In the almost 90 years that the Academy Awards have been held, most of the categories have been established early in its history. By 1950, the Oscar categories that we’ve come to know were pretty well established. Since then, only two categories have been added. Best Makeup and Hairstyling made its appearance in 1981, but the most recent award for Best Animated Feature has only been around for a mere fifteen years. That’s not to say that there haven’t been great animated films before 2001, it’s just that there wasn’t much competition. A few won special, technical Oscars for their efforts, but Disney’s animated films would have won many of the previous years’ Oscars just by default if the Award existed before the 21st century. This week’s two films look at some winners in the up-and-coming Best Animated Feature Oscar category.
Length: 90 minutes / 1.5 hours
As I’ve written about before, DreamWorks was able to make the first dent in the monolithic Disney animation empire. Partly because they provided some competition in a very narrow and difficult field of film, DreamWorks essentially made it so the Best Animated Feature Oscar could be possible. Almost in recognition of this feat, four years after their first feature film, DreamWorks would walk home with the very first Best Animated Feature Oscar for Shrek (2001). Up until this point, only Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), and Toy Story (1995) had even been given any Oscars for their animated efforts, and only because they had been trailblazers of the craft. Still, Shrek set the stage to show that technology had advanced to a point where animated feature films could be produced in a much shorter timeframe, thus giving Disney a run for its money.
It is almost fitting that Shrek was able to win Best Animated Feature, considering how many Disney films it parodied by placing all of fairy tale-dom in a single universe (much like what Disney has since done with the TV show, Once Upon a Time). While there are references to Peter Pan, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Sleeping Beauty, and Pinocchio, the main thrust of the film is a classic adventure of a damsel in distress. However, the “knight in shining armor” is that of the eponymous Shrek (Michael Myers), an ogre trying his best to keep his life in an isolated swamp in a state of status quo. While Shrek and the now-rescued Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) couldn’t be any more different, a secret event that happens to Fiona at night threatens to reveal that they might in fact be more similar than initially thought.
Length: 96 minutes / 1.6 hours
One of the qualms that many critics have with this new Oscar category is that it essentially hamstrings the film nominated for Best Animated Feature from winning Best Picture overall. Now, an animated film being nominated for the top award is exceedingly rare, but it had happened before the Animated Feature category was even established. In 1991, ten years before Shrek won the unprecedented award, Beauty and the Beast was nominated for Best Picture, losing out to The Silence of the Lambs (1991). However, when the nomination procedures for Best Picture changed in 2009, we suddenly saw an addition to the nominee list: an animated film. With ten movies now able to be in the running, Up (2009) was nominated for both Best Picture and Best Animated Feature, only managing to win the latter. A year later, Toy Story 3 (2010) would repeat this feat to the same result.
Following a beautiful, touching, and speechless segment detailing the lives of Ellie and Carl Fredricksen (Edward Asner), we find the elderly widower planted firmly in the way of a new construction project. In a final, last-ditch effort to accomplish the goal to live next to Paradise Falls, Carl outfits his house with a plethora of colorful helium balloons, lifting it away to South America. Unfortunately, an accidental stowaway by the name of Russell (Jordan Nagai) is taken along for the ride. The young child just wanted to help Carl so he could earn his last Wilderness Explorer badge: assisting the elderly. When the house lands, the two of them soon realize they have nearly made it to Paradise Falls. As they take the house to its final resting place, they must deal with a strange bird and the former hero who has been trying to catch it.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Academy awarded animations