Open Field: The 2011 Animated Oscar Race
Each year I talk with people in the know and gauge the wind to take educated guesses at who has the best chances as getting to the Big Show. Last year I went two for three with the features and four for five with the shorts. But this year I could miss the mark completely easily. There hasn't been such an open field in features and shorts in years.
1) The Adventures of Tintin — Steven Spielberg, director (DreamWorks Pictures & Sony Pictures)
Outside of the U.S., the film is already a big hit. People are calling it an animated Indiana Jones. And who would be better at the helm of such a film than Steven Spielberg. With Oscar politics the way they are his name alone helps lock a nomination and with War Horse in the running for Best Picture, possibly, Spielberg in another category helps spread the wealth if he is nominated for Best Director as well. Being a very good film doesn't hurt it either.
2) Rango — Gore Verbinski, director (Paramount Pictures & ILM)
The more adult an animated film skews the better chance it has of getting a nomination. Out of all the major releases this year, this is certainly the most adult. It's also the most unique wide release to come out in some time. ILM's animation is breathtaking. There really has never been anything that looks quite like it before, which is all the more reason for people wanting to reward it. If there is any other lock, it's this one.
3) Arthur Christmas — Sarah Smith, director (Sony Pictures Animation & Aardman Animations)
Aardman won an Oscar for the stop-motion flick, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, but its CG feature Flushed Away didn't get a nomination at all. Their second CG film is decidedly better though. It's adult and funny and it even has a dose of heart, which are all the top requirements to get nominated. But its lackluster box office doesn't help its case, but that didn't stop Sony from getting a nod for Surf's Up. I wouldn't call it a lock but of all the bubble films it's on the nice list for sure.
I'm going to go out on a limb with placing this one as high as I am. This one skews as young as you can get. But this might be the last 2D animated feature coming out of Disney Feature Animation. At least the last in a long time. Voters know that. Therefore it makes for the perfect honor to Disney 2D to nominate a film that harkens back to earlier films as well. Being based directly on A.A. Milne's text gives it pedigree as well. Plus it's a solid film with equal amounts of heart and humor.