The 2024 animated feature Oscar race looks to be wide open, so we decided to take an early look at which films will be qualifying for next year’s ceremony.
Last year at this time, the race felt top-heavy and for much of the year Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio seemed like the bettor’s favorite, despite being one of the last qualifying films to reach audiences. This time around, things are murkier with a number of titles all demonstrating qualities that Oscars voters frequently appreciate. There are also rumors about studios who are feeling the pressure of the dual writers and actors’ strikes holding back future releases until 2024.
As we did last year, we’ve split up our list of likely qualifiers by distributor. Many of the companies have not yet nailed down their complete 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.
We’ll start with last year’s animated feature Oscar winner, Netflix. Not only did Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio take home the golden statue, but Chris Williams’ The Sea Beast got a nomination as well. This year, two Netflix films look like awards season contenders, Nimona and Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget. The former is a super fun, genre-bending, queer hero tale that was adored by critics and Netflix subscribers alike. The latter isn’t out yet, but comes from one of the world’s best-loved studios, Aardman Animations, and a follow-up to a classic bit of cinema. Netflix continues to be one of the most prolific distributors and has released several other animated features this year including Miraculous: Ladybug & Cat Noir: The Movie and The Magician’s Elephant. Still to come are Anthony Stacchi’s The Monkey King and Robert Smigel, Robert Marianetti, and David Wachtenheim’s Leo.
Walt Disney Pictures
Perennial favorites to score at least a nomination, Disney will be hoping that quality rather than quantity can carry them to a nomination and possible win this year. Last year, the studio had three animated films qualify for the Oscars, Turning Red, Lightyear, and Strange World. This year, it looks like the studio will only release two animated features if that. Elemental stands a real chance at snagging a nab and looks like the year’s biggest comeback story after a lukewarm initial response from critics at Cannes and a disastrous opening weekend. Reviews posted after Cannes were much kinder to the film, and the film’s global box office now sits at $425.5M. The big question mark is Walt Disney Animation Studio’s Wish. We don’t know yet if the film will be well received, although Disney returning to the princess formula has worked in the past, but there are bigger questions being asked in Hollywood about whether the film will even see theaters in 2023, or whether it might be pushed to 2024. With this being the 100th anniversary of The Walt Disney Company, that would be real shame.
GKIDS could have a historic impact on this year’s animated feature race. For starters, the company will distribute Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Heron later this year, and that film is a clear contender. GKIDS is also distributing a couple of dark horses in Ernest & Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia, a sequel to a previous Oscar nominee; Unicorn Wars from Spanish auteur Alberto Vázquez; and Annecy’s big winner Chicken for Linda. It will likely qualify a handful of other features including New Gods: Yang Jian, Lonely Castle in the Mirror, and The First Slam Dunk.
Sony Pictures Entertainment Group
Sony may only have only put one film in theaters this year, but Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a clear contender for the 2024 animated feature Oscar. The previous film in the series won the prize back in 2019, and the general critical and audience consensus on the sequel is that it represents another step forward for the franchise. That said, Across the Spider-Verse is only the first half of a two-part narrative, and it wouldn’t be surprising if voters preferred to wait for the finale to throw more awards at Spider-Man.
For several years, Universal has been the big animation winner at the box office distributing the films of both Dreamworks and Illumination, but that hasn’t translated into Oscar gold. This year, Universal will retain its spot as the top-grossing animation distributor, but its lineup again doesn’t feel like the kind of slate that Oscars’ voters will spend much time considering. The Super Mario Bros. Movie feels the most likely candidate given its astronomical box office haul. Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken failed to make a cultural or box office impact. Trolls Band Together wouldn’t be the first in the franchise to get an Oscar nomination, but the only other time it happened was for Trolls’ original song “Can’t Stop the Feeling.” And Migration is still a huge question mark, although it’s exciting to see an entirely original film on Universal’s release calendar.
Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies’ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is proving a smash hit for Paramount, delighting critics and audiences alike. Its fantastic start at the box office is more impressive considering the film’s modest $70M budget. Some critics have said that the film is overly violent, which could hurt its chances with voters, but it still looks like a strong contender to be duking it out with the other favorites throughout the upcoming awards season. Paramount will also release PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie next month, but at least for now, it looks unlikely to make much of an awards season impact.
The Sony-owned anime specialist confirmed way back in March that it’s planning a big awards season push for Makoto Shinkai’s Suzume, which boasts some festival credentials after screening in the main competition at the 2023 Berlinale. Having built its reputation on streaming, this will be the first major test of Crunchyroll’s ability to elevate a film to significant awards contention.
Pablo Berger’s Robot Dreams, which impressed at Cannes and Annecy, will get a U.S. theatrical run from indie powerhouse Neon, a company that knows how to run an awards campaign. Neon was the U.S. distributor for Flee in 2021, which made Oscar history by receiving nominations for animated feature, documentary, and international feature. Dekanalog is distributing Liu Jian’s Art College 1994, which played in competition at the Berlinale earlier this year. Little Nicholas: Happy as Can Be won a ton of awards in 2022 and got its Oscar-qualifying run this year from distributor Buffalo 8. And Blue Fox Entertainment will put Ratatouille scribe Jim Capobianco’s directorial debut The Inventor in U.S. theaters next month. And it was recently announced that Signe Baumane’s My Love Affair with Marriage is getting a limited theatrical run from 8 Above which should qualify it for this year’s race.
Warner Bros. Discovery
We debated whether or not Warner Bros. Discovery should get its own category here, as the once-great purveyor of cutting-edge animation only put one animated feature in North American cinemas this year. And, if we’re being honest, Mummies probably doesn’t belong in any 2024 Oscars conversations despite being a commercial success for the company. There have been whispers for some time now about Coyote vs. Acme getting a 2023 theatrical release, but with the way things have shaken out at WBD, we’re not confident the film will be released this year or that it will make any kind of awards season impact if and when it does.
Pictured at top: The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Nimona, Elemental, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem