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Oscars: Breaking Down the Animated Feature Race

So, film is like my life. And what got me into film, was animation. As a young child, I would watch and rewatch over and over again DisneyToon’s The Tigger Movie (2000) amongst other Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks fare. By the age of 10, I was obsessed with animated films. I researched them, reviewed them, and even tried to make my own stop-motion LEGO ones.

Since then, I’ve continued to follow each year in animation. And 2018 has certainly been an interesting one. So here’s my analysis of the 2018 Best Animated Feature race!

Since 2001, the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature has grown in prestige and popularity as the category has grown and shifted over the years. Initially, only nominating 3 films a year (except for 2002 and 2009 which had a full 5 nominations), the category officially expanded to 5 nominees in 2011. And since then has sought to recognise a wide range of animated films, from studio-based fare, to independent features, all ranging between domestic and international productions.

2018 has featured all of the above. Mainstream commercial hits, independent films, international entries. All have been present, but unlike previous years it wasn’t clear who would emerge as the front-runner until really quite recently. So let’s break down the contenders:

Outside Shots:

Whilst 2018 certainly had a fair amount of animated films, most were below-the-line simply meh releases. However, seeing as The Boss Baby ended up with a nomination last year, I guess we have to consider all the potential nominees.


Sony Animation’s Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation (subtitled A Monster Vacation outside of North America) was a successful enough commercial hit but like its predecessors wasn’t a critical hit by any means.

Warner Animation’s Teen Titans Go! To the Movies was a surprising critical hit but is certainly not a typical Oscar contender and in a year with 2 other better received animated superhero films, it’s unlikely that Teen Titans will gain any serious consideration.

Sony Pictures Classic’s Ruben Brandt, Collector despite great reviews has failed to register in any major way on the awards circuit and is sadly handicapped by its subject matter and language barrier.


Aardman’s Early Man whilst charming and a solid hit both critically and commercially has failed to pick up any real notice at awards and its early year release hasn’t helped either. The changes to the animated category voting also means that this little seen film is more likely to slip through the cracks.

Illumination’s Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch has been a commercial hit but similarly to most Illumination releases, its critical standing was less than stellar. The film is however aided by its late year release which should help it stay in voter’s minds as they fill out their ballots.

Warner Animation’s Smallfoot landed well with both critics and audiences and is the most likely of the outside shots to potentially sneak in, following in the footsteps of Blue Sky’s Ferdinand from last year.

And now the Serious Contenders:

Studios Chizo’s Mirai is a huge critical hit and looks to be the token international nominee that the category loves to include. Whilst unlikely to win, Mirai has picked up numerous nominations during these first few weeks of awards season.

Walt Disney Animation’s Ralph Breaks the Internet was a firm critical and commercial hit continuing Disney’s banner decade for animation. Likely to follow in the footsteps of its predecessor, Ralph has also picked up numerous nominations at precursors.


PIXAR’s Incredibles 2 is currently the third most nominated animated film of the awards season so far, and the second highest grossing film of the year. A huge critical smash, Incredibles 2’s odds have begun to reduce as a new, hipper animated superhero offering has arrived (more on that later).

However, one can never rule out the Academy’s love of PIXAR (remember when Brave beat Wreck-It Ralph). Incredibles 2 is certainly a lock for a nomination, and with it being a female-led film, would certainly be a well-received one at that.

Fox Searchlight’s Isle of Dogs looked to be the ‘frontrunner’ as we approached awards season, with the film expected to battle it out with Incredibles 2. However, things have changed. Isle of Dogs was a critical hit and a solid commercial one to boot. The Academy likes Anderson a lot and the film’s potential Original Score nomination means the film is on voter’s radar. However, some backlash to the films treatment of race may hinder the films chances of coming out on top.


And finally Sony Animation’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which has emerged as the unprecedented front-runner to win Best Animated Feature! With the most wins and nominations of any animated film this awards season, huge critical acclaim and a solid box office return, Spider-Verse has established itself as a serious contender. Its late year release works in support of the film’s chances and the films subject matter and landmark as a piece of representation should also aid its odds.

With the Academy frequently under scrutiny for its lack of representation, this would be a huge PR win for them (alongside Black Panther) and a much-deserved win for the film. The only thing holding it back is the film’s genre which still plays hard with voters. (and don’t forget the snubs of The LEGO Movie and The LEGO Batman Movie both of which featured incredible, unique animation and solid emotional superhero tales that ended up being shafted by the Academy)

Overall, whilst a smaller, less critically acclaimed year for animation, 2018 still has its fair share of contenders and looks to be a category that could be a huge win for representation and diversity within film.


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