These are the four American organizations that gave their award to an animated film that wasn’t Coco: the New Mexico Film Critics Association (Loving Vincent), Detroit Film Critics Society (The Lego Batman Movie), San Diego Film Critics Society (My Life as a Zucchini), and the L.A. Film Critics Association (The Breadwinner).
The dominance of Coco in a year of incredibly strong and diverse animated filmmaking is perplexing to say the least. Further, the critical consensus that American film critics share for the best animated feature does not exist on the live-action side. These same organizations recognized 11 different live-action features as the best film of the year, with five of them selected by more than one organization.
A clue might be found in the list of animated film nominees for each of these critics’ organizations. While many of them nominated The Breadwinner and Loving Vincent, next to none of the organizations nominated any of the other quality U.S. releases within the past year, such as Ethel & Ernest, In This Corner of the World, The Girl without Hands, Mary and the Witch’s Flower, A Silent Voice, or Window Horses. This homogeneity of nominees among dozens of different groups suggests that the critics in these organizations do not consider – or view – most of the eligible animated films that are released in the United States, instead selecting nominees from a limited pool of wide commercial releases.
Quite simply, the feature animation awards situation in America is a demoralizing annual reminder that animation is not taken seriously as an art form in this country. And as long as these film critics’ organizations do not treat animation with the same thoughtfulness as they do live-action filmmaking, the winners of their awards will continue to reflect their shallow, limited exposure to the art form.