My Problem with: Animation and the Awards

As many movie goers know, and those who’ve read my most recent reviews would tell, the 83rd Academy Awards is arriving and less than a week, the awards ceremony will begin and the awards will be announced and given to people who worked hard to create the best movies they can produce. I’ve mentioned before that despite it’s predictability and artistic views, I enjoy the Academy Awards, and being a fan of animation, one of my favourite awards is for Best Animated Feature.

For this year, there are three nominations: Toy Story 3 (2010’s highest grossing film and what is considered the greatest conclusion to an animated trilogy), How to Train Your Dragon (A Great Fantasy film about the relationship between humans and dragons and in my opinion, Dreamworks best movie since Shrek 2) and The Illusionist (a story about a struggling performer who decides to give her supporter a happy life). Some of you maybe asking “Wasn’t there five nominations last year? Why are there three?” or “How come there are three nominations and sometimes five?”

This is because there’s an upper and lower threshold of the amount of considered animated feature films that effects the amount of nominees. If there are 8 animated features that are accepted into consideration, then the Award is given, if there are 16 or more , then the amount of nominees is increased from three to five. For the 2009 Awards, the Academy accepted 20 films including the nominees as well as 9, Battle for Tera, Ponyo and others, so for the second time they increased the nominees to five. However this year, the amount of accepted animated features was 15, (Nominations + Alpha & Omega, Cats & Dogs 2, Despicible Me, The Dreams of Jinsha, Idiots and Angels, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, Megamind, My Dog Tulip, Shrek Forever After, Summer Wars, Tangled, Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue).

As far as I’ve researched, no other Academy Award or Award Ceremony has this kind of threshold, and it is the most unfair rules the Academy has. My guess is that the threshold is there incase there aren’t enough animated films to be worthy of being nominated to deduct to five, but why is the threshold so high, why do they require 16 and not 10 films for instance? The main reason I hear from people is that basically, the Academy hates animated films, and while I can point the finger to what’s wrong with modern animated films, it still means they are missing out on some of the most artistic, visually stunning, story driven or even creative films of the year, and not give enought limelight to the ones that do. But despite that, animated features didn’t have much credit in the awards ceremony until recently.

Since the beginning of the Academy Awards, only animated shorts were given it’s own award treatment since 1932. While it’s true that some animated films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and An American Tail got at least one nomination, it was only for music related awards such as Best Original Song, Best Music or Sound Mixing/Editing, except when they give a special award. To be honest, I always thought especially in the early days they would’ve nominated animated films for Best Visual Effects, since it can be considered an artistic achievement but the closest films were Mary Poppins and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which intergrated with live-action. It wasn’t until 1991 when Beauty and the Beast got nomiated for four awards including Best Picture, and won two for its music, that animation was considered on par with live-action films. Even between that gap, the Academy missed out on some great animated features from Disney, Don Bluth, Paul Grimault, Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata and others.

None of these were even nominated an Oscar

The Academy finally made the Best Animated Feature in 2002. Due to their popularity in 2001, the two obvious choices for nominees were Pixar’s Monster’s Inc and Dreamworks’ Shrek, and despite considerations towards Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, Pokemon 3: The Movie (Yes even Pokemon was considered for the awards) and others, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius was given the third nomination. I guess they were chosen for their financial success more than whether they were artistic achievements or their great story, since the three nominations made loads of money at the box office while Vampire Hunter D had a limited release, Atlantis only broke even, Final Fantasy Bombed, Pokemon 3 didn’t make as money as the first two films and who actually remembers Monkeybone. Yet despite that, the Academy missed some of the foreign releases from France, Spain and Germany.

Later years had recognition for the foreign animated films for the award, 2003’s winner was the Japanese Spirited Away, 2004 had it’s first French nominee (Triplettes of Belleville), 2005 had it’s first British winner (Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit) and 2009 had it’s first Irish Nomination (The Secret of Kells). But there were still problems. In the 81st Academy Awards there was controversy regarding Wall-E, a critically acclaimed film that was considered the best film of 2008, recieved six nominations, yet no Best Picture. People believed that the Best Animated Feature award was an excuse not to nominate an animated feature for Best Picture, this isn’t true as the Academy Award treats Best Picture as the award for the best overall film, and that includes animation, both Toy Story 3 and Up have been nominated for both for example.

The Golden Globes on the other hand have a rule that states that no film nominated for Best Animated Feature can be nominated for any Best Picture Award, including Best Picture for Musical & Comedy, and vice-versa. I can see why because the Golden Globe separates there major awards into Genres, so more films have a chance to win a top award, but it does get people confused and annoyed since there have been animated films nominated for Best Picture, but aren’t allowed to be nominated for Best Animated Feature.

I wonder why I never hear much of the Annie Awards, it’s an entire award ceremony dedicated to the international achievements of animation in Films, TV and even Video Games. All voting is done by an international association of animation (ASIFA), a board which includes Professionals, students and even fans of the world of animation, I would join if I could afford the membership fee (it’s $100/year for non-US members). Yet I never hear it on the news and I never find out when the next ceremony or there nomination announcements.

EDIT: I’ve just found out from quite a few video discussions that the Annie Awards are accused of being rigged/biased towards Dreamworks and Nickolodean. This is because last year and for previous years, both companies were major sponsors of the awards, while other companies such as Disney and Pixar weren’t. Coincidentally, Dreamworks last year won half of the 24 categories and Nickolodean won a good amount too, while Disney only recieved 7 nominations and only won one award. Therefore its unreliability probably is the reason why they don’t recieve much attention. I’d like to refer to ElectricDragon505’s video below for the full info.

If people in the movie industry see how well the animation industry is doing, especially since Pixar made 2010’s highest grossing film, I don’t see why they can’t give their awards more recognition. I would want to see the nomination number increased to five permanently, and if not, decrease that stupidly high threshold. I would also want to see more animated films from other countries get submitted because I do believe there is real gold to find in places other than the US and Japan.

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