Friday, March 26, 2010

One Category at a Time: Best Animated Feature

After what was a banner year for feature animation in 2009, this year's slate looks a bit thin from the outset. Of course, more titles will surface as the year goes on, but even at this time last year, there was a very healthy list of animated projects we knew were coming. At the moment, I'm struggling to find even 3 that I think stand a reasonable shot, but here they are:

Lee Unkrich gets to take the helmer position for the first time with Pixar's upcoming threquel to Toy Story, the milestone that started it all, leading us to the saturation of CG movies in the market place. But God bless those Pixar geniuses for remembering to actually make these cash-cow blockbusters good. They've earned their reputation as the best animation studio in the world, producing ten consecutive hits and zero flops. We know Toy Story 3 will make a ton of dough, and is likely an automatic nominee for Best Animated Feature next year, but can it win Pixar its fourth straight Oscar? When will Pixar fatigue finally kick in?

The Princess and the Frog brought back the animated musical in 2009, and Disney hopes to keep the ball rolling with Tangled, a computer-animated take on Rapunzel directed by Bryon Howard (nominated in 2009 for the rather enjoyable Bolt) and Nathan Greno. If the year turns out as weak as it seems from this point, it shouldn't have any trouble getting into the final three, because it'll make money, and studio block voting within the animation branch will give it a boost. The biggest thing it has going for it, I think, is that the songs are being composed by the legendary Alan Menken, who will hopefully bring his usual high level of sophistication to the music. Veteran Disney animator Glenn Keane (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast) is also taking the reigns as animation director.

DreamWorks has a few of CG cartoons coming out this year, including Shrek Forever After, Megamind, and today's release, How to Train Your Dragon, co-directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois (Lilo & Stitch). I'm not placing my chips on Shrek, as I imagine the Academy (not to mention yours truly) have grown sick of the franchise. As for the other two, maybe. Maybe not. If studio block voting is as big a factor as I suspect, then at least one DreamWorks entry should get in. Or maybe they just won't be good enough.

Finally, 3-time nominee Sylvain Chomet (The Triplettes of Belleville) debuted his latest feature The Illusionist at the Berlin Film Festival to very enthusiastic acclaim. Could it be this year's Persepolis or The Secret of Kells? It needs to secure a U.S. distribution first.

Predicted 3:
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

Also consider: Despicable Me, Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs. Evil, How to Train Your Dragon, Legend of the Guardians, Megamind, Shrek Forever After, Yogi Bear.


Amir said...

well, triplets of bellville was nominated for the oscar, so i think this one can also be a semi-safe bet.
i would naturally go with this one and your two first guesses, but dreamworks looks like a threat. i think how to train your dragon looks like the bet one. have you seen it yet?

The Oscar Nazi said...

Alas, not yet, but hopefully I'll manage to get out and catch in 3D while it's still playing.

Anonymous said...

Could I be so bold as to ask that when you do see How to Train your Dragon you post your review on YouTube? Like Amir said, right now its a really tough contender for Pixar's Toy Story 3 what with 98% on RT.
But having seen it my self, I was less then impressed. I'm really curious about what you'd say about it.