2016 Oscar Circuit: Best Animated Feature


animationWelcome to our annual Oscar Circuit series, our deep down look into each and every category that will be presented at the upcoming Academy Awards.  Each writer of AwardsCircuit.com will tackle a different category, offering up their own perspectives on those specific races.  If you miss a piece, click on the tag titled Oscar Circuit 2016. You can also see the official Oscar Predictions for that particular race by clicking on the link here or at the bottom of each article.  Make sure to include your predicted winners in the comment section too!

In the world of animation, the Oscars have not struggled to seek out eclectic, smart choices over the years.  While the category has been dominated by the Walt Disney and Pixar machine, the branch is never afraid to look outside the box for their nominees.  This was hinted in 2009 when GKIDS’ “The Secret of Kells” made the prestigious lineup.  The next year, Sony Pictures Classics’ “The Illusionist” landed in a field of three.  In 2011, GKIDS showed their largest barometer of strength yet as “A Cat in Paris” and “Chico & Rita” edged out some big studio productions.  While they’ve been able to maneuver past big films for nominations, the compelling animation studio hasn’t stood on the Oscar stage yet.  Pixar and other big machines have remained dominant.  The animation branch probably has the most respect from the critical community because they are not easily swayed (at least in terms of nominees).  They truly consider and appreciate all realms of the genre, and that has been reflected by their nominees over the years.

After nominations however, it opens to the Academy at large, and louder, bigger, more populist choices tend to overtake in the category.

Look at the past ten winners:

2014 – “Big Hero 6” (Walt Disney Pictures) – Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli
2013 – “Frozen” (Walt Disney Pictures) – Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Peter Del Vecho
2012 – “Brave” (Pixar) – Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman
2011 – “Rango” (Paramount Pictures) – Gore Verbinski
2010 – “Toy Story 3” (Pixar) – Lee Unkrich
2009 – “Up” (Pixar) – Pete Docter
2008 – “WALL-E” (Pixar) – Andrew Stanton
2007 – “Ratatouille” (Pixar) – Brad Bird
2006 – “Happy Feet” (Warner Bros.) – George Miller
2005 – “Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were Rabbit” (DreamWorks) – Nick Park and Steve Box

Let’s see if it’s going that way again this year.  Let’s look at the nominees:

The Nominees Are:
Anomalisa” (Paramount Pictures) – Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson and Rosa Tran
Boy & the World” (GKIDS) – Alê Abreu
Inside Out” (Pixar) – Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera
Shaun the Sheep Movie” (Aardman/Lionsgate) – Mark Burton and Richard Starzak
When Marnie Was There” (GKIDS) – Hiromasa Yonebayashi and Yoshiaki Nishimura

davidthewlis_anomalisa1THE CASE FOR “ANOMALISA”: Talking about pushing the envelope for animation, Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s intimate and beautiful “Anomalisa” elevated the animation genre to an impeccable height this year.  Sensitive and profound, you can’t help but feel so proud of a big studio like Paramount Pictures going into their pockets to purchase a film like this.  With outstanding voice work from its three actors: David Thewlis, Tom Noonan, and the should have been nominated for this woman Jennifer Jason Leigh, “Anomalisa” has been the “Saoirse Ronan” of this category all year.  Always a runner-up.  As an adult drama that’s told in stop motion, it may be very difficult for some of the more conservative Academy members to overcome.  Which is sad, because this is a film that should have been in the Best Picture conversation as well.

BIG WINS IN THE PRECURSORS: Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Independent Spirit Award Nominee (Best Feature, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress), Boston Society of Film Critics, San Diego Film Critics, Venice Film Festival Winner


boy-and-the-worldTHE CASE FOR “BOY & THE WORLD”: When it comes to Alê Abreu’s “Boy & the World,” subtlety is one word to describe it.  The other is just gorgeous and stunning animation told in a way that feverishly layers itself on your screen, frame after frame.  If I felt confident that the Academy at large was popping this film into their DVD players to truly “consider” the category, this would contend greatly for the prize.  With “Inside Out” sucking so much of the air out of this category, and any left over being saved for “Anomalisa,” they can only hope a stage such as this will help awards obsessives make sure they seek out it on DVD and Blu-Ray when released.



Inside OutTHE CASE FOR “INSIDE OUT”: Summer came with a true light on Pete Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen’s “Inside Out,” one of Pixar’s top-tier productions.  With Riley, a name now synonymous with fear of your young female daughter growing up, it’s hard to deny the sheer audacity of its premise and storytelling qualities.  Unanimously loved and adored by critics, and making a true run for a slot in Best Picture, this is probably the one sure-fire name that will be called on Oscar night.  With the Original Screenplay nomination to boot, that just about locks this up for it.

BIG WINS IN THE PRECURSORS: Golden Globes, Critics Choice, Chicago Film Critics, National Board of Review, New York Film Critics Circle, New York Film Critics Online


shaunthesheepTHE CASE FOR “SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE”: Charm and delight are placed all over Lionsgate’s “Shaun the Sheep Movie,” another would be contender for the top prize if AMPAS voters took their jobs more serious.  It feels this category was made for films like this, smaller, more intimate animated endeavors that have it harder to expand themselves to larger, massive audiences.  Dogs and sheep will look great in a clip montage but the actual winning potential for this is pretty low.  “Wallace and Gromit” ran the gauntlet when there was no one to really challenge it.

BIG WINS IN THE PRECURSORS: Annie Award Nominee, Toronto Film Critics Association


whenmarniewasthereTHE CASE FOR “WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE”: Japanese anime has found their nitch with Academy members, especially with last year’s “The Wind Rises” which nearly won the Oscar.  Opening in the early part of 2015, “When Marnie was There” was the few highlights of a pretty stubborn first half of the year.  Studio Ghibli’s presence in the film community has been an appreciated and revered tune that some are still championing, even if this doesn’t necessarily stand toe-to-toe with their more beloved works like “Spirited Away.”  With Hayao Miyazaki’s retirement placing the studio in production pause for an undetermined time frame, I wonder if this gives Academy members some gumption to check this off as possibly, the last film from Ghibli ever?  Sentiment can go a long way for people “in the know.”

BIG WINS IN THE PRECURSORS: Annie Award Nominee, Seattle International Film Festival (Films4Families Youth Jury Award)


WILL WIN: “Inside Out” has racked up nearly everything it needed to and looks poised for a runaway in this category.

COULD WIN: When talking about the impending closure of Studio Ghibli, sentiment can come to the aid of “When Marnie Was There” in a shocking upset.  This is also a GKIDS distributed film as well for those lovers.

SHOULD WIN: There’s no way to look at the potential for the animation genre and not want to thank the existence of “Anomalisa” for that.  It was one of the best films of the year and a film that still resonates, and will continue to for quite some time.