Can ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ Beat ‘Zootopia’ in Animated Feature?

There was quite a bit of shock when “Kubo and the Two Strings” nabbed the second visual effects Oscar nomination for an animated film, the first since “Nightmare Before Christmas” in 1993. Only “Moana” and “Kubo and the Two Strings” were mentioned elsewhere in addition to the Animated Feature category. Best Animated Feature frontrunner, “Zootopia,” on the other hand, was not cited anywhere else but in that category. Does this give “Kubo and the Two Strings” and “Moana” a leg up in Best Animated Feature?

Since the inception of the Best Animated Feature category in 2001, the animated film that has the most nominations has won all but two times. “Shrek” prevailed in the first year of the category with only two nominations, beating “Monsters Inc.” which had four nominations, including a win in Best Original Score. However, “Shrek’s” other nomination was quite a doozy. It garnered a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. That was the second animated film in history to nab that award, following “Toy Story” in 1995. The other time this happened was in 2006, when “Happy Feet” beat “Cars,” despite “Cars” having an extra nomination in Best Original Song. This same scenario doesn’t bode well for “Moana.” However, a visual effects nomination for an animated film has only happened one other time. Thus, this additional nomination makes “Kubo and the Two Strings” a bigger threat than one might think.

Animated films have only been nominated in seven categories at the Oscars, outside of Best Animated Feature. For apples to apples comparisons, I am only including completely animated films. This excludes hybrids, such as “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and “Mary Poppins.” The majority of these categories have been in the aural categories – Original Score, Original Song, Sound and Sound Editing. Even stranger is the fact that animated films have only been able to win in three of these categories – Original Score, Original Song and Sound Editing. In addition, there were two non-competitive awards handed to animated films. The first was for “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in 1938 and the second was for “Toy Story” in 1995.

Despite three Best Picture nominations and nine Screenplay nominations, not one film has prevailed. It’s been an uphill battle for animated films to be taken seriously in above-the-line categories. However, as filmmakers continue to push the medium, one can only hope the Academy decides to reward them. Pixar seemed to be up to the task a while back. Out of the nine screenplay nominations for an animated film, eight were for Pixar films. “Inside Out” was the most recent (2015), but that was after a five-year drought since “Toy Story 3,” which also reaped a Best Picture nomination. With the studio more concentrated on sequels, will DreamWorks or Laika take up this baton?

Even if “Kubo and the Two Strings” or “Moana” do not dethrone “Zootopia,” do they have a shot at winning their other awards? Yes and no. There have been 11 wins in the Best Original Song category from 47 nominations. This gives both “Moana” and “Trolls” precedence, even if they are going up against Oscar juggernaut “La La Land.” The fate for “Kubo and the Two Strings” is more murky. The only other nominee for Best Visual Effects was “The Nightmare Before Christmas” in 1993. That film was unable to prevail. However, there is a great deal of passion around Kubo’s effects.

The next ceilings for animated films to break are in the acting races (for voice acting performances) and in craft categories, such as Cinematography, Costume Design and Production Design. “Kubo and the Two Strings” had some passionate fans lobbying for some of these categories. The same went for fellow stop motion film “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” in 2009. Voice acting performances have generated a fair bit of buzz as well. Robin Williams (“Aladdin”) and Ellen DeGeneres (“Finding Nemo”) are the most famous of these campaigns. CGI creations such as Andy Serkis (“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”), Zoe Saldana (“Avatar”) and Idris Elba (“The Jungle Book”) have also had passionate support. In the case of Serkis, there was even precursor support. While cracked, these ceilings are still in place for animated films to break.

Do you think “Kubo and the Two Strings” and “Moana” have a shot at dethroning “Zootopia” in Best Animated Feature? Let us know in the comments.

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About Christopher James

Christopher James has been an Oscar obsessive ever since watching his first ceremony at age 5 when "Titanic" won Best Picture. He is a recent graduate from Loyola Marymount University with degrees in Screenwriting for Film and Television and Marketing. Christopher currently works in media strategy and planning at Liquid Advertising, based out of Los Angeles, CA. You can find Christopher running on the sunny beach, brunching at trendy restaurants or mostly just sitting in a dark room watching movies and TV in sweatpants. Follow me on Twitter @cwj92movieman
  • Tastes like candy

    I will continue to point out simply because it’s been ignored time and time again. Only one animated film this year was chosen by the AFI and not every year does this happen but 100% of the time that film has gone on to win the Oscar. The only exception to this was the one year two film got it, one still won however. Case in point is Happy Feet. I don’t think anyone seen that one coming, yet the AFI liked it and in the end it won the Oscar. It might not seem like a big deal but the American Film Institution is still a very well respected film school and conservatory that some of the Academy members studied at. And they do still carry a lot of weight.

    Far as two vs one goes awards wise, I clearly remember this being brought up before the Golden Globes also. Many thought at the time thought Moana would win due to the two nominations it received. But in the end the Globe went to Zootopia.

    • Calvin Damon

      And in that year where two animated films were chosen by the AFI, Up was up(I’m sorry) for 4 other awards, including picture and screenplay, while Coraline was only up for Animated Feature. Anyways, Zootopia the Globe, the Critic’s Choice, and the PGA along with nearly every other animated film specific guild awards. It also won the top award at the Annie’s and dominated them over all. Kubo taking the BAFTA and securing the Visual Effects nomination gives it a fighting chance, but Zootopia is still number 1 to win by far

      • Tastes like candy

        Another interesting point being I keep reading others say that Kubo is going to win solely because 11 animated films that won the BAFTA won the Oscar… Well, here’s the problem! Only once has a film ONLY won the BAFTA and none of the other major awards of the season and won the Oscar. It was Happy Feet, a film that happened to receive AFI honors! All the others won the BAFTA along with the Critics Choice, Annie or Golden Globe.

  • Greg

    Both have won 30 awards each. Zootopia may have the Globes and the Critic’s Choice, Kubo have the BAFTA and A LOT of love on the critics branch. So it’s really 50-50. If the kids choose the winners at the Oscars (the rumor says it is) Zootopia will win because it’s a more popular movie. But if not, Kubo have really good chances.

    • Tastes like candy

      Mind referencing those 30 out that Kubo has won? I used IMDB as a guide and didn’t count any 2’nd or 3’rd places for Zootopia and come up with 30, that includes called awards they hadn’t updated yet. But it’s also missing the Children’s BAFTA, two Golden Tomato Awards, The Hollywood Film Award, and Hawaii Film Critics (tie with Kubo) that I could see. So that’s 35 and I’m likely missing something.

      • TheLillypop

        If we’re also talking about other categories (not just best animated feature), I counted 29 for Kubo so that’s about 30 (though im sure there were 32 so im missing some):

        San Diego film critics awards
        Austin film critics association awards
        Phoenix critics circle awards
        Florida film critics circle awards
        Indiana film journalists association awards
        Online film critics society awards
        Utah film critics
        Washington DC film critics awards
        Atlanta film critics society awards
        AARP awards
        Boston online film critics association awards
        Chicago film critics awards
        New York online film critics awards
        Las Vegas film critics awards
        National board of review
        Oklahoma awards – top 10 best films of 2016
        3 OFTA awards – Animated feature, Visual effects and Adapted song
        3 Annies – Production design, Editing and Character animation
        BAFTA
        VES awards
        Village voice film critics’ poll
        Hawaii film critics society awards
        Houston film critics society awards
        Central Ohio film association awards
        Lowa film critics awards

        That’s not including 2nd or 3rd places.

        • Tastes like candy

          No, other than the AFI, one Golden Tomato, and one voice artist award. The rest of these were listed as best animated feature (Annie Awards are lumped in together with this). Thank you for going to all the trouble to make a point to me though! 🙂

          Also what is the OFTA? I looked this up and never head of them. But if you want I could certainly add more to Zootopia from the other online critics groups! One forgin one Zootopia won a Best Screenplay and Best Feature from! I only posted and counted groups that were known by most. I could of also used Zootopia being the number one film from Forbes and the LA Daily News in their top 10’s. But that felt a bit to trivial.

          • TheLillypop

            Ok i posted here a comment but it wasnt posted since i attached a link so here it is again:

            OFTA is the Online Film and TV Association. They’re mentioned in IMDB so i think that’s pretty well known. They just havent updated the awards OFTA have given out in a while.

            You can add Zootopia’s if you want. I counted all the critcs groups, even the less known ones. And yea, I havent posted Journalists’ top 10s either (The oklahoma one is a critics’ group).