The LAMB Devours The Oscars 2017: Best Animated Feature

by Jay Cluitt · February 20, 2017 · Featured, LAMB Devours the Oscars · 2 Comments

Every day until the Oscars ceremony we’ll be highlighting a different category or movie here on the LAMB! Here’s a link to all the posts written so far:

Today, Todd Liebenow from Forgotten Films, the Forgotten Filmcast and Walt Sent Me draws his conclusions on the nominees for Best Animated Feature.

Best Animated Feature is one of the newest Oscar categories out there. This year marks only the 16th time this award will be presented. In just that short amount of time there’s been a lot of drama surrounding this category. It’s gotten a lot right, like when in its second year it honored Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away over big studio offerings like Ice Age and Lilo & Stitch. It’s also made some mistakes. Say what you want about Cars, but those annoying penguins from Happy Feet did not deserve Oscar gold. Then of course there was what ranks as one of the most heinous Oscar snubs in history when The LEGO Movie (which should’ve walked away with the prize) wasn’t even nominated. Despite it’s ups and downs, this is still a category I love. This year, once again, gives us a unique selection of nominees.

This year’s nominees are:
Kubo and the Two Strings
My Life as a Zucchini
The Red Turtle

Now, full disclosure, I have only seen two of the nominated films, Zootopia and Kubo. Ultimately, though, I think the race comes down to these two films.

First let’s give some props to the Academy for nominating two smaller foreign films. Most viewers probably hadn’t heard of My Life as a Zucchini (a French/Swiss stop-motion film) or The Red Turtle (from Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli) before the nominations were announced. In recent years a number of smaller animated films have earned nominations in this category, which is great for exposing audiences to new things year after year. I don’t think either of these films is a favorite to win, but what is interesting is what films were nudged out of nominations because of them. Bigger studio efforts like Sing, The Secret Life of Pets, Kung Fu Panda 3, and heck, even, Netflix’s The Little Prince could’ve occupied those slots. Most notable, though, is the absence of Pixar’s Finding Dory. Once an Academy darling, there was a time when Pixar could do no wrong. You could even say that their early films helped create this category, even though they lost the first year to Dreamworks’ Shrek. After that, though, they had a steady stream of winners. Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up, Toy Story 3, Brave, and last year’s Inside Out were all victorious. The penguin incident was their only blemish. But in recent years, films like Cars 2, Monsters University, and The Good Dinosaur have been passed over. Some would say these films didn’t warrant the nod…but don’t tell me films like The Croods (which was nominated) did? Though a sequel, many saw Finding Dory as a return to form…and yet the Pixar gang got up at 5 AM to hear the nominations for nuthin’. Clearly, the era of Pixar-can-do-no-wrong is over.

Setting aside the two smaller films, we are left with three bigger studio efforts: Laika’s Kubo and the Two Strings, and Disney’s two offerings this year, Zootopia and Moana. All three films have been the recipients of overwhelmingly positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, Zootopia has a 98%, Kubo is hanging out at 97%, Moana is sitting pretty at 95%. For the record, though, snubbed Finding Dory is just behind at 94%. Though Zootopia is doing slightly better on the Tomatometer, Kubo is the film that I’ve seen the most buzz about. Everyone I’ve talked to that has seen Kubo loved it. I loved it!! After watching it, and this was after the nominations were announced, I was angry that it hadn’t gotten a best picture nomination. It’s a wonderful fantasy/kung fu movie that just happens to be animated. Plus, the stop-motion was like nothing we’ve seen before.

You can never count out Disney, though. In recent years their own animation department has far exceeded their cousins over at Pixar with such huge successes as Frozen, Big Hero 6 (both Oscar winners), and Wreck-it Ralph. This year Disney Feature Animation released two films, which is unusual for them. This could actually work in Kubo’s favor if the Disney loyalists vote is split between the two. Of the two films, Zootopia is a more formidable foe for Kubo. Though the film was released just a few weeks shy of a year ago, it certainly resonated with audiences. It was exciting and funny, but also dealt with subjects that are very much hot button issues in our world at large. Having the courage to deal with such issues in a kids film is just the sort of thing the Academy loves. Add to it the film’s Golden Globe win a few weeks ago and it’s got a very strong shot at victory.

So bottom line…I don’t know who will win. In my own personal attempt to pick the winners, my money’s on Kubo. Besides the fact that it’s more than deserving, it would be nice to see a stop-motion animated film take home the prize. That’s only happened once before, 12 years ago with Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Zootopia, though is also deserving. Couple that with Hollywood’s intense desire to make statements at this particular point in history and things could easily shift in Disney’s favor. Then again, Moana might just side-swipe them both. It’ll be interesting no matter what.