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2009: Five Features for Oscar??

I was going to write a post about this, but my friend Pete Hammond at the L.A. Times beat me to it.

This has been a pretty good year for animated features and by my count we have fifteen films that are technically qualified for an Academy Award nomination. In order to qualify for five nominees (as opposed the usual 3) the producers of all fifteen of these films must enter their features for nomination. Then a 16th (or better yet, a 17th and 18th) film must qualify – the rules state that five animated features can be nominated if 16 films qualify.

Here are the fifteen that already played (or will play) theatrically this year for at least one week in Los Angeles, in order of release:

1. CORALINE – Focus Features.
2. MONSTERS VS. ALIENS – Dreamworks
3. BATTLE FOR TERRA – Lionsgate.
4. UP – Pixar.
5. ICE AGE: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS – 20th Century Fox.
6. PONYO – Walt Disney Pictures.
7. 9 – Focus Features.
9. EVANGELION: 1.0 – YOU ARE (NOT) ALONE – Funimation.
10. MARY AND MAX – Sundance Selects/IFC.
11. ASTRO BOY – Summit Entertainment.
13. THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX – 20th Century Fox.
14. PLANET 51 – Tri-Star.

What, if any, other features are likely to open before now and the end of December? Perhaps The Secret of Kells, which had only one festival showing in LA. but no U.S. distributor that I know of. Perhaps the stop-mo A Town Called Panic, which recently played in NYC, will be given a run in LA? Maybe Disney, who are playing the direct-to-video feature Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure for one week at El Capitan in Hollywood, CA, next week, will submit it for Academy consideration?

With ten (most likely all live action) films being nominated in the Best Feature category, it only seems fair that the animated feature race is upped to five contenders. Personally, I think there are more than enough good films this year worthy of a shot at the prize.

  • Sounds like a toss up between Coraline, Up, and Cloudy. Depending on how well received Princess does it could be a wild card that could take one of the spots. I doubt Ponyo will though who knows? The academy awards are always well iffy.

  • Chris Sokalofsky

    Here’s to holding out hope that the academy will suck it up and throw an animated film into the mix for best picture.

  • There were more than enough last year too, but not all the qualifiers were submitted. This year looks to have even less releases, so something tells me we won’t get the 5 nominations once again.

  • Elikrotupos

    Is there any chance for “L’illusionniste” by Chomait will be released this year?

    Disney didn’t submit Tinkerbell last year, maybe it will this year, if the Princess or Ponyo may not be strong enough for being nominated among the first three. (I believe/hope that the three nominated will be Up, Coraline and Meatballs)

  • TK

    From the list, I see Terra and Evangelion as the least likely to submit. Kells is simply too good to be left out (it was unfortunately being picked up by an incompetent distributor). This year’s just too good for just 3!

  • james

    The Secret of Kells was amazing.. its really a shame it has not yet got a distributor.. If I had a vote for the academy awards, Kells would get it.

  • I will add “The Missing Lynx”, produced by Antonio Banderas and winner of the Goya for best animated feature film in Spain.
    It will play at the Los Angeles Latino Film Festival this month and will have it’s qualifying run Nov 13th in Los Angeles.

  • You didn’t include Bill Plympton’s ANGELS AND IDIOTS, which I believe has qualified for this year.

  • It’s been posted on the production blog that The Secret of Kells does have a US distributor in the Empire Film Group. No details yet on when they plan to release it unfortunately.

    Just looking at the list, it would seem that although the major players are all present and correct, it’s great to see smaller players such as Laika there as well. I’m hoping either Coraline or Ponyo wins :)

  • Tale of Despereaux?

  • Just out of curiosity, what do studios have to do in order to submit their films for nomination? Is there any kind of investment or risk involved, or is the only thing stopping a film that meets the basic qualifications being from nominated either the studio not wanting to compete with another animated film it has up for the award (Disney, for example) or the studio just not seeing much point because the don’t have faith in their film?

  • stumpyuncle

    Mary and Max was the best of the bunch.

  • ask

    Eh, they’ll most most likely make the Best Animated Feature category than anything else. :(

  • Tom D

    Wait, didn’t Delgo come out this year?

  • shouldbeworking

    I don’t believe simply because a film is animated means it should be nominated. As in live action category it should be a worthy film. 3 I have seen deserve nomination : UP, Coraline and Angels & Idiots.

  • Rob T.

    Both Delgo and The Tale of Despereaux were submitted for Oscar consideration last year, so those can’t be submitted again.

    One possibility that hasn’t come up yet–since Alvin and the Chipmunks was among the hopefuls two years ago, might 20th Century Fox submit the sequel (or “squeakquel”) this time? Could happen, not necessarily because they seriously think it’s Oscar-worthy but to give The Fantastic Mr. Fox a better shot at a nomination.

  • Gerard de Souza

    Does Sita Sing The Blues qualify? That deserves a nomination too IMO if sheerly for artistic vision and engaging storytelling.

  • Tom D and Aaron H. BynumDelgo and Tale of Despereaux were released last year.

    Anyone who needs a refresher on what film was released when, I’m keeping track on this site.

    Gerard de Sousa – I agree about Sita, however to date Nina hasn’t qualified the film per Academy rules and guidelines. Those rules are posted here.

    Raul – That’s great news about The Missing Lynx being screened for Academy qualification. That’s the 16th film right there!

    Michael Sporn – I keep track as best I can of theatrical releases of animated films in Los Angeles. If Bill’s Angels and Idiots played in LA, I somehow completely missed it. I will ask Bill what week he ran it here, and where. I need to confirm it before I add it to the list.

  • Rob T.

    Sita Sings the Blues, what with its problems finding a distributor, never had a theatrical screening in L.A. before Nina Paley (choosing public exposure over angling for prestige) released it on DVD. No Oscar for Sita, alas!

  • Next year’s Animated Oscar is going to be VERY hard to call…
    If it’s only 3, it’ll be Up!, Coraline or Ponyo and either Princess/Monsters/Cloudy.
    As a Pixar fan, Disney 2D loyalist and Portland resident, I’ll be rooting equally for Up!, Princess and Coraline.

    If Up! manages to muscle into Best Picture (and I think it’s the only feature there with that chance), then that throws the field open a bit more.

  • For three, it’s kind of hard to call, I guess the choices would be “Coraline”, “Up”, and “Ponyo” (with Miayazaki having previously been nominated for “Howl’s Moving Castle” and won for “Spirited Away”.) BTW, if these three were nominated, you’d get stop-motion, CG, and 2-D, all three key animation formats!

    If there were five (which I would love to see), these three would obviously be added in, alongside “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “Princess and the Frog”. “Frog” and “Fox” haven’t been released though so it’s gonna take some time for me to really consider what the final two are.

    As for “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”, I like that too and it’s animation is some of the best CG I’ve seen, but I felt as if it’s scrapes of quirky charm it had kind of got thrown to the garbage by the end. I think my peaking point is when they got to the intelligent super food.

  • Prediction: “Up” walks away with the oscar.

  • I’d give the award to either Up or Coraline. And maybe The Princess and the Frog depending on how much I like it.

  • Sara,

    I don’t think there’s necessarily any financial investment in submitting a film for an oscar, although studios frequently spend money on an advertising campaign (think of the “for your consideration” ads on awn.com). I doubt studios bother to submit if they don’t think they have a chance at a nomination.

  • Mike Lucy

    A Christmas Carol is not animated. It is performance captured. This is basically digital puppetry, not animation.

  • Adam

    I would be absolutely tickled if Evangelion somehow stole the Oscar. Rebuild of EVA 1.0 is an excellent film. Rebuild 2.0 is even better.

    But how does a film released in 2007 qualify for an Academy Award in 2009?

    …If Rebuild is playing in LA this fall or winter, I am making that flight. Seeing it on a monitor or even on my projector just doesn’t compare to a big screen.

  • vzk

    There’s a good chance for Mary and Max; Adam Elliot has already won an Oscar for Best Animated Short with Harvey Krumpet, and we know that the Academy are most likely to vote for features which creators were previously awarded for that category (example: Aardman and The Curse of the Were-Rabbit).

  • Mike!

    Even if Up can worm its way into Best Picture, it’ll never win. And to me, it’ll just feel like the Academy throwing this lowly cartoon a bone and not genuine. At least to me.

    I say it’ll be Up, Coraline and Fox up on the block, and if five, then Ponyo and Cloudy too.

  • prep

    What about $9.99 ?

  • Inkan1969

    “$9.99” was submitted last year.

  • ‘A Christmas Carol is not animated. It is performance captured. This is basically digital puppetry, not animation.’

    Mike , please say that to the 45 plus animators that worked on the show. The performances you see on the screen do not come from some magic box that captures every detail and nuance Jim Carry delivers on a mocap set. The performance comes alive via an animators hand…period.

  • The Eva film was mentioned; how about Oshii’s THE SKY CRAWLERS?

  • Aaron H. Bynum – THE SKY CRAWLERS was submitted for Academy consideration last year.

  • G Melissa Graziano

    Angels and Idiots played in L.A. as part of the AFI Film Festival last November and therefore would’ve been in contention for last year (I think?).

    And as much as I adored Up, I’m sort of gunning for Mary and Max. :)

  • G Melissa Graziano

    Plus performance capture and digital puppetry are two separate things, at least in my mind.

  • Andrew Kieswetter

    These are my predictions for the 5 animated nominees;


    We’ll have to see.

  • Daniel J. Drazen

    I am SO hoping “Christmas Carol” doesn’t make the cut. With all due respect to the players and animators, the Dickens story has been abused enough in the past; it didn’t need to serve as a pretext for yet another run at 3D moviemaking. Leave it alone, already!

  • Karma – The list above is simply a list of features that could qualify for a nomination.

    Sixteen animated features must qualify in order for five nominees to be considered. It is a good thing Evangelion can qualify. I wouldn’t worry about it’s chance for a nomination – at least not yet.

  • EVA 1.0 probably isn’t eligible since it was released in Japan in 2007, and I recall that the Cowboy Bebop movie was disqualified from an Oscar run for being released in America two years after its Japanese release.

    Love the TV series up until the last few episodes as well as the End of EVA movie, but the first of the Rebuild films is just a poorly put-together clip-show with very minimal animation improvements, a few annoying changes, and one surprisingly cool action scene.

  • Adam

    Wow, Karma. Did Hideki Anno kick your dog or something?

    I really enjoyed the Eva series, and I think that Rebuild takes everything good about it, condenses it, and leaves out the gratuitous waaaaaangst and endless recycled footage, and painful, horrid filler episodes. And the prospect that it might have a happy ending – or at least an ending that makes some sort of -sense- – is pretty exciting.

    But I guess that one’s mileage may vary.

  • Scott

    However four listed are from Disney, aren’t the rules that distributors can only put up three features for nomination?

  • Inkan1969

    I don’t think so, Scott. In 2002, Disney put up “Lilo and Stitch”, “Spirited Away”, “Treasure Planet” and “Return to Neverland”.

    I predict “Up”, “Ponyo”, and “Coraline” if it’s a three way race. I haven’t seen “Cloudy” yet, and so I want to hold off a five way prediction.

  • Viridis

    At the current time, I’d say the Oscar will go to Up or maybe Coraline. Ponyo was good but really too weird and mis-marketed for the US audience, 9 was interesting but a bit simplistic, and most of the others are not very impressive either. The Princess and the Frog might be good, but I’m still mad at Cloudy for ruining the charm of the original book with glitzy CG. Same with Fantastic Mr. Fox. Am I the only ones who think the promo pictures look creepy as hell? Also, I can’t imagine they will keep the original ending, which as I remember was rather dark for a kid’s book (as Dahl’s work often was).

  • Squonk

    I could be wrong, but I seem to remember that “Alvin and the Chipmunks” was eligable a few years ago…though live action it had enough animation to qualify. If the “Squeakquel” qualifies as well, there’s your 16th film.

  • Inkan1969

    Squonk, “Alvin” was submitted, but was disqualified later on.

  • gene schiller

    I’m late to this web, but I must say with the benefit of hindsight, that any year that produces “Ponyo,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “The Secret of Kells,” “Mary & Max,” “A Christmas Carol,” “Coraline,” “The Princess and the Frog,” and “Up,” among others, can easily lay claim to being the greatest year in the history of feature animation.