By Ben Spaeth
Photo: The Hollywood Reporter – Source
At this point the academy award for best animated feature should basically just be called best kids film. Not a single adult themed animated movie has ever won best animated feature since the awards introduction in 2001. This isn’t to say that great adult animated films haven’t been nominated either. Persepolis was nominated in 2007, but lost to Ratatouille. Personally I don’t like Ratatouille. I know there’s a very large cult following for the film, but I don’t know how anyone could see Persepolis, the story of a girl growing up during the Iranian Islamic Revolution, and think that the film where a rat cooks good food is more deserving. One of these stories is far more important to tell than the other.
The academy has been coming under fire for several of the jokes made on this year’s telecast. While I won’t get into the other jokes that people were offended by, animators were particularly offended by several jokes made by presenters and the host that insinuated that animation was something for “kids to enjoy and parents to endure.” Keep in mind Flee, an adult animated film about a man sharing with his husband the true story of him fleeing Afghanistan and becoming a refugee, was nominated for best animated feature, best documentary feature, and best international feature.
One of the main criticisms of the academy throughout the years is that the most popular films are rarely nominated for awards. Many take issue with films most people haven’t seen getting center stage at the award show. However, I always enjoyed this set up because it allows fantastic films to get recognition with the general population. It also gives smaller budget films a big box office boost as many will see a film if it’s nominated for an academy award. Avengers doesn’t need to be nominated because plenty of people will see it anyway. One could argue that not including a category of film (tentpole films) in the consideration of awards diminishes its value as it wasn’t accurately compared to its competitors. My counter to this is that most often the film that wins best picture was better than any tentpole that came out that year and on the occasions where a tentpole is considered better than the other nominees, they tend to win anyway. The Lord of the Rings films are a great modern example of a tentpole film winning when it really was the best film nominated. Dune was the latest of these types of films to be nominated, and I bet if the entries into the franchise remain consistently great, they will likely win best picture in the coming years.
With animation however, it seems that year after year, the same big budget Disney/Pixar film wins. There are occasions where a Disney or Pixar film doesn’t win, but those films are usually another big budget animated kids film made by Sony or DreamWorks. The Oscars are meant to spotlight amazing films and introduce people to films that they may not have watched otherwise. However, when it comes to animation, it feels like the script has been flipped. Year after year the most popular animated film wins best animated feature. This trend completely diminishes the appeal of seeing most nominated adult animated films. Unlike films nominated for best picture, most people won’t go out of their way to see an animated film just because it’s nominated.
An adult animated film doesn’t have to win best animated feature each year, but the very least the academy could do is give the genre the respect it deserves.