Awards Profile: The Good Dinosaur

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Welcome to the 2015 Awards Profiles series.  For the next two months, every day (except for Saturday), we will bring you a run down of a future 2015 film that we see as a potential awards vehicle for next year’s Academy Awards.  This is all speculative since with just about all these films, we haven’t seen a frame yet.  Nonetheless, we venture on.  If you miss a film, then click on the tag “2015 Awards Profile.”

Director: Peter Sohn
Writer: Enrico Casarosa, Bob Petersen
Cast: (voices of): Bill Hader, Neil Patrick Harris, Judy Greer, John Lithgow, Frances McDormand, Lucas Neff
Synopsis: After a traumatic event unsettles a lively Apatosaurus named Arlo, he sets out on a remarkable journey, gaining an unlikely companion along the way – a human boy.

WHY IT COULD SUCCEED:
Just look at the résumé of Disney/Pixar thus far.  14 films under its belt and it has won the Oscar for Animated Feature seven times.  Three of its 14 films were released before the creation of the category but you can be confident that “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2” would have been nominees if not the definite winners.  Same could be said for “A Bug’s Life.”  “The Good Dinosaur” has a premise that rides the line of emotion and wit.  Pixar has found the emotional core at nearly all its features.   One of the greatest attributes to nearly all their films is that they appeal to all audiences, of all ages.  “WALL-E” nearly missed out on a Best Picture nomination in a year of five, and was probably the closest thing we ever got to a Best Director nomination for animated feature.  “Up” made every adult in the theater cry in its first 120 seconds.  There’s room for everyone to jump on the bandwagon of an animated gem.

For the past three years, records and stigmas have been shattered in the Academy.  “12 Years a Slave,” a film written, produced, and directed by a Black filmmaker won the top prize.  “Argo” won Best Picture without a Director citation in this modern era where a Director miss equals no statue.  And just this past year, we had our second Mexican auteur win Best Director with his film, a comedy, winning Best Picture, without an Editing nomination.  I believe in my heart of hearts that we are within a decade or so from an Animated Feature winning Best Picture of the Year.  If there is any studio to do it, it’s likely Disney/Pixar.  Unlimited resources in its pocket and campaigning strategies have proven success for them time and time again.

WHY IT MIGHT NOT SUCCEED:
“The Good Dinosaur” has had long-rumored and confirmed production problems.  In the Summer of 2013, the original director Bob Petersen (who was said to not “being able to crack the third act”) and producer Denise Ream, were removed and the film’s original concept was being “re-imagined.”   Production woes don’t usually point to a film being a massive success but do you know what other big major films have had early production troubles and were still successful?  “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” which earned an Oscar nomination for Johnny Depp and a little film called “Titanic,” that went on to be the highest grossing film of all-time (at the time) and won eleven Oscars including Best Picture.  Now, before the Oscar-enthusiasts bite my head off and say that “Good Dinosaur” is no “Titanic,” you would be correct.  But at this stage of the game, and to have fun, you have to consider all possibilities for next February.

The obvious hurdle that I see is the stigma that animated films have on the Academy, and probably many audiences in general.  We’ve seen three animated films nominated for Best Picture: “Beauty & the Beast,” “Up,” and “Toy Story 3.”  The latter two were included in a year of ten Best Picture nominees with ten spots available on AMPAS’ ballots.  None of those films were within an ear shot of winning the top prize.  Unfortunately, they aren’t taken as seriously as they should.  “Animation is for the kids,” as I’m sure what the average Academy member thinks, but they have proven to be much more.  With the inviting of newer, younger members to join, maybe this hurdle is getting lower and lower.

Pixar also has another animated film in contention this year with “Inside Out,” which could split the resources of the awards offices.  Double campaigns from the same studio always have one film receiving less focus than the other.  And of course, any film that gets a release date change, always presents a compelling case for a future misfire.

AWARDS SPECULATION:
“The Good Dinosaur” may not be the ticket, as I’ve predicted in the Oscar Predictions earlier this month, but there is a film that is fully worthy.  In my lifetime, I would personally have awarded Best Picture to an animated feature twice.  You can’t tell me that you can’t find the emotion in “Monster’s Inc.” and the tearducts were never prepared for what “The Lion King” would do for cinema.  At bare minimum, we are looking at an Animated Feature contender, even if the film disappoints on some level.  It would have to be “Cars 2” level bad to not crack a five.  In terms of Best Picture, we can only hold our breath that the changes made in production and story pay off.

“The Good Dinosaur” opens in theaters November 25, 2015.

POTENTIAL NOMINATIONS:
Best Picture – Denise Ream
Best Director – Peter Sohn
Best Original Screenplay – Enrico Casarosa, Bob Peterson
Best Animated Feature
Best Film Editing
Best Sound Mixing
Best Sound Editing
Best Original Score – Thomas Newman
Best Original Song – ?

CHECK OUT THE OSCAR PREDICTIONS:

PICTURE | DIRECTOR | LEAD ACTOR | LEAD ACTRESS |SUPPORTING ACTOR | SUPPORTING ACTRESS | ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY | ADAPTED SCREENPLAY |ANIMATED FEATURE |PRODUCTION DESIGN | CINEMATOGRAPHY | COSTUME DESIGN |FILM EDITING | MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING | SOUND MIXING |SOUND EDITING | VISUAL EFFECTS | ORIGINAL SCORE |ORIGINAL SONG | DOCUMENTARY FEATURE | FOREIGN LANGUAGE | LIVE ACTION SHORT | ANIMATED SHORT |DOCUMENTARY SHORT

  • Robert MacFarlane

    If any Pixar movie is going to get the acclaim this year, it’s probably going to be Inside Out. Ignoring the lukewarm reception to the teaser trailer, people who have seen the test reels have already compared it to Up and Toy Story 3 in terms of tearjerker factor.

  • Nick Fraser

    I just don’t see it taking Best Picture like you keep saying it will. The Academy just won’t embrace an Animated Picture to that extent. Besides, do we even know what the quality of The Good Dinosaur will be yet?