An Early Look At This Year’s Animated Feature Oscar Race
This year’s Academy Award race for best animated feature race looks to be one for the ages. There are a plethora of qualified and deserving titles that have or will hit U.S. theaters this year, so we’ve decided to take an early look at what the field may look like when nominations are announced in January.
We’ve divided our coverage by distributor, and highlighted the films we believe are likely to qualify. Many of the listed distributors have yet to nail down the completed lists of films they will submit, so we’ve included anything that could make the cut. The eventual list of qualifying films is likely to look a bit different than what we’ve put together here, although we’re confident that most of the films below will be submitted.
There is little question about which studio has been Disney’s strongest competitor in recent years. Netflix’s animated feature output has seen the streamer pull double nominations in 2020 (Klaus, I Lost My Body) and 2021 (Over the Moon, A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon), and another nomination this year (The Mitchells vs. the Machines). That said, the streamer has yet to take home the Oscar for best animated feature. This year looks like Netflix’s best chance so far. Based on pedigree and the brief clips we’ve seen, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio looks a lock to get one of the five nominations. Wendell & Wild has awards cred with the likes of Henry Selick and Jordan Peele attached, while Chris Williams’ The Sea Beast has been a streaming hit that hasn’t left Netflix’s top ten most-watched English-language features list since its launch. Richard Linklater’s Apollo 10 1/2 will be submitted as well, although that film’s low profile makes it an unlikely contender. And Nora Twomey’s My Father’s Dragon may not have an official release date yet, but Netflix let us know that it will be ready to qualify for the upcoming Oscars.
Walt Disney Pictures
Always a bettor’s favorite to score several nominations and then win the Oscar, this year Disney has a crop of qualifying features which includes Turning Red, Lightyear, The Bob’s Burgers Movie, and Strange World. There is no clear standout to score a nomination or eventual win from Disney’s lineup given the unpredictable nature of Academy voting, although Turning Red feels like a frontrunner. Strange World is a real question mark, as the studio has struggled with sci-fi fare in the past. Can the film capture lightning in a bottle like Pixar managed with Wall-E, or will it struggle to make an immediate impact like Disney’s own retro-futurist predecessors Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Treasure Planet? Speaking of Disney sci-fi films that struggled out of the gates, Lightyear’s weak reception at the box office could hurt that film’s chances for an eventual nomination.
Universal has two box office hits in Dreamworks Animation’s The Bad Guys and Illumination’s Minions: The Rise of Gru that will look to make some noise during this year’s contest.The former managed to pull in $96.7 million at the domestic box office and $245.7 million worldwide, earning praise for its sharp visuals and expertly crafted action sequences. The latter is widely credited as one of the films that saved the summer box office and proved nothing short of a cultural phenomenon. Right out the gate, The Rise of Gru smashed even the most optimistic predictions and could end up hitting the billion-dollar mark by the time it finishes its global theatrical run. It opens in Italy and China this weekend. The x-factor here is Dreamworks’ second release Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, slated to launch in December. Its Western-styled trailer impressed many when it was released back a few months back. This return to the long-dormant Shrek franchise looks likely to make bank over the holiday season and could end up as a contender too.
Indie and foreign animation specialists GKIDS will qualify at least three films this year: Goodbye Don Glees!, The Deer King, and Inu-Oh. The first two both boast Annecy competition berths, while Masaaki Yuasa’s Inu-Oh pulled off a rare feat for an animated feature by premiering at Venice.
Apple will be looking to score their second nomination after Cartoon Saloon’s Wolfwalkers earned a nod in 2021. A nomination for Peggy Holmes’ Luck would also prove a coup for Skydance Animation, which made its feature debut with the film. Of course, if awards pedigree is taken into consideration, few of this year’s potential nominees boast anyone in their credit rolls with a resume quite like that of Skydance Animation head John Lasseter.
Relative newcomers to the theatrical game, Crunchyroll’s Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero is poised to top the North American box office this weekend, and reiterate the commercial strength of the long-running franchise. The film feels unlikely to move the needle come awards season, but Crunchyroll could be a real contender in 2024 after it globally distributes Makoto Shinkai’s upcoming feature, Suzume no Tojimari early next year.
Warner’s only contender this year, if you want to call it that, is DC League of Super-Pets, a comic-book inspired feature that has scored strong marks with audiences. Coming out of its third weekend in theaters, the film has grossed $112.3 million globally and not made the kind of impact its super-hero predecessor Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was able to do before its eventual Oscar win.
This year we will see a massive number of animated independent and international animated features that could score eventual nominations. Phil Tippett’s Mad God (Shudder), Dean Fleischer-Camp’s Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (A24), Alberto Vazquez’s Unicorn Wars (Charades), Amandine Fredon and Benjamin Massoubre’s Little Nicholas (Charades), and Pierre Földes’ Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (Miyu) all look like worthy contenders should they qualify.