Awards Speculation: Can Disney Win Back-to-Back VFX Oscars?

Belle (Emma Watson) comes to realize that underneath the hideous exterior of the Beast (Dan Stevens) there is the kind heart of a Prince in Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, a live-action adaptation of the studio's animated classic directed by Bill Condon. © 2016 Disney Enterprises inc. All Rights Reserved.

Welcome to the 2017 Awards Speculation series, where we speculate on specific Oscar categories, analyzing big players and potential darkhorses.  For the next few weeks, we will bring you a category every Friday to talk about how it might shake out over the upcoming months. If you have a suggestion, please include it in the comments below. Be sure to check out our companion series, Awards Profile by searching the tag at Awards Profile.  This go around, we ponder whether Disney can win back-to-back Best Visual Effects Oscars.

Despite being Hollywood’s go-to studio for summer blockbusters, Disney‘s 2016 win for “The Jungle Book” was the House of Mouse’s first Best Visual Effects win since 2006’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.”  Indeed, in the decade since Disney’s last win, the Best Visual Effects category has moved away from aliens, hobbits, and superheroes and begun to skew more prestige than merely popcorn.  “The Golden Compass” beat “Transformers” in 2007; “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” beat “The Dark Knight” in 2008; “Hugo” beat a duo of punching robots, apes, and Voldemort in 2011; and perhaps most famously, “Ex Machina” bested “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Revenant,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and “The Martian” in 2015 in one of Oscar’s most surprising upsets ever.  Heck, even the critically divisive “Interstellar” managed to win over a quartet of popcorn flicks.

However, much like 2016, where Disney represented 3/5 of the Best Visual Effects race, the House of Mouse could once more dominate the category.  Fresh off their win for “The Jungle Book,” Disney is rolling out the much anticipated “Beauty and the Beast,” helmed by Oscar winner Bill Condon.  While the Oscar success for Disney’s recent run of live action remakes of their animated classic have been middling at best (a few Costume nods here and there, 2 wins for “Alice in Wonderland” and the aforementioned “The Jungle Book”), if “Beauty and the Beast” breaks the Box Office bank, there may be no stopping it.  As a seemingly surefire nominee in at least a trio of craft races (Costume Design by Oscar winner Jacqueline Durran, whose doing double work this year with Joe Wright‘s “The Darkest Hour”; Production Design, also borrowed from Wright, with production designer Sarah Greenwood and set decorator Katie Spencer; and an Original Song from Octo-Oscar winner Alan Menken), it seems like coattails could be in order.  After all, “Beauty and the Beast” has the Beast and all his enchanted objects–looks to be a VFX showcase.

Then there’s Disney’s duo of Marvel Cinematic Universe (“MCU”) films slated for 2017 release:”Thor: Ragnarok” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2“.  While neither Thor film has managed a nomination in Best Visual Effects, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” found itself an Oscar nominee despite the first Steve Rogers film received zero.  The MCU seems to continually step up its game, and if the casting to “Thor: Ragnarok” is any indication, this installment could be a big showcase for the franchise.  However, a safer bet would likely be “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” which follows in the footsteps of the original’s surprise success (double Oscar nominee in this category and Makeup and Hairstyling).  However, it remains to be seen if Starlord and friends will expand on the Oscar success of the original, or perform as flaccidly as “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

Finally, and lest we forget, the Yet-to-be-Crowned Highest Grossing Film of 2017, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”  Last year’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” recreated beloved characters, but managed only two total Oscar nominations, and only one outside the VFX race.  The triumphant return to a galaxy far, far away in 2015 was met with an utter sweep of every Visual Effects race in sight, only to lose to arthouse androids on Oscar night.  Many might feel that such a successful franchise doesn’t “need” or “deserve” any/more Oscars.  However, given the direction both Episode 7 and Rogue One took the Star Wars Cinematic Universe, one can only imagine that what Rian Johnson has in store will be breathtaking.

So the big question remains: will Disney win back-to-back Visual Effects Oscars?  “The Jungle Book” was able to ride an early 2016 release to beat all comers come Oscar time, so will the live-action reimagining of their historic 1991 Best Picture nominee do the same?  Or could some high-tech prestige film swoop in at the end?  Or perhaps it go yet again to a Christopher Nolan film?  Only time will tell, but this Oscar prognosticator is placing his bets with Luke Skywalker, Kylo Ren, Finn, Rey, and General Leia.

What do you guys think?  Who’s the frontrunner is Best Visual Effects?  Does the winner reside in the House of Mouse?

Share your thoughts in the comments or on the message forums!

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Written by Sam Coffey

Attorney-at-law, Oscaroligist, coffee lover, Fantasy Football silver medalist, soccer fan (Orlando City SC), Geoffrey Rush enthusiast, and Time's 2006 Person of the Year.

Sam joined The Awards Circuit in January 2014, predicting all award shows with 100% accuracy ever since. A.K.A. "the stat guy."


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