How the Oscars Fail Animation

Kayla Oh

There is almost no one out there who hasn’t seen an animated film. Some could argue that they’re an important part of growing up. After all, with animation being invented in the 1890’s, the art form has aged for over a century, not long after movies themselves were created, and has perfected itself as one of the most powerful and touching methods to communicate a message. Unbeknownst to most people however, animation is continually wronged by the film industry and taken for granted. Which makes you wonder: if animation is nearly as old as film, why hasn’t it gotten the recognition it deserved from the Academy Awards?

The first thing the Academy Awards get wrong is by giving animation its own category. Animation is a medium, not a genre, yet by giving it its own category, it basically says “we’re limiting all animation to this award despite live action films being open to win best costume design, makeup, etc.” In fact, the category for Best Animated Feature wasn’t created until 2001, and that was due to the fact that many were upset that Beauty and the Beast didn’t win best picture. Before that, animated movies that revolutionized the medium such as Snow White, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Toy Story only got special awards for being out there, however none of them were for any specific categories.

It also poses a problem when many animated films that are nominated are produced by Disney. Even more suspicious is that the channel that broadcasts the Oscars is ABC – which is owned by Disney. And every animated movie that was nominated for best picture- three in fact- were Disney films. While there is nothing to prove that Disney bribes for awards, it’s safe to say that their family-friendly style has created a bias for it, and makes it difficult for other movies (especially non-American ones) to break into the scene. Even worse is the fact that for 2017, The Boss Baby, a childish story playing on the overused trope of “what if kids did adult things”, was nominated for best animated film, and yet movies such as Tehran Taboo and Mary and the Witch’s Flower were not considered.

However, the aspect most to blame is the Academy voters themselves, who make it clear what their opinions are on these “kids cartoons”. In fact, it’s painfully comical how poorly they appear to be at their jobs, not to mention the fact that some of them just seem to be plain immature. Let’s look at some quotes from anonymous voters:

“I only watch the ones that my kid wants to see, so I didn’t see [The] Boxtrolls but I saw Big Hero 6 and I saw [How to Train Your] Dragon [2]. We both connected to Big Hero 6 — I just found it to be more satisfying. The biggest snub for me was Chris Miller and Phil Lord not getting in for [The] Lego [Movie]. When a movie is that successful and culturally hits all the right chords and does that kind of box-office — for that movie not to be in over these two obscure freakin’ Chinese fuckin’ things that nobody ever freakin’ saw [an apparent reference to the Japanese film The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, as well as the Irish film Song of the Sea]? That is my biggest bitch. Most people didn’t even know what they were! How does that happen? That, to me, is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen.”

Voted: Big Hero 6

“I’m not big on animation or animators. I know a girl who only has sex with animators — she works over at Disney. In any event, my least favorite was Moana — just typical Disney fare. I really, really liked Kubo and the Two Strings, My Life As a Zucchini, and Zootopia. But I loved The Red Turtle — it was so simple and it spoke about life and it looked like a watercolor painting to me. Plus I have a fetish for turtles — I’ve just written a project about a turtle.”

Voted: The Red Turtle

“I saw all five. I like to sit down with [the young people in her family] and watch them. We all loved Big Hero 6 and there was no discussion, no argument, no nothing. The kids watched that one three times — what does that tell you?”

Voted: Big Hero 6

(Source: Cartoon Brew)

By looking at this array, it’s pretty clear that it’s hard to trust the Academy with their handling of animated movies. Despite animation making a name for itself with all the progress it’s made, it appears that the Oscars are stuck in the past when it comes to taking an entire art medium seriously. It’s sad to think when you consider how time consuming animation really is. Each frame is made with careful precision along with lighting and coloring- and there’s thirty of them for each second. To not even give it a chance by only watching a few of the nominees or just choosing based on what your kids like is pathetic and out of line for someone hired to take cinema seriously. And to not understand it is a wrongdoing all on its own. It raises the question: if the Oscars don’t care, then why should we as your viewers care?