The Osacar myth: why can Disney always get the best animated feature?

Coco, the animation published by Disney, won the 2018 Oscars for best animated feature and original score. (Photo courtesy of IMDb)

2018 Oscars “perfectly” ended, there was no more “goes-to mistake” neither upsets for the awards this time; for instance, Coco which was popular before the ceremony won the best long animated feature. Some media called it was “in favor with the general public,” and praised Pixar Studio for winning this award at different ceremonies at 9th by this film. Although the Emmy winners and also the entertainment and pop culture journalist of Fast Company, KC Ifeanyi wondered: why the indie films have been favored by the Oscars in recent years; however, the animated films are still like walking on a treadmill and the award tends to commercial animations. So far, the award for the best animation is still dominated by Walt Disney and Pixar.

The history of the award for best long animated feature of the Oscars hasn’t been too long. It started to award in 2002. However, Disney and Pixar have been awarded for total 11 times for 16 years. It is true that those prize-winning films like Ratatouille, WALL-E and Frozen had been well received both critically and commercially in America and even the world. Nonetheless, Ifeanyi had a query if an animated feature is asked to tell a great story and also to get the mainstream success to win the Oscar, then why not this standard is applied when assessing the best picture?

Ratatouille won the Oscar for the best long animated feature in 2007. (Photo courtesy of IMDb)

Ifeanyi indicated that there were indeed many mainstream films to get the award for best picture in the past, including Titanic, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and Gladiator. However, at the same time there are also a lot of films with large-scale production are left out such as The Dark Knight, which had been well received. The nominees for best picture in recent years had smaller production like The Artist and Spotlight, yet the nominees for best animated feature didn’t.

In the list of 2018 Oscar Nominations, compared to Loving Vincent and The Breadwinner that are highly admired by animation industry, as well as The Boss Baby and Ferdinand, Coco which is produced by Pixar and published by Disney obviously went over well, and eventually won the award for best animated feature. Ifeanyi thought the possibility of animation cannot be reflected only by the prize-winning works produced by Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks because the public and even the members of Oscar don’t dabble much in subgenres animations, and Disney animations are family movies in everyone’s comfort zone.

Loving Vincent, 2017 (Photo courtesy of IMDb)
The Breadwinner, 2017 (Photo courtesy of IMDb)

One of the directors of Anomalisa, The winner for best animated feature of 2015 Oscars, Duke Johnson indicated that the obvious problem is that the animation is still regarded as a classification of films rather than a medium to tell any kinds of story. Even the Oscars seem to create misunderstanding; it is thought that the nominees are all adorable and fantasy, and ultimately serve children. “I don’t think that people understand those obscure animated works. People don’t consider the animations deserve to be appreciated like live-action movies, and there are a lot of indie animations which are seldom mentioned for just not corresponding with narrow image of animation — the animation must be suitable for everyone to watch,” he said.

Without doubt, some family animations really mean a lot. Disney and Pixar have proved that the animations talking about more complicated adult emotions could succeed by movies like Toy Story 3, Up and Inside Out; however these films are still towards children.

“In the past, the animations were definitely the disadvantaged one. Most of members who voted were making live-action features and they had little interests in animations. Not to mention, this medium was all dominated by family animations,“ one of the directors of Loving Vincent, Hugh Welchman, indicated.

In addition, there is another factor to influence whom the Oscar goes to — the huge gap of the budget of canvassing between big brand and small studio, and the publisher of The Breadwinner GKIDS is obviously the latter. “At the stage of nomination, most of indie animations get support and attention, yet at the moment to compete, it’s all about one word – money,” The chairman of GKIDS, Eric Beckman, noted. “The budget of canvassing for most animations produced by big studio surpassed the budget for us to buy films and publishing more than 50 times. It does cost to win,” he indicated.

Most will retort that the Oscar members must have watched all the nominated works; then it won’t be a doubt whether the promotion of the films influenced the outcome of the award or not. “A lot of members who voted haven’t watched all the nominated films, and the animation is the last classification to be completely watched,” Johnson said straightforward. “Some members of Oscar would vote their children’s favorite animation, and others may vote the one they have watched, because those popular animations were in all theaters with a lot of marketing exposure; no to mention, that animation made them cry and laugh, or they just don’t want to give some works in a field they aren’t familiar with a try.

Last year, Oscar have changed the voting rules for best animated feature to loosen the restrictions that allow the nominees are picked by all the members, rather than decided by the designated committee. However, more amateur animation industry personnel join the vote for this modification, and those people are most likely to choose the films their own or their children have watched such as works from Pixar or Disney. Ifeanyi thought that The Baby Boss and Ferdinand were nominated but the more acclaimed independent animations such as The Girl without Hands and Birdboy missed the competition for this factor.

Ifeanyi believes that the animation industry needs another Spirited Away which is a non-American mainstream work that could win the Oscar for best animated feature, and it’s also a work that could make people realize the wide range for the possibilities of animations.

“If Loving Vincent won the award, something would be changed, or more animations with multifaceted adult views would have the chances to be seen. Sometimes, we need some one-time events to make this medium,animations, has more chances to develop instead of providing service for family and kids. Although Loving Vincent did not get the award this year, who knows what is going to happen next year?

Spirited Away, 2001 (Photo courtesy of IMDb)