As the awards season draws nearer, it becomes a fun game to be the first to spot the surprise Oscar nominees that no one else sees coming. In the case for Best Animated Feature Film, we’ve seen a few of this year’s frontrunners already (Brave, ParaNorman), with several more to come in the next few weeks/months (Frankenweenie, Wreck-It Ralph). But Oscar handles this category the way I sometimes wish they would handle their Best Picture race, often finding diamonds in the rough, without any fear to go with lesser known/seen films – regardless of the spoken language in the film. Since the category’s inception back in 2001, there have been several animated films to receive a nomination that fit this description, including The Triplets of Belleville (2003), Persepolis (2007), The Illusionist (2010), and both Chico and Rita and A Cat in Paris from just last year.
There are several films that could sneak in and be the next nominee to fit this common occurrence. The two that draw my interest the most are From Up on Poppy Hill – which is being distributed through GKIDS (who has three nominations in the last three years with The Secret of Kells and the aforementioned Chico and Cat) – and the newly acquired Disney film, Arjun: The Warrior Prince. Disney has taken on distributing this Indian flick, and is giving it a one-week Oscar qualifying run in Los Angeles. But for those outside the L.A. market, do not despair, as Arjun: The Warrior Prince is also currently available on Netflix Instant.
Just today, Scott Feinberg at The Hollywood Reporter delivered the news that Rise of the Guardians will be presented with the Hollywood Animation Award, honoring the year’s best animated film. The last five winners of this award have gone on to win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a legitimate frontrunner!
Handicapping the race now, these are the ten films I currently feel are the strongest contenders for a nomination (in order of likelihood):
Rise of the Guardians
From Up On Poppy Hill
Arjun: The Warrior Prince
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Here is the trailer for Arjun: The Warrior Prince, which does not include subtitles, but the visuals look impressive and the subject matter – which tells “the untold story of India’s greatest warrior” – seems baity enough.