Sunday, November 06, 2011

A Weak Year for Animation?

The following 18 films have been submitted to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the category of Best Animated Feature. With 18 submissions, there can be five nominees.

The Adventures of Tintin
Alois Nebel

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked
Arthur Christmas
Cars 2
A Cat in Paris
Chico & Rita
Gnomeo & Juliet
Happy Feet Two
Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil
Kung Fu Panda 2
Mars Needs Moms
Puss in Boots
The Smurfs
Winnie the Pooh

I have to admit to not having seen many of these films and some of them have not yet been released. Many of them are sequels or spin-offs. At least three contain motion capture (Tintin, Happy Feet 2 and Mars Needs Moms). And none have a strong buzz, at least so far as I've heard.

While it is great that this many animated features are being made, both from an employment and audience standpoint, it's disheartening that this year's Oscar winner will likely be something that won't stand the test of time.

My guess for the five nominations are: Cars 2, Tintin, Rango, Rio and Winnie the Pooh. The latter will be there only to maintain some visibility for hand drawn animation. The eventual winner will depend a lot on the critical and box office reception of Tintin. Should that film be a hit, I expect it to win, regardless of the fact that I think it's completely wrong-headed. If it doesn't have a strong showing, I would guess the winner will be either Cars 2 or Rango.

The nominations will be announced on January 24.


Pete Emslie said...

What bothers me a lot about this list is the fact that the Chipmunks and Smurfs films even qualify as "animated features". It seems that the line has been blurred between an animated film and one that merely employs animated effects. Would the classic original "King Kong" have qualified for the Animation Oscar by today's definition? Not to diminish the work of people like Willis O'Brien or his successor, Ray Harryhausen, but they were creating animated special effects in what were otherwise live-action fantasies. Between this and Mo-Cap, it saddens me to see how the animated feature is losing its meaning.

Mario NC said...

The Academy always adds an independent lesser-known film (like Persepolis, The Secret of Kells or The Triplets of Belleville) to the final nominees (probably to avoid/pretend that a small movie has a chance next to big blockbuster features). My prediction is that Winnie the Pooh won't get nominated and either Chico and Rita or A cat in Paris will get the fifth spot (I'm guessing that the former since it is backed by Sony Pictures). Also, Dreamworks msy snatch the place of either Rio or Rango (or maybe both).

Thad said...

Who would actually _watch_ any of these films, let alone give one an award?

Michael Sporn said...

My guess is that PUSS IN BOOTS will make it before RIO. The Academy rarely seems to include Blue Sky in on their party. I don't consider many of these "animated". Isn't all cgi "special effects?" Puppetry via computer. (Not that argument again!)

JPilot said...

But wait, aren't directors constantly arguing that motion capture is NOT animation? (Where's the aspirin?)

Charles Kenny said...

To kinda jump on what Pete said, I suppose it might be time to start thinking about abolishing the Best Animated Feature category, yes?

All done in exchange for a guarantee to have an expanded best picture line-up with a minimum number of animated films of course.

If the lines between live-action and animation are so blurred, my pretend that they exist at all?

Mario NC said...

I hope Tintin wins, it would be hilarious to see Spielberg received an award that is considered worthless for the majority of Hollywood.

Just sayin...

GW said...

I don't think that the animated feature film is losing its meaning, but rather that new categories haven't been effectively forged. It wouldn't be hard to label them as halfway films in addition to including them in the category.

The animated film as an exclusive alternative to live action is a conception that's outdated nowadays. I don't think so because of blurred lines. You can have mules and a horse and donkey will remain.

The real change is that we're now able to do so much with real objects that there's almost another medium. There are ways to create the illusion of life outside of animation's conception of frame by frame movement. There's not only puppetry now, but there's other ways of representing motion which can be filmed continuously. The most obvious is, of course, dressed up animatronics. This is a very general category, but it's the best one I can come up with.

This category would be difficult to distinguish from special effects. There's no immediate boundary to separate it from live action, like there is in animation. Computer puppetry in the form of things rendered in realtime like machinima could be considered the virtual equivalent.

That's the best response that I can give.

Cookedart said...

Definitely a weak year. Next year is shaping up to look much better.

Martin Juneau said...

The Best Animated Features category is for me a big mistake to the Academy Awards committees if only the awards goes to Disney/Pixar or Dreamworks. It kills the variety of what animation should be really, but we know the Oscars peoples have little tastes to animation.

Why always give this prices when you know who will win? It's the same who goes with the Razzies since some years now.

George said...

" Isn't all cgi "special effects?" Puppetry via computer. (Not that argument again!)"

Hey Michael, I love your work and your blog but as a CG animator I can say that CG is most definitely animation.

It's the almost exactly the same workflow (minus the drawing of course) and the same principals squash, stretch, overlap etc. apply.

I draw my thumbnails, shoot video reference, I work out my storytelling poses and add my other keys around those storytelling poses, add my breakdowns, then spend the rest of the time polishing it up.

I'm not a programmer or a computer geek, I have no interest in the technical stuff that goes into CG, I'm an artist. One of those: "Just show me what buttons to push so I can create a performance".