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Feature Film

Academy Ignores Animation for Best Foreign Film

Is anyone surprised that Persepolis wasn’t nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar? No foreign animated film submitted by its home country has ever been nominated in this category.

And its interesting to note that Persepolis wasn’t even the first animated nominee from France. In 1953 France submitted Jean Image’s Johnny The Giant Killer. In 1975 Belgium submitted Tarzoon, Shame Of The Jungle.

For the record, here’s a complete run down of previous animated films submitted to the Best Foreign Film category:

1986: Hungary, CAT CITY
1994: Japan, POM POKO
1999: Argentina, MANUELITA
2005: Luxembourg, RENART THE FOX
2007: France, PERSEPOLIS

None of them made it. Most of these entries were submitted in the years before the Academy recognized animated features. Unlike some of my colleagues, I’m grateful the Academy’s Best Animated Feature category exists. With the exception of Beauty And The Beast, the organization has failed, time and again, to recognize the art. The industry simply does not consider animation in the same league with live action. Eliminating the Animated Feature Oscar will not change how Academy voters consider animation. Having that award at least brings us to the table.

To some the Best Animated Feature category may be a “ghetto”, but ultimately it’s up to us to raise the consciousness amongst the filmmakers, the Academy and the public.

  • I agree…I’m glad the seperate category exists.

  • Altred Ego

    An interesting question would be whether or not the French or the filmmakers even care that they weren’t nominated in America.

  • alex Kirwan

    I don’t know, I’m still torn on this. I feel Persepolis would have likely gotten a best foreign film nod if not for the animation category. Within the Best animated film category it’s sure to be trampled under the crowd pleasing box-office juggernaut Ratatouille. With all due respect, every foreign animated film mentioned in your list (that I’m familiar with) was a pretty laughable long shot for the foreign film category, with the exceptions of Persepolis and the two Ghibli films. The separate animation award was added at a time when the medium was discovering new inspiration and diversity worldwide. Persepolis perfectly exemplifies this: a mature, intelligent non-fantasy story that is told more poetically and effectively through animation than it could through any other technique. It’s a shame it won’t receive more attention.

  • I’m glad the Best Animated Feature category was added. I just wish it was taken a little bit more seriously. But in order for that to occur, animation itself needs to be taken more seriously. And since very few non-mainstream animated films get nominated for the category, that may never happen.
    And at this point, I highly doubt Ratatouille will get nominated for Best Picture.

  • Chuck R.

    “Tarzoon, Shame of the Jungle?” Okay, I admit, I’d never heard of it, but did the Belgians really cross their fingers for this to win?

    I had higher expectations for Persepolis. And yes, for now animation needs its own category.

  • Ryan

    Just to make an obnoxious point, would you really consider the likes of Renart the Fox or Lapitch the Little Shoe Maker for an Oscar nomination?

  • RR

    Oh I can guarantee you the filmmakers care about not getting the nod. An Oscar nomination = big boost in box office.

    It’s a shame it wasn’t nominated. I am certain that if the Animated Feature category didn’t exist, it likely would have been in for Foreign.

  • I think that a “Best animation in a feature” category will be better.

  • Animation Pimp

    well animation is not a serious art form so why should it be included with real art?

  • I like the category too, mostly…I just wish it didn’t end up being the kids-movie ghetto most of the time instead of the all-types-of-animation ghetto. Now that I know the track record of animated film in the Foreign Film category, it’s interesting that France opted to put Persepolis forward in the first place, rather than, say, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which might’ve had a better chance at the final nomination and would have still allowed Persepolis in the Animated category.

  • I’ve only seen a few of the films on the list above, but after looking at some of the information on them I’m doubtful that they were strong contenders.

    Persepolis may be the strongest foreign animated feature so far, but foreign live-action films have reached a very high level. It would be tough to knock the best of those out of the way.

  • KNS

    It might be more accurate to say that Persepolis failed to even make the preliminary shortlist of 9 films for the Foreign Language Oscar.

    The final list of five nominees from these 9 films won’t be announced until January 22.

  • Benjamin DS

    KNS is correct.

    And what surprised me even more than that Persepolis wasn’t on the shortlist, was that none of the 4 best-reviewed (in the US) foreign films got nominated.

    – Persepolis
    – The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
    – 12:08 East of Bucharest
    – 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 days

    Granted, only two could’ve been on the list since two are from France and two from Romania, but I still had expected the two submitted ones to be in, at the very least for the shortlist, if not nomination.

  • KNS – To clarify: Persepolis failed to make the shortlist of nominees for the Foreign Language Oscar, thus it will not be nominated in that category.

  • Altred Ego

    While I’m certain the filmmakers would appreciate the income and recognition that would come from an American Academy win, what I meant was that the subject matter/demographic wasn’t exactly going to take America by storm. So I cannot see why they would be surprised that they weren’t recognized by the American Academy.

    I highly doubt it was something they expected. It’d be interesting to hear from the filmmakers on the subject, thus far the author has been quite chatty. I hope we get a comment in a few days.

  • Tarzoon??!! Tarzoon was submitted! Wowza. I wonder what the academy thought of that one when they saw it…

  • Hey, if the Academy has a hard time recognizing comedy, it’s no surprise to me that they have a hard time recognizing Animation.

    I think that as long as there is a “Best Animated Feature” category, it will always stay out of contention in other categories.

  • That’s really quite sad. The fact that Persepolis and The Diving Bell and The Butterfly did not get nominated makes me wonder if the voters actually bothered to see them at all.

    I didn’t have much faith in the Oscars, but they make a mockery of themselves with such decisions. Too bad their decisions have so much influence.

  • RR

    Folks, stop shedding your tears for “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” in this category: it was not even submitted for Foreign Film because I don’t believe it was eligible (it was financed with American cash). It’s practically a shoo-in for Best Picture though.

  • I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be deducing from this post? Persepolis not being nominated is one issue, certainly. But I’m not sure what Jerry’s point is by listing the other entries that weren’t nominated? Most of the films in that list are unwatchable curiosities. I mean Cat City, for crying out loud? Even Pon Poko is Ghibli’s least translatable effort. Mononoke strikes me as the only one there that even comes close to being a contender – but like any anime was ever going to be nominated 11 years ago!?

    By rights, there aught to be at least a Best Animated Feature, and a Best Foreign Animated Feature. But this would imply that Academy, and by proxy the American distribution market, gave a rats ass about foreign animated films. Which it clearly doesn’t.

  • Y’know, maybe they just weren’t very good movies?
    (‘cept Mononoke and Persepolis… but hey! Them’s the breaks!)

  • Tony Mines – I mainly posted the listing of previous animated feature entries to the Best Foreign Language Film category for reference purposes. I hadn’t seen this information posted anywhere before, nor did I have it listed in any books.

    I admit the previous animated features entered in the Foreign Language contest are mostly weak films, but the point of the post was to open the discussion regarding the Best Animated Feature category. Without this award, the recent works of Aardman and Miyazaki may have been ignored, and Pixar would only be recognized for their shorts and songs. I’m hoping that the category will begin to honor more international and independent features, as the animated shorts category has routinely done for the past 50 years.

  • Considering the Academy’s consistently poor judgment, does anyone still care what they think? I’d much rather win an Annie.

  • Benjamin DS

    Pixar wouldn’t have been just recognized for shorts and songs (and sound), as it got nominated for best original screenplay, and if it weren’t for the brilliance of Charlie Kaufman, I think it had a good chance of winning. It also got nominated for a best musical or comedy Golden Globe, at a time where there was no animated category yet. Now there is, and Ratatouille didn’t get that nomination, while there were 7 nominations in drama, and only 5 in musical/comedy. Now, I don’t know the rules/regulations of the GG, but don’t you think Ratatouille could’ve been a 6th on there, if it weren’t for the animated category? Strangely enough, Persepolis DID get nominated there for best foreign film, and not for animated.

  • Is Shame of the Jungle on DVD anywhere? I used to see it on VHS all the time when the format was relatively new, then it disappeared. I seem to recall it was dubbed into English using a number of Saturday Night Live cast members…

  • Not one of them made it as a Foreign Film Oscar nod…

    until WALTZ WITH BASHIR (VALS IM BASHIR) in the 2009 edition.

    As for LAPITCH, please don’t shame the little guy just yet. He’s been a hit in his native Croatia for ages–don’t believe me? Go to for proof. (And I’m a big fan of his.)