When it comes to the Best Animated Feature Film category at the Oscars, Disney and Pixar reign supreme. Since the award was first handed out in 2002, only six films have won that didn’t emerge from the Disney/Pixar powerhouse. While it does happen, the odds are certainly stacked against any competitor who wants to challenge the might of the Mouse. This year, there’s an additional obstacle.
With “Toy Story 4,” Pixar has not only a natural advantage, but it benefits from being the culmination of a universally beloved franchise many viewers grew up with. It features a generally well-received storyline that brings Woody’s narrative arc to a satisfying conclusion. With all this in favor of “Toy Story 4”, how can any other films hope to compete?
“Frozen 2”, the sequel to 2013’s global phenomenon “Frozen,” is also slated for release this fall. And while “Toy Story 4” has nostalgia on its side, the overwhelming popularity of “Frozen” shouldn’t be ignored. Depending on how audiences respond when it comes out, “Frozen 2” could serve as a spoiler for the Oscar ambitions of “Toy Story 4.”
Then again, the “Toy Story” franchise is a bit of an outlier in that it has uncommonly good sequels, something we shouldn’t assume will always be the case. There’s nothing saying that “Frozen 2” will end up being any good when it actually comes out. And of course, there’s always the possibility that these two films could split the vote, clearing the way for another animated film to claim victory.
An Anime Dark Horse
So, we look to Japan for a potential wild card. This year’s “Weathering With You” has already been selected as Japan’s entry into the Foreign Language Film category, and its critically acclaimed director Makoto Shinkai had a massive hit on his hands with 2016’s “Your Name.”
Although it hasn’t been released yet, the quality of Shinkai’s previous work suggests that it could have a very high ceiling. And although this category tends to be dominated by Western animation, anime has been known to turn up ever since the award was created, with “Spirited Away” winning in 2003.
So, while “Toy Story 4” may be the front-runner in the Best Animated Feature Film category, there’s still every possibility that it will be usurped by the time the awards are doled out.