Well, color me surprised. It didn't feel like a very big year for animated films, but it seems the Academy of Motion Pictures has managed to scrape together 18 eligible films for the Best Animated Feature category, allowing a year with five nominations!
I could get into a rant about CGI-heavy films like The Smurfs and motion capture films like Mars Needs Moms counting as animated films, but I'm going to be a tad selfish. While 2011 hasn't been a year with much in the way of animated masterpiece films that critics drooled over, it has been a year with quite a few decent and fun movies that I was having trouble picking three from for a nomination prediction. And now, thanks to sorta-animated films walking the eligibility line, I don't have to! Woo!
So, without further ado, here's how I imagine the 2011 Oscars:
Best Animated Feature
Oh, Rango is going to win. If it doesn't, I will likely spit tea on the living room floor.
Rango is easily the film I can see the Oscars moving towards the most out of the possible nominations. It received great reviews from the critics - that it very well deserved in my opinion - with a creative screenplay and a unique art style. From a critical standpoint, I think it was the best animated film of the year, and I think the Academy will be drawn to the film's maturity, artistic integrity, and not being a sequel.
Kung Fu Panda 2
Like I just said, the Oscars aren't big on sequels. All the same, Kung Fu Panda 2 has been on the list of potential nominations in my head even when I thought there would only be three. Kung Fu Panda 2 had beautiful artwork, smooth animation, an epic scale, and a darker, more emotional storyline than its predecessor. It has an epic scale in a film where most of the nominations are sequels anyway, I can see the storytelling appeal of KFP2 getting past the Oscar's sequel disdain.
The Lord of the Rings films and their success in the Oscars come to mind, in a sense.
Winnie the Pooh
Consider this my fifth slot option. This slot was the hardest to fill, and the one I am the most unsure about. The Adventures of Tintin and Gnomeo and Juliet also appeal to nostalgia either through the music or story, and nostalgia was my first reason for considering Winnie the Pooh as a possible nomination. Rio or Puss In Boots are also potential contenders, and Happy Feet Too has an advantage of its predecessor winning Best Animated Feature back in 2006. Like I said, this year had many good films but few great ones.
I'm in the camp that considered Winnie the Pooh a fun film, if not a masterpiece, but it takes this slot in my mind because the critical community ate it up. With the glowing reviews, traditional animation style, and a franchise loved by all ages, I'm going to predict it as a nominee and hope it gets a nomination. I have no plans to eat my hat if it is left in the cold, though.
...Don't look at me like that.
When I was thinking the Oscars were going to be three nominations, Cars 2 wasn't going to be on my nomination list. As much as I personally adore the film, I'm not so smitten nor so miffed by the studio bias reviewers have been showing that I can't see the reason for the fair lack of critical acclaim. Cars 2 is a ridiculously fun film, but it is not artsy in the slightest. It doesn't redefine film. It doesn't ring in cries of "Pixar does it again!" and it won't be used in film classes to study transcendent screenplays. It's just not Oscar bait on a three nominee list.
However, with the amount of sequels, lack of masterpiece competition, and five nominations, I'm going to cautiously put it down as a contender.
Pixar has received a nomination every year to the point that it's become a sort of tradition. Also, Hollywood and thus the Academy has a very liberal political slant, and Cars 2 has the glaring political message of alternative fuel and big oil. Add that Steve Jobs passed away recently, and there are a lot of emotional and sociological reasons that I think Cars 2 will nab a slot after all.
Are any of these reasons fair, art-focussed reasons for Cars 2 to get a nomination? Not really, no. Ironically, my reasoning for including my favorite popcorn movie is downright cynical. That's life.
Some Foriegn Film
I haven't seen a single film from another country this year, and I don't have to to know that one of them is going to be some insanely artsy film with a unique animation style that will take a nomination for Best Animated Feature, but not have a chance of winning.
If animation were on an equal level to live action in the eyes of the Oscars, I'd guess that a few animated films might make the ten nominees for Best Animated Feature, because animation hasn't been the only medium without much in the way of amazing films this year. However, unlike films with "real" actors in historical settings and camera filter mayhem, animated films actually have to be masterpieces to have a chance of entering the big ten. I don't think we'll see animation in the Best Picture category this year.
The Original Screenplay category usually has an animated nominee, and Rango seems to be the most likely (and most deserving, if you ask me) candidate for the slot. The Adapted Screenplay category is going to be a mess with potential candidates this year, but nothing really stands out to me as a surefire entry into the category.
Best Score is always a hard one to predict, but I think Rango, Cars 2, and Kung Fu Panda 2 all have beautiful scores and will hopefully be considered. I'd esspecially like KFP2 to get a nomination here; the soundtrack was beautiful and the film is probably not going to get any attention outside of Best Animated Feature otherwise.
I think the most likely category outside of Best Animated Feature for animated films to shine this year is the classicaly animation populated award for Best Song. Love Builds a Garden from Gnomeo and Juliet has Elton John to back it up, and Collision of Worlds is the song from Cars 2 that Disney has chosen to put in the spotlight on their 2011 awards website. (Whatever gets nominated from this category, I hope it gets preformed well. Memories of the 2008 Oscars and the horrific attempt to mix the original songs from Slumdog Millionaire and WALL-E continue to make me cringe.)
Whatever ends up happening with the Oscars, I'm excited to see the final list of nominees. This is a very weird year for animation, and probably the first time in a long time that Pixar isn't going to sweep. I'm not sure if this is weird in a good or bad way, but it will surely lead to a interesting competition.
What five films do you think - or would like to think - will be nominated for Best Animated Feature?