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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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