aren't too wildly off base from what I just said:
1. The LEGO Movie
2. How to Train Your Dragon 2
3. Big Hero 6
4. The Boxtrolls
5. The Tale of Princess Kaguya
There you have it. For the most part, the interesting Oscar race has already formed its structure for this category. Is there any part that you disagree about? I do think it is going to be a rather predictable year for this category.