Academy Members Don’t Care Who Wins The Animated Feature Oscar, So Why Should We?
The Oscars start in a few hours, but don’t expect much of a surprise in the animation categories. The vast majority of Oscar pundits have predicted that Netflix’s If Anything Happens I Love You will win the best animated short, while Disney-Pixar’s Soul will take home the prize for best animated feature.
As we pointed out a few days ago, if Soul wins the Oscar, it will be the Walt Disney Company’s 12th win in the category over the last 14 years, an unprecedented streak in a single Academy Award category.
We’ve also pointed out many times over the years (some of the stories are linked below in the related stories section) that this isn’t because Disney has consistently produced the greatest animated features for the last decade-and-a-half. Rather, it is an expression of the general contempt that live-action Hollywood has for animation as a serious filmmaking craft.
The 9,500 or so current voting members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences are largely comprised of people who work on the live-action side of filmmaking. (The Academy has an animation branch, but they represent a minority of the overall membership.) It’s never been a secret that most people who work in live action don’t respect animation as an equal craft, and the Academy membership expresses this disdain for animation annually through their careless voting in the animation categories.
It has been well established through anecdotal stories that many Academy members ask their children to tell them what their favorite animated film is each year and they vote based on their children’s preferences. The Academy leadership, rather than using its position to educate its membership that animation can be used to tell any type of story, actively perpetuates the stereotype that animation is a children’s genre. This year, they even asked children to interview the nominated feature animation directors and producers for an online video series, the only category they dishonored in this manner.
Then, there are the Academy members who don’t even bother watching all the animated features before they vote on them, and they are proud of the fact that they haven’t seen all the films. We know this thanks to various sites that anonymously interview Academy members about their voting preferences.
This year, The Hollywood Reporter spoke with a member of the Academy’s producers branch about how he voted, and he bluntly told the publication that he had chosen Soul even though he hadn’t seen a number of the nominated films:
I didn’t see Over the Moon. I skipped [A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon]. Even though I thought Wolfwalkers was seriously great, I went with Soul. What great values worth voting for! It’s beautifully done. It deserved it on many levels.
As someone who’s been a member of many film juries over the years, all I can say is that it would be a terrific scandal if we gave awards to films while admitting we hadn’t seen all of the competing films. No one expects Academy members have the time to see all the films in every category, but common courtesy dictates that someone refrain from voting in categories for which they haven’t seen all the contenders.
The Academy must reform its voting procedures for the animated feature category to ensure that those voting on the films have actually seen the films. Until they do so, the award will continue to lack legitimacy, and Disney will continue to be rubber-stamped as the annual winner.
While many people continue to view the Oscars as the ultimate honor in film, when it comes to animated features, it’s the ultimate sham.