Handicapping the Best Animated Feature Oscar Odds

By: Dylan Hysen


It’s Oscar season and since the Oscars have disappointingly few animation categories, we can narrow in on a category or two here at Overly Animated. Here I’ll be walking you through the Best Animated Feature category in preparation for the nominations announcement on January 24th. Voting will take place from the 5th to the 13th and is restricted to each category’s branch. This means the Best Animated Feature category will only be voted on by members of the Academy who worked or work in animation, resulting in pretty good selections the past few years. Voting for the winners is open to the entire Academy though, so the Disney or Pixar film is almost a sure thing each year, but we’re only focused on the nominations for now.

27 films were submitted for this category this year. I’ll take you through the ones with a shot of being one of the five nominees. This is purely my opinion, but it’s an informed one as I’m an avid Oscar prognostication follower and also have a good sense of the animated films up for nomination this year.

Sure Things (100%)

  • Zootopia
  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • Moana

These are your locks. Huge releases this year with universal acclaim. All three are excellent films and should easily make it. I put Moana here for simplicity but I actually think it’s more like 90% to get in. There’s a world where the animation branch of the Academy is too hipster to include this sincere Disney film, but it’s not a world I want to live in.

A Good Shot (50%)

  • The Red Turtle
  • Finding Dory

After the locks there are two spots left, and I think these two are the favorites to get them. Red Turtle has been getting raves from the awards circuit and is animated by Studio Ghibli (it’s a French film otherwise), so it has to have the inside edge on all the lesser known films on this list.

You’d think Finding Dory would be certain to make the cut: it’s a Pixar film with rave reviews. But in a year with three better big budget American releases, the animation branch of the Academy doesn’t have much room to show off smaller films in this category and Finding Dory might have to get the axe to make that room. I think one of your more likely headlines from this category is a Finding Dory snub.

Dart Throws (20%)

  • Your Name
  • Miss Hokusai
  • My Life as a Zucchini
  • The Little Prince

If Finding Dory or Red Turtle don’t get in, these are the four that will be why. You’ve got 2 French and 2 Japanese films here, all relatively unknown in America (although Little Prince and especially Your Name have made made a lot of money). I’m not sure which of the four is mostly likely to make it. I’d like to think it’s Your Name, my favorite film of the year. It’s an emotional, fantastic triumph and it’d be a big shame if it doesn’t get in. It has the box office pedigree to boot, being the 2nd highest grossing domestic film in Japan. These other three have legitimate shots as well, especially Hokusai and Zucchini, which you’ve surely never seen. But let’s remember that last year Boy and the World got nominated, which was about as obscure as you can get. It’d be surprising if the animation branch of the Academy didn’t nominate at least one complete unknown, and these two qualify. Little Prince is an excellent film with high accessibility with its Netflix American release, but it’s initial release was in 2015 overseas so it’s certainly lost a lot of steam. Still, great movie, big name voice actors, wouldn’t be a shock if it snuck in.

Don’t Forget (5%)

  • Sing
  • Trolls
  • The Secret Life of Pets
  • Kung Fu Panda 3

This is the “I got scarred from the Shaun the Sheep Movie getting nominated last year” tier. Despite its hipster foreign and small budget proclivities, the animation branch has shown it can still nominate unremarkable big budget American films with generally agreeable reviews. That’s these 4. I don’t expect any of them to get in, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility.

So I think that Zootopia, Kubo, Moana, Red Turtle, and Finding Dory are each individually the most likely five to get nominated, although I think it’s much more likely they aren’t the exact five than are. If I had to pick a specific combination of five that I think is the most likely I’d say Zoopoptia-Kubo-Moana-Red Turtle-Your Name. We didn’t even talk about April and the Extraordinary WorldLong Way North, and Sausage Party, so there are certainly a lot of possibilities here come January 24th.

Dylan is a software developer from the DC area who hosts the Overly Animated podcast discussing everything animation.


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