From 'Brave' to 'Zarafa,' analyzing this year's animated feature film contenders

Posted by · 9:34 pm · October 25th, 2012

With the November 1 eligibility due date looming around the corner, it’s time to really dig in on the Best Animated Feature Film category. Currently there are 16 titles assumed eligible for the award, which has been dished out at the annual Oscars for 11 years now. And that 12-year history has shown an interesting progression for the category.

The rise of GKIDS in the indie sector has shaken this race up a bit as of late, seemingly giving animators the artistic alternatives that they don’t always get out of the commercial lot. The dirty little secret about the animated feature category is that it was, long before the Best Picture category’s facelift, the first real step the Academy made toward allowing space for commercial films and therefore providing general audiences a better sense of accessibility to the annual Oscarcast.

But over time the category has naturally evolved, all the way up until just last year, when the studios were up against it as Pixar was shut out after winning the award four years in a row, two indie titles faced off against two traditional animation house films (from the same studio, in fact) and the win went to an in-house gem that came from a non-animator filmmaker who made his name in live action.

Also, the rules were altered last year. Previously, a year that brought at least 16 eligible contenders would yield a full slate of five nominees. In a year with 13 to 15 contenders, there would be four, and in a year with 8 to 12, there would be two or three. Any year with less than eight contenders will result in the category being skipped, but that’s not likely to ever happen.

So yes, the category is ever in flux. And this year, it has a diverse and quality crop to show for itself. If you actually sit down and look at each of the films in the hunt — which is just what I’ve done over the last couple of weeks — it becomes fairly obvious that this is in no way a thin year and that there is some stiff, bottlenecking competition waiting to fill out the category.

But getting back to the diversity, traditional animation is well-represented amid the usual CG flurry in 2012, as is stop-motion. A pair of this year’s contenders even make brief use of live action footage, while another uses traditional two-dimensional animated characters placed into computer-generated 3D environments. Claymation even makes an appearance in one instance.

Animation houses in the fold include Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, Sony, Aardman, Blue Sky, Laika, Studio Ghibli and Illumination. And, of course, of the 16 entries, 14 of them were (or will be) available theatrically in 3D, proving animation is still very much a driver of Hollywood’s addiction to those inflated ticket prices.

What will the nominees be? Let’s investigate. Click through the gallery below to get the lowdown on each of the year’s animated feature film contenders. Should anything pop up on the official list of qualifiers that we didn’t see coming, we’ll be sure to take note of that. For now, though, it seems like these 17 are the field. And as always, keep track of the race all season long via the Best Animate Feature Film Contenders Page.

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