Weeding Through the Animated Oscar Shortlist

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The Academy has just announced the 18 animated feature films will be qualifying for this year’s Animated Feature category–You can read the full press release here–and they are:

The Adventures of Tintin
Alois Nebel
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked
Arthur Christmas
Cars 2
A Cat in Paris
Chico & Rita
Gnomeo & Juliet
Happy Feet Two
Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil
Kung Fu Panda 2
Mars Needs Moms
Puss in Boots
Rango
Rio
The Smurfs
Winnie the Pooh
Wrinkles

Because that number exceeds 16, this year, we’ll get five nominations in the category for only the third time ever, the previous time being in 2009 when Up beat four others.

Of the ones above, we’ve seen exactly five of them–Kung Fu Panda 2, Rango, Rio, The Smurfs and Winnie the Pooh–but we plan on seeing at least four more. Other than The Smurfs, we think the other four are all commendable offerings, although there’s little chance a sequel like Kung Fu Panda 2 will even be considered even though the original was nominated. (Pixar’s Toy Story 3, which won the category last year, was a rare exception and it was the only animated movie thought worthy enough to be nominated as Best Picture as well.)

George MIller’s Happy Feet Two is an interesting case because it’s a sequel to an Oscar-winning movie and only the second movie that won this category to get a sequel, but even that’s dubious due to the general attitude of the Academy towards sequels.

Normally, Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin would be a shoe-in for a nomination in this category due to the pedigree of its director, but that uses performance capture technology, something that’s pooh-poohed by the Academy’s animation division for some reason, something that’s kept Robert Zemeckis from getting a nomination for any of his recent animated movies.

Pixar’s offering Cars 2 got some of the worst reviews of a Pixar movie ever, so that’s out, and movies like Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, Arthur Christmas, Gnomeo & Juliet, Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil, Mars Needs Moms and even Puss in Boots might be considered too much of kiddie fare to be taken seriously by the nominating committee.

And then there’s the unknowns like Alois Nebel, A Cat in Paris, Chico & Rita and Wrinkles, four movies that didn’t get the type of nationwide studio release of the others but still have a chance of sneaking in similar to The Secret of the Kells two years back.

That’s one of the good things about having the expanded category this year, because we already know that many won’t be taken seriously because they are animated movies with mass-market appeal rather than ones that are considered artistic and meaningful.

Personally, we’d like to see Rango, Rio, and Winnie the Pooh get in, because they’re all beautifully-made and quite clever in their own way, the latter benefitting from being mostly 2D animation, which is a dying art.

If there is any justice in the world Gore Verbinski’s wild and crazy animated Western Rango will win, although knowing the Academy, they may go for something far more conventional. With Pixar out and nothing from Sylvain Chomet or Hayao Miyazaki, this year’s animated competition is still very much open.