2 – Can the Academy ignore the biggest animated film of the year from the biggest animated film franchise of all time? The Academy has shown no hesitance in the past in nominating mediocre (at best) commercial films such as Ferdinand, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Bolt, and Boss Baby, so why has the Despicable Me franchise only had one nomination across its first four – far better than mediocre – films? Surely if the films we’ve just listed were worthy of a nomination, Minions: The Rise of Gru, which has made more than $900 million at the box office and had an enormous cultural impact, deserves similar recognition.
3 – Will Apple back Luck with an ambitious awards campaign? Apple pushed hard to get a nomination for its first Skydance original short Blush last year, but in the end was unable to earn the nod. Will they push that hard with the studio’s first feature, Luck, which has not been well reviewed and didn’t get a wide theatrical release. Of course, Luck has some Oscars cred in producer John Lasseter, but it can hardly be considered a “Lasseter film,” as it was already well into development by the time he joined the upstart studio. Whether or not he has brought his Midas touch with him to Skydance will be fairer to judge on future Skydance Animation titles.
4 – Can three stop-motion films get nominated in the same year? We already mentioned Netflix’s two contenders, but aside from Wendell & Wild and Pinocchio, if Marcel the Shell with Shoes On has enough stop motion to qualify it looks a strong contender. It’s the best-reviewed animated (hybrid) feature of the year sitting at 99% on Rotten Tomatoes and has several prestigious festival appearances under its belt. Phil Tippett’s Mad God is one of the most visionary animated features in recent years and comes from one of the industry’s most respected filmmakers. That being said…
5 – Is this year’s stop-motion field the strongest ever? 2022 was a banner year for stop-motion features, with four high-profile titles boasting a realistic chance at being nominated. That’s especially noteworthy in a year when neither of the art form’s darlings – Aardman or Laika – released a qualifying film.
6 – Always overlooked, what impact might anime have on this year’s awards season? Masaaki Yuasa has long been in and around awards conversations, with several films that might have been recognized if the Academy paid closer attention to non-Ghibli anime. Might Inu-Oh be the film that finally gets Yuasa some much-deserved recognition from the Academy?
7 – Will the Academy acknowledge the artistic turn that Dreamworks is taking with its animation? The smirk remains, but Dreamworks’ traditional house style has given way to a more adventurous and stylized look with this year’s two big releases. While The Bad Guys didn’t overwhelm at the box office and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is still months away, the studio certainly deserves kudos for taking the risk of moving away from the frequently homogenous look of its earlier films and trying something new.
8 – Is Disney’s best chance for an Oscar the one film it didn’t put in theaters? It’s no secret that Disney owns the animated feature category, and perhaps all our speculation here is only wishful thinking and a fruitless exercise that will end with Turning Red, Lightyear, or Strange World taking the Oscar. However, if we take off our Mouse-shaped glasses, the only Disney movie that feels deserving of consideration is Pixar’s Turning Red (which should be an absolute lock to get nominated and is one of our favorites to win the golden statue). We say that with the caveat that Strange World is still a huge question mark. Should that film fail to impress upon release, Disney will have had two box office underperformers after relegating one of the year’s most culturally significant animated features to Disney+.