For the Disney productions, the return to the Oscars was predictable. It’s the third nomination for both Incredibles 2 director Brad Bird (he’s won twice previously for The Incredibles and Ratatouille) and Ralph Breaks the Internet co-director Rich Moore (he’s won once previously for Zootopia).
Isle of Dogs creator Wes Anderson has also been nominated in the category previously for his film Fantastic Mr. Fox. It’s the sole stop-motion entry on the list.
Notably, Mamoru Hosoda’s Mirai — the only predominantly hand-drawn animated feature on the list — is also the first non-Ghibli animated feature from Japan to be nominated in the category. It’s also the 11th(!) nomination in nine years for indie distributor GKIDS in the feature animation category.
Last but certainly not least, there’s Sony Pictures Animation’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse which emerged last month as the Oscar favorite and has continued to dominate the award season, winning awards both big and small. Produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, it’s a nice victory for them after their earlier film, The Lego Movie, which had been considered a strong Oscar contender, was denied a spot at the 2015 Oscars.
The feature animation category has been won by a Walt Disney Company animated film for six years straight, and 10 out of the last 11 years. Spider-Verse represents the best opportunity in many years for an animated film to break Disney’s stranglehold on the category, and to help expand the general public’s perception of animation filmmaking.
Animated Short Film
dir. David Fine, Alison Snowden (Canada)
dir. Domee Shi (USA)
Louise Bagnall (Ireland)
One Small Step
Andrew Chesworth, Bobby Pontillas (USA/China)
Trevor Jimenez (USA)
Notes on the Animated Short Film Nominees: Diversity is more noticeable in the animated short category this year, and in a number of different ways. Firstly, three of the seven directors are women. Also notable, people of Asian descent directed or produced 4 of the 5 nominees. Animal Behaviour was produced by Michael Fukushima (Japan) and One Small Step was produced by Shaofu Zhang (China). Meanwhile, One Small Step was co-directed by Bobby Pontillas (Philippines), Bao was directed by Domee Shi (China), and Weekends was directed by Trevor Jimenez (Philippines). The nomination of One Small Step could also be one for the history books. Someone should double-check on this, but as a U.S./China co-production, I’m pretty sure that it’s the first Chinese animated short ever nominated in the Oscar category.
There’s no denying that the Academy loves the work of David Fine and Alison Snowden. Animal Behaviour, a production of the National Film Board of Canada, marks the fourth Oscar nomination in this category for the husband-and-wife team. They’ve received two nominations for their work as a team — George and Rosemary (1987) and Bob’s Birthday, the latter of which won the Oscar in 1995 —and Alison Snowden’s student film Second Class Mail was additionally nominated in 1986.
But they don’t love them as much as they do Pixar, which is getting its fourteenth nomination in the category with Domee Shi’s Bao. The award represents the 9th straight year in a row that a Walt Disney Company-produced short has been nominated in the category.
Cartoon Saloon received its fourth nomination from the Academy for Louis Bagnall’s Late Afternoon. But it’s the first time the Irish studio has been nominated for an animated short Oscar; all of its previous nods have been in the feature animation category.
One Small Step is the first production from L.A. animation start-up Taiko Studios. Many of the studio’s key members, including the two directors of the film, are former Walt Disney Animation Studios artists.
And again, last but certainly not least, there’s Weekends by Pixar story artist Trevor Jimenez. For me, it’s without question the strongest film in the category. The film was produced through Pixar Co-op, a program at the studio which supports the company’s artists in the production of their independent films. It’s the third Oscar nomination for a film produced through the program; the other two are The Dam Keeper and Borrowed Time.
Avengers: Infinity War
Dan DeLeeuw, Kelly Port, Russell Earl and Dan Sudick
Christopher Lawrence, Michael Eames, Theo Jones and Chris Corbould
Paul Lambert, Ian Hunter, Tristan Myles and J.D. Schwalm
Ready Player One
Roger Guyett, Grady Cofer, Matthew E. Butler and David Shirk
Solo: A Star Wars STory
Rob Bredow, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Dominic Tuohy
Notes on the Visual Effects Nominees: This is another category in which there were few big surprises. We identified four of the five nominees all the way back in October, including the front-runner Avengers: Infinity War, which has picked up more vfx honors this season than any other film.
The only film that might be considered a surprise on this list is Christopher Robin, a hybrid cg/live-action production with lots of character animation.
It’s also telling that Black Panther, a visual effects-heavy film wasn’t nominated for its visual effects. Even with all the momentum behind the film — it received a total of seven nominations including Best Picture — the quality of certain vfx scenes have been criticized since its trailers and the general consensus was that its vfx were not the highlight. The film also came up empty-handed at the vfx industry’s biggest awards show, the VES Awards, where it didn’t receive a single nomination.
Notably, three of the films in this category are Disney productions: Avengers: Infinity War, Christopher Robin, and Solo: A Star Wars Story.