Actress Reese Witherspoon introduced the animated feature category with an odd script: She told audiences that animation’s great power is to show children that “anything is possible.” The Academy has made something of a concerted effort this year to reposition the feature animation category as an exclusively-kid’s art form, even asking children to interview the nominated feature animation directors and producers.
Netflix took home its first Oscar in the animated short category for the film If Anything Happens I Love You directed by Michael Govier and Will McCormack. The film went up against Disney-Pixar’s Burrow and three independent films: Adrien Mérigeau’s Genius Loci, Erick Oh’s Opera, and Gísli Darri Halldórsson’s Yes-People.
This marks the fifth year in a row that an American corporation-backed film has won the animated short Oscar. It’s far from the historical norm. Prior to this stretch, only five U.S. corporate-produced films had won the short animation Oscar in the prior 42 years. Whether good or bad, there is undeniably more corporate money flowing into the short category.
Another observation: Besides corporate money, a number of recent winners have also had the backing of celebrities. If Anything Happens I Love You benefited from the involvement of actress Laura Dern, while last year’s winner Hair Love had name producers like Jordan Peele and Gabourey Sidibe. And four years ago, there was Dear Basketball, a vanity film for Kobe Bryant, who campaigned extensively around Los Angeles during Oscar season.
With five corporate films winning in a row, and celebrities increasingly becoming involved in the short animation category, it leads one to wonder what will become of the category? How will independent artists who have access to neither money nor celebrities be able to compete in this new environment? Time will tell.