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2017 Oscar Nominations: Animated Feature, Animated Short, VFX

Nomination for the 89th Academy Awards were announced this morning.

We have published filmmaker reactions from the nominees here. A full analysis of the animation and vfx categories can be found below.

In addition to the three categories that we cover—feature animation, short animation, vfx— there were also animation-related nominations in the original song category, where two of the five nominations belonged to “Can’t Stop the Feeling” from Trolls and “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana.

Congratulations to the nominees in the animated feature, short, and vfx categories. Here they are:

Animated Feature Film
  • Kubo and the Two Strings
    dir. Travis Knight
  • Moana
    dir. Ron Clements, John Musker
  • My Life as a Zucchini
    dir. Claude Barras
  • The Red Turtle
    dir. Michael Dudok de Wit
  • Zootopia
    dir. Rich Moore, Byron Howard

Notes on the Feature Animation Nominees:
No Oscar category has been so controlled by one film company as the animated feature has been by the Walt Disney Company, which has won the Academy Award for eight out of the last nine years. The company is currently favored to win yet again for Zootopia, its ninth win in 10 years.

There is significant reason at this point to question the Academy’s voting procedures and pressure them to institute more fair voting rules that would prevent one studio from owning the feature animation category. A good start would be requiring Academy voters to actually view the films before voting on them, rather than letting their kids tell them who should win, a practice that we have anecdotally heard is widespread amongst voters.

The big snub on this list is Your Name. As we wrote yesterday, “If the Academy doesn’t recognize Your Name with a nomination, it will be impossible to take the category seriously this year.” The level of filmmaking craft on display in Your Name, simply put, was on another level. It boggles the mind that a group of animation professionals were unable to recognize this. Then again, there were likely other factors at play here. The Academy has exhibited a very clear bias toward any Japanese animation that is not produced by Studio Ghibli. In 16 years, they have nominated a Ghibli film six times and never a Japanese feature by any other director.

Speaking of Ghibli, Michael Dudok de Wit’s The Red Turtle earned a nomination. Though Ghibli is a co-producer on the film, it’s a European animated feature made by a European director in multiple European studios. Red Turtle had been quiet on the award circuit all season long, but it’s a worthy animated feature that has touched many people deeply and it’s nice to see it recognized.

Also, great to see recognized: Claude Barras’ My Life As A Zucchini, which as we’ve pointed out, gleefully breaks all the conventions of American kids’ films. Produced for a mere US$8 million, the Swiss-French co-production was made for 5% the cost of Disney’s Zootopia.

On the American side, Disney’s Zootopia and Laika’s Kubo and the Two Strings each earned nominations. The two films have been trading awards back and forth for the last few months so it would have only been a surprise to not see one of them on the list. Disney also earned a second nomination in the category for Moana.

Animated Short Film
  • Blind Vaysha
    dir. Theo Ushev
  • Borrowed Time
    dir. Andrew Coats, Lou Hamou-Lhadj
  • Pear Cider and Cigarettes
    dir. Robert Valley
  • Pearl
    dir. Patrick Osborne
  • Piper
    dir. Alan Barillaro

Notes on the Animated Short Film Nominees:
WOW! Blind Vaysha got nomination.

WOW! Pear Cider and Cigarettes got a nomination.

Both films are essentially one-person films — powerful artistic statements by singular filmmakers. They are also bold choices by the Academy.

The films have also had very different trajectories on their road to the Oscars. Blind Vaysha has been a major festival hit, winning awards left and right. It’s made by the prolific Theo Ushev, an animation machine who pumps out films at lightning-pace, made all the more remarkable by the top-notch quality of each new project he makes.

On the other hand, Pear Cider was virtually ignored by the major animation festivals. The film is gritty, real, and raw–in other words, not typical festival fare. At over 30 minutes, the film’s length also worked against it on the festival circuit. When it comes to animated shorts though, the Academy doesn’t listen to festivals much. That can be both a good and bad thing. It’s a bad thing when they choose an absolute travesty as a winner, like The Chubbchubbs! (I will continue to point this out until my last breath), but other times they’ll rescue an excellent film that was overlooked by the animation community, like John Canemaker’s The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation. Rob Valley’s Pear Cider falls in the latter category, and it’s great to see it recognized.

Pixar’s Piper, directed by Alan Barillaro, picked up a nomination. It’s a fine technical accomplishment, but as a film, it doesn’t aspire to the heights of the previous two films. Intriguingly, Piper is up against Borrowed Time, a film made by two current Pixar employees. Directors Andrew Coats and Lou Hamou-Lhadj made the film in their own time and with their own money, but they had access to Pixar’s technical resources through the company’s professional development program. Pixar may rethink helping its employees make Pixar-style films on their own time, especially now that its own employees are competing against the company.

Finally, Patrick Osborne, who won an Oscar a couple years ago for Disney’s Feast, is back with Pearl. The film was originally produced as a interactive experience for the Google Spotlight Stories initiative, but the version that is nominated here is a cinematic, non-interactive version of the project. Google got shortlisted previously for Glen Keane’s Duet, but this marks the company’s first Oscar nomination.

Looking at the 10-film shortlist from which these nominees were selected, the Academy made a solid selection in 2017.

Visual Effects
  • Deepwater Horizon
  • Doctor Strange
  • The Jungle Book
  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Notes on the Visual Effects Nominees:
Kubo and the Two Strings, an animated film, for best vfx? How often does that happen? Not very. The last time a 100%-animated film was nominated in the category was 1994—it was Henry Selick’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Cartoon Brew’s vfx editor Ian Failes observes that the nominations for both Kubo and Deepwater Horizon show “a clear recognition of films that might not at first seem like huge vfx films, but clearly these are actually big visual effects films. They just don’t seem like it because arguably their vfx work is more invisible than the others. This possibly continues a trend from Ex Machina last year.” Failes thinks that both films have a decent shot at winning because “Academy voters are going for the ‘less CGI’ thing, even though that’s actually not the case.”

The more conventional favorite is The Jungle Book, although its vfx approach, which is digital animals and environments, comes across as a bit of a one-trick pony. Rogue One with its mix of practical fx, digital vfx, and digital humans, shows greater range.

In terms of snubs, both Arrival and Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them were key contenders that missed out. Arrival might not be so much of a surprise—the film also failed to receive any VES nominations—but the creature work in Fantastic Beasts, both impressive and important to the story, was representative of an awards-worthy vfx film.

  • desantoos

    Congrats to Kubo for being nominated for Best Disney Picture.

  • Elsi Pote

    I want to thank the academy for giving me a reason to not watch the ceremony that night.

    My best regards and wishes to the artists at Laika for such a great animation classic called Kubo. You should know by now that your movie doesn’t fulfill any secret agenda and most likely won’t pick any award.

    Now i truly hope I’m wrong.

  • Tim Tran

    Your Name is snubbed so hard omygod.

    • Your Name isn’t out in the US legally yet…

      • Marielle

        Neither were My Life as a Zucchini and The Red Turtle, but they got buzz from film festivals and reputation.

        • I just did some research. Turns out that the film WAS released legally in limited release on December 2nd. That confused me since I saw YouTubers like CellSpex posting a review in as early as October.

      • Jason

        It was released in the US in December.

        • Thanks for pointing that out. Didn’t realize it till now.

    • Renard N. Bansale

      Funimation screwed up by choosing April to release Your Name in N. America. They made a splash with its LA week-long Oscar-qualifying run, topped off with its LAFCA Best Animation victory (one that, aside from 2008’s unique situation, had always guaranteed a Best Animated Feature Oscar nom), and it continues to challenge Spirited Away’s all-time Japanese domestic gross while having already surpassed its worldwide gross to become the highest grossing anime film worldwide.

      Why did Funimation wait?? Why couldn’t they jump on the opportunity to expand in N. America in late December/early January to challenge Spirited Away’s $10 mil. domestic gross here and make a lasting impression on awards voters?? Funimation was unwise to underestimate the Cannes showing and studio reputation of The Red Turtle (which hasn’t made any b.o. impression anywhere really) or the foreign charm of My Life As A Courgette. The chances of Your Name challenging Spirited Away’s mere $10 mil. here in N. America was doubtful, Oscar nomination or not, and now it’ll be all but dead on arrival come April. What a damn shame.

      On the bright side, I hope Funimation learns from this experience enough to know what to do come Makoto Shinkai’s next film in a few years.

  • I think the biggest shocker is that Tonko House’s short film “Moom” didn’t even make it in the nominations list for Best Animated Short Film. I wonder why that is?

    • Marielle

      I’m also surprised that Disney’s short Inner Workings didn’t get a nomination because they usually get in.

  • SpongeBorg

    No love for “The Little Prince” unfortunately.

    • Tim Tran

      because it’s a 2015 film?

    • ea

      A case of “too little, too late.”

      • J.S

        In latin america it was actually released in theaters back in 2015. Luckily I had the chance of seeing it.

  • guest

    The fact that Japanese directors such as Satoshi Kon, Mamoru Hosoda, Masaaki Yuasa, and Makoto Shinkai have never even been nominated for an Oscar is frankly a disgrace.

    • ValjeanLafitte

      It especially hurts that Satoshi Kon was never recognized by the Academy during his lifetime. So many brilliant films. :(

  • TheLillypop

    Couldnt agree more!

  • Luke

    “Your Name” not being nominated is surely a disappointment, but why only blame the Animation nominating committee when the blame lies primarily with its American distributor, FUNimation. FUNimation simply doesn’t know how to run an Oscar campaign. GKIDS gets 1-2 nominations every year because they they understand the only way to earn a nomination is to play ball like Harvey Weinstein. They have multiple plays every year and make sure the nominating committee is familiar with the films they’re pushing. Some films get nominated (Zucchini) and others don’t (Phantom Boy, Miss Hokusai), but the nominations ultimately help raise the film’s profile beyond the oscars. FUNimation has earned a sterling reputation as the premier American anime distributor. Their theatrical business caters to existing anime fans and has been very successful, see Dragonball Z Resurrection. “Your Name” will be successful with that crowd and I look forward to seeing it then, but they aren’t very good at reaching out and that’s what the Oscars require. FUNimation can be a distributor that gets acclaimed anime features the attention they deserve beyond the otaku, but they have try a lot harder than an LA qualifying run.

    • ea

      It was also a very crowded category. They should’ve waited a year before submitting it to the Academy, especially since 2017 is shaping up to be a pretty mediocre year for domestic theatrical animation.

      • I’m glad I’m not the only feeling that 2017 has really mediocre films coming in regards to animation. Not really excited at all.

  • rodso64

    Happy: Zootopia nominated for Best Animated Feature.
    Angry: Zootopia not nominated for anything else. It was the best reviewed film of 2016 on Rotten Tomatoes — quantifiable.

    • It deserved a nomination for Best Film. Even over Hidden Figures.

  • Dman

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  • Strong Enough

    Kubo deserves a win

  • Jason

    Well if the ad on this website is any indication, Kubo already won 8 awards. But Academy voters should just vote for the film they liked the best, and not vote for something just because it’s an underdog.

  • npcomplete

    My theory on why only Ghibli films have ever gotten a nomination amongst all anime: it’s distributed by Disney.

  • I think it’s also worth mentioning that “Life, animated” was nominated for Best Documentary. It may not be about animation per se, but I was truly moved to see how the work of this profession can shape the life of someone so profoundly. It inspires me to keep on going.

  • I’m glad the Academy is not recognizing Pixar for doing (unecessary) sequels again (Monsters University wasn’t nominated, neither was Cars 2). Pixar is meant to innovate and take risks, and these films were pretty safe compared to their other stellar performances in their library.

  • Joe Blow

    Why not have two Animated Feature categories, one for US features and one for foreign features?

  • Marc Hendry

    Why bother, Disney will always get it. At least both of their entries this year are very good.
    I suppose the one thing that independent studios get from being nominated, is that it makes it a bit easier to raise money for their upcoming projects

  • Robert Kania

    Your Name was not released in the United States yet, so I don’t think they could nominate it.

    • AmidAmidi

      The film had its qualifying L.A. theatrical run last month and was eligible in the category this year.

  • J.S

    Wasn’t expecting that Finding Dory snub

  • Andrew Kieswetter

    I agree with all the feature nominations. Zootopia will probably win (and why not, it’s a very good movie). I’m surprised though that ‘Try Anything’ from Zootopia wasn’t nominated for Best Song.

  • crossie

    You guys don’t realize how amazing this category is. You’re so busy complaining about how the foreign language movie you wanted to be nominated wasn’t nominated (that parts fine) that you’re failing to notice it’s the only category outside Foreign Language Film to have multiple nominations of foreign language films at all (and if Huppert hadn’t made it into Actress for ‘Elle,’ it would have been the only).

    Guys, in 2010, the Academy expanded the Best Picture category to ten nominees (then changed that rule a bit two years later, but we’re still in the “expanded” era) with the stated (and slightly contradictory) goal to both give mainstream, popular blockbusters (like ‘Zootopia’ and ‘Moana’) and smaller, independents (like ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’) as well as more diverse, international fare (like ‘My Life as a Zucchini’ and ‘The Red Turtle’), and this change to the rules has completely failed to do that, while the Best Animated Feature has consistently had big and small movies competing against each other, even in years when the category consistently only had three nominees!

    Since the category expanded in 2009 there have been 72 movies nominated for Best Picture. One has been in a language other than English (‘Amour’ in 2012); during the same time period, 38, a little over half the number of BP nominees, have been nominated for Best Animated Feature. There have been 10 foreign language movies nominated for the category. More than a quarter of all nominees.

    You’re complaining that Disney always wins (and, seriously, you realize how crazy that sounds to a non-geek, to complain that Disney is winning in animation?) when it in fact, took three years for a Disney produced movie to win, and over a decade for an actual Disney Studios movie to win. And it’s not like these are bad movies winning; oh, no ‘Zootopia’ might win an Oscar! A well-reviewed, well-loved movie that consciously deals with real issues effecting real people right now. THE HORROR, THE HORROR!

    Last year, I was reading mainstream Oscar pundits complaining loudly and angrily about how ‘Inside Out’ wasn’t nominated for Best Picture, then I come to Cartoon Brew and see Amidi COMPLAINING IT WON? If you liked ‘Anomalisa’ better, I mean, fine, but ‘Inside Out’ was not a bad choice.

    Yes, I do agree, when it comes time for the winner vote, when the entire Academy votes, probably a lot of them probably just grab Disney and/or Pixar and whatever. But, guys, look at the nominees; these people are picking some really cool movies. And are at least making sure the Disney and/or Pixar rote-votes are actually really, really good movies (you’ll notice even pretty good ‘Finding Dory’ couldn’t cut it this year). Maybe some day the really cool foreign movie nominated will even win if they keep giving them nominations (oh, wait, that also already happened, too, the second year of the category).

    I’m sorry it wasn’t your really cool foreign movie this year that was nominated; but that we’re even talking about something like ‘Your Name’ in the context of end of the year American movie awards is because of this Oscar category. Why do think it won the L.A. Film Critics Award? It wouldn’t even have gotten that, because the L.A. Film Critics didn’t even give out that award until the Oscars started doing it.

    These are not bad nominees. These are freaking amazing nominees. ‘Zootopia’ is not a bad movie; the crime is not that it’s going to win Best Animated Feature (and ‘Kubo’ could upset; I’m on team ‘Zootopia’ here, but that Visual Effects nom could mean something). The crime is that Best Animated Feature is all it’s even nominated for.

    • Tomm

      I have to say id agree overall with this comment –

      just the nomination in this category can really mean a lot for smaller films and I really think this category is still doing a great job of shining a big “mainstream media” light in the amazing diversity of animated films being produced globally .

      Speaking as a previous nominee from a small country my own Oscar experience was massively positive for the profile of our films .

      I know that with the amazing line up this year we all would have loved to have seen some of the other worthy animated films recognised but I couldn’t really argue too much with this list or imagine pushing any of these films aside .

      That said I’d love to see one of the “outsider” films win someday soon just to prove it’s possible ….maybe this year it could happen ?

      • crossie

        See, exactly what I’m talking about! I watched your movies (granted you are who I think you are) and loved them, something I wouldn’t have done if not for this category.

        (And I didn’t even count them in my 10 since they weren’t technically foreign language.)

    • ValjeanLafitte

      I might not have a problem with Zootopia winning–and it’s very much a given that it will–if the movie didn’t spend all of its 108 minutes beating me over the head about social issues. It was less an entertaining movie that happens to deal with themes of racism (e.g. The Fox and the Hound) and more a race allegory from start to finish–one that tackles its social issues with all the subtlety of a bull in a china shop. But I don’t go to the movies to be preached at; if you want to moralize, you’ve got to do it well, and certainly in a way that isn’t self-contradictory.

      I realize this isn’t a popular opinion, though, so this comment might not get published.

      • Tastes like candy

        Good for you! But you are certainly in the minority fortunately! Most were very entertained, a film doesn’t make over a billion dollars for being “preachy” many years of documentaries have proven this!

        I believe it’s more so that you have some problem with what the film had to say more than it said something to begin with truth be told!

  • Tastes like candy

    So you’re saying millions of others around the world didn’t actually watch Zootopia and it’s atcually a bad film? Including multiple critics clubs, The Broadcasting Critics, The AFI, all those critics on Rotten Tomatoes that allowed Zootopia to be the number 1 film of 2016, The Golden Globes, ACE Editors, and the Producers Guild? That’s amazing! I’ll certainly keep that in mind.