It is hard to believe, but there was a time when the Best Animated Feature wasn't a category at the Oscars. With each passing year, it has become one of the more significant categories. Even in 2015, there's still major contention as to what makes the final nominees, including big juggernaut Pixar, who has won the category 7 of the 14 times despite being absent the past few years. With Friday's release of Inside Out, it feels like a good time to revisit the category's first year in which things all kicked off with a very animated gimmick that hasn't been done since.
Here's a little bit of trivia for Oscar fans: what were the nominees of the inducting year? Mind you, these films came out in 2001. For many, the immediate answer would be to go with the two big ones: Monsters Inc. and Shrek (the third was the less remembered Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius). Of those, who do you think would have won? In hindsight, most would put their money on Pixar's fourth film, which is an arguable high point in an already impeccable track record. Yet, to look far more dated, the winner was Shrek: a renegade pop culture-spewing film that went on to become one of the most successful animated franchises of the decade. To look at Shrek through the gaze of 2015 is to ignore everything about the film that seemed fresh 14 years ago. Yes, it has become trite and soulless in jarring ways, but hindsight is 20/20.
And besides, that isn't the most memorable part of the Best Animated Feature induction in 2002. With presenter Nathan Lane giving a comical riff, there was a gag that made the whole experience all the more memorable. Thanks to some special effects, the two lead characters from each of the three films were present in the audience to hear their name called.
Watch the video below:
It is very much a throwaway gag that has since been abolished by The Academy in recent years. With many claiming that presenters have ran long, even breaking into their own quick routines, there hasn't been a memorable one in a few years. In fact, most have been reserved to just presenting awards. It is debatable on if this improves or worsens the show. Yet, for a brief moment in 2002, The Academy knew how to make history in a very interesting manner. It was a gimmick that was simple and quick and while it seems unfortunate that they couldn't commit to showing Shrek characters accepting the award, it at least made for something that still seems impressive.
So there's one trivia fact that is left: What was the first Pixar film to win Best Animated Feature? The answer wasn't too far behind. In 2003, the studio released one of their most successful entries to date with Finding Nemo and finally won their first of many, many statues. Join me tomorrow when I will be ranking all seven of the Best Animated Feature Pixar winners including a few brief thoughts on each of them.