Sunday, February 27, 2011


Just like last year, there's a lot of Oscar-nominated animation in 2011.  And, like last year, an animated film has been nominated for Best Picture, outside of the Best Animated Feature category.  And this is as it should be.  Especially since the same film was the highest grossing film of 2010 and doesn’t money talk in Hollywood?   Maybe next year, two animated films will be nominated in the Best Picture category.  
Doesn’t that tell you something, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences?  Animation doesn’t really need a separate category.  It never did.  The only reason one was created in 2001, was because live actors were outraged in 1991, when they found themselves competing with cartoons after Beauty and the Beast became the first ever animated film nominated in the category. 
     But I haven’t heard many actors bitching about competing with a cartoon lately.  Many of the A-list actors nominated for Best Actor/Best Supporting Actor Oscars have done highly-paid voice-overs for animated films and are as beloved for their live roles as for their animated characters. 
     Having a separate category for animation diminishes it and relegates it to a “not-quite-as-good-as the-real-thing” category.  There’s no reason why animation should be considered the exclusive medium of children’s films, therefore not to be taken seriously.  This  condescension seems to come from a time when animation was so primitive that it could do little more than make us smile with its silliness, not necessarily a bad thing.  But, times have changed.  Today’s animation is a very sophisticated art, involving not only highly educated and talented writers, artists and designers but even physicists who make the tools the animators use to make magic (light models, virtual clothes).  
     Audiences don’t identify with animated characters any less than live actors these days, either.  They care just as much about Andy and his toys, Hiccup and Toothless as they do about Colin Firth and Natalie Portman. 
     And let’s not forget that animation has invaded live-action film to an astonishing degree.  There are few, if any live-action films untouched by CGI in one way or another today.  From merely digitally removing the nose hairs of a star, to the explosions and crashes and mind-boggling landscapes of Inception, CGI is everywhere in “real” films.
     So, members of the Academy, why have a separate category for animation?  Really, it’s just plain silly.  Animation and live-action have a symbiotic existence now, they’re inextricably linked.  Let’s just have one Best Picture category and may they best pixel, er, picture win.


Ink and Pixel Club said...

Every year, I'm torn about this. On the one hand, I completely agree with you that animation doesn't need to be treated as something separate and lesser. Plus, now that there are ten Best Picture nominees and having an animated film among them seems to be a regular thing, it's a disincentive for anyone to vote for the animated film to win Best Picture. Why bother, when you can honor the film with a Best Animated Feature award?

But on the other hand, I do like the attention that it brings to animation, particularly when a smaller, less well known film gets nominated. The Illusionist and The Secret of Kells wouldn't have a prayer of being nominated for Best Picture, not because they aren't good, but because they won't have a big studio campaign behind them. These are the kind of films that truly benefit from the existence of a Best Animated Feature Oscar and the boost in publicity that comes from a nomination.

I'd love to see an animated film win Best Picture someday, but I'm not ready to lose the benefits that comes from the Best Animated Feature award either.

Nora Lumiere said...

The Academy really should call the category what it is: Best Children's Film.

Animation is sophisticated enough now to tackle any subject––Waltz with Bashir and Persepolis have proved that––so it can properly compete for Best Picture.

Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

benben1311 said...

I think i have the same opinion as "Ink and Pixel Club" and you.
Animation is just a way of telling a story, not a genre. It's an artistic choice, as the choice of filming in B&W would be. And there is no B&W category as far as i know.
Outstanding movies have been made in animation, telling political, historical, war, comedy, or even action stories, such as Persepolis and Waltz with Bashir as you said, or Fantastic Mr Fox and The Incredibles. Spirited Away even won a Golden Berlin Bear, and it was in competition with live features.
So i completely agree that the Animation Feature category shouldn't be necessary, especially when you see it's mainly a Best Children's Film category indeed.

However, as Ink and Pixel Club said, this category is probably the only chance for not-very-well-known movies to get some attention. They created the same category in Les C├ęsar (the French cinema awards) for the first time this year, and i think it's a good thing. The Oscar nomination and the Cesar prize of The Illusionist will hopefully bring some new peoples to see it, especially in France where it hasn't been well promoted at all.

That's why it would be quite difficult to remove this category for now, when people mostly consider animation as "for kids". Yes, Disney or Pixar movies have probably won enough respect now to make it to the Best Picture category. But would Spirited Away have been ever mentioned in 2002, and would Ghibli movies have got so much focus and highlight in the US without the Best Animated Feature award? I'm not absolutely sure about that.

Nora Lumiere said...

Thanks for your interesting comments, Benjamin.
I’m flabbergasted that The Illusionist wasn’t well promoted in France. Is this because it was produced mainly in Scotland? Or because of Tati’s shameful behavior toward his “illegitimate” daughter?

I don’t know that we need the Oscar for exposure of new animated films, there is plenty of exposure on YouTube and Twitter, which is where I learned about L’Illusioniste.

As you say, animation is a medium in which any story can be told. Persepolis runs 95 minutes and is rarely dull and Waltz With Bashir runs 86 minutes, a similar length to most animated comedies, so length is obviously not a problem for serious subjects such as war, political oppression and massacres. It’s just a shame that no US animators have dared to try this and, until they do, there won’t be an animated Best Picture Oscar winner. I fear it’s a problem of profit. Especially for ha-animated films, as were Waltz and Persepolis.

Not that a serious animated feature needs to be about such dire subjects, just something adult. I think its an ideal medium for drama of all kinds. Just think, you could do Kafka’s Metamorphosis brilliantly in animation and all kinds of magical realism, not to mention moody art-deco, noir and spy stuff.

This is too adventurous for Pixar and Disney. It would have to be tackled by a brave and talented indie studio, unafraid of not making vast profits. Their successes would be followed by the corporations.

FleaCircusDirector said...

Perhaps the "Best Animated Feature"
could be renamed "Best Feature" and the best "Best Picture" category could be renamed to "Best non-animated picture"?

Don't forget "The Lost" thing which won Best Short Animated film.

Nora Lumiere said...

Yes, why not? I do like the sound of: Best non-animated picture, heh.

But you raise an important point: shorts, both animated and not, Every couple of years, the Academy tries to have this category eliminate, unable to see that it's where the Best Pictures come from. Shorts are the incubators, stepping-stones to feature-length films and must be encouraged and rewarded.

Ross said...

Best Animated Feature guarantees that an animated movie will win an Oscar. If this category is gone, then animated movies can only hope to win technical awards. Why is it so bad that there's a Best Animated Feature Oscar anyway? The whole reason we want our favorite movies to win awards is because we want them to have recognition, and having a dedicated category ensures an award for an animation every year. If Animations could only contend in Best Picture, they would win rarely.

The only reason animations get nominated for best picture is because there are 10 nominees, and they need to fill the bill (proof: Alice in Wonderland was nominated!) Animations don't really have a serious chance at winning because live-action bias still exists.

Animators don't get nominated for Best Director. No animation has even been nominated for best cinematography, editing, art direction, etc. Animated movies need to be recognized in these categories as well if they are meant to be taken on the same level as live-action films.

It is unlikely that the best animated category will be dissolved because the Oscars are a TV show, and like any TV show, their prime goal is to make money. Having an extra award means more commercial breaks, which means more sponsors, which means more money.

Nora Lumiere said...

Anonymous comments:

ROSS, if you attach an ID to your name, I'd be happy to publish your comment.
You know who I am, I'd like to know who you are.

Ross said...

This is Ross:

I thought I included personal information. I got a follow-up via email, and right below the word verification box, it says I am signed in to my google ID.

If that doesn't work, then here's how you can get to know me:

My name is Ross, I go to SCAD. I like to make animations, watch animations, and talk about animations. Sometimes I take things a little too seriously. I have a bit of a sweet tooth, I can ride a unicycle, and I'm afraid of my friends not liking me anymore.

Nora Lumiere said...

Thank you, Ross for your profile! How could I not publish comments of a unicyclist with a sweet-tooth?
Actually, you should fill in the profile that goes with your Google ID so we know who you are and where you are and what you do.