Another year, another Oscars.
While we may have many mixed thoughts about the ceremony, the culture and the whole event, you can't deny the hype when it comes to connecting everyday filmgoers and film buffs together to see who the accademy will pick.
As an animation studio, obviously we're going to stick to just the two main catorgories here. There's been a lot of back and forth in the industry this year (as we covered in our 2023 predictions), so the winners (and subsequent speeches) will play a part in carrying the torch and defining the conversation about animation as a medium.
Best Animated Feature
This year are five potential winners are - Turning Red (Pixar), Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (Dreamworks), Guillermo Del Toro's Pinocchio (Netflix) and The Sea Beast (Netflix)
Due to the relatively low amount of theatrical animated features out each year by comparison to live-action, sometimes the best animated feature catorgory can be a bit of a mixed bag, with previous years having contenders we certainly don't look back on as masterpieces. However, mostly thanks to the output of streaming, this year have five films we really liked and enjoyed.
Two are most certainly not in the running - The Sea Beast and Turning Red, which are both beautiful movies in their own right, but in our opinion, unlikely to win. Turning Red did a great job in straying from the 'Pixar style' and capturing the all-so-popular-again Y2K look, but unfortunately the story of strained parental relationships and generational trauma has become one of the most popular tropes of the early 2020s, turning a potentially unique story into one with unfortunate similarities to other recent entries. Still, Pixar has been long overdue for another female voice at the company, and we're enjoying the direction they are going in visually. As for the Sea Beast, beautiful water simulation aside, it found itself looking too much like a mainstream CG feature from five years back, and unfortunately the similarities to other films (for instance, how to train your dragon) means we don't think this one will get the spotlight either.
Marcel the shell with shoes on is certainly a unique one. The stop motion/live action hybrid documentary is certainly charming and has strong things to say about community and human connection, but we don't think it'll win. It's a shame as it's A24s first foray into this category and a really unique film by comparison to the others on this list. While there's a chance this could be a suprise win, I think the overly sentimental tone and loose plot make this more reflective than needed for a best animated picture winner.
That leaves (and we can't believe it comes down to this) the stop motion Guillermo Del Toro's Pinocchio or Puss in Boots: The Last Wish. While one was an expected hit, no one could have predicted Puss in Boots 2 of all things would be a potential Oscar winner this year, but we have to colour ourselves inpressed by it - every frame dynamic and unique, the story mature and emotionally intelligent, and every joke works in multiple ways. It's perhaps the first film since Shrek 2 to bring back the franchises' killer combo of heavy heart and biting satire. We're actually team Puss ourselves, but we think it's almost a given that the accademy will side with Pinocchio. Not to say we didn't like it, it's a clear work of masters at their craft, but perhaps the hype overinflated this one for us. The setting is interesting but the rather jumbled story and obnoxious main character didn't carry us the same way Dreamworks did. Sorry, not sorry!
Who we predict will win: Guillermo Del Toro's Pinocchio
Who we'd like to win: Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
Best Animated Short
And for this category, the nominees are - My Year of Dicks, The Ice Merchant, The Flying Sailor, The Boy the Mole the Fox and the Horse and An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It.
It may be suprising to admit, but we actually preferred these picks to the features (as fellow short filmmakers ourselves), especially as we were able to see two of the five at Manchester Animation Festival this year (Ice Merchants, An Ostrich).
While we loved all, we don't think either the Flying Sailor or An Ostrich will get the win - both lack that Oscar-ism (some might say a little pretentiousness) needed to elevate it thematically beyond their beautiful art and base concept. My year of Dicks was certainly the hidden gem of the bunch that we've barely heard anyone speak of (despite it's public availiabilty). While it took us by suprise with how much we liked this one, I think the experimental and purposely uneven style will not quite do it for the accademy, despite probably dealing with the most relevant and interesting set of ideas and themes of the bunch.
That leaves two films defined by their snowy setting. We definately think there's a pretty high likelyhood The Boy the Mole the Fox and the Horse will win: it's got all the elements, beautiful, picturebook-style art, great themes exploring home, family and mental health through the angle of a young boy and his animal companions. This one, of all of them, feels like 'Oscar bait', which is a loaded term we don't really like, but you can see why it's frequently thrown around looking at a emotional, music-heavy short designed to pull on the heartstrings. That leaves our personal pick, The Ice Merchants, which has in our opinion the perfect mix of it all - a great vision, unique colours and animation techniques, great presentation, a gripping story and some awesome themes that are not too vague but not too obvious either. Perfect.
Who we predict will win: The Boy the Mole the Fox and the Horse
Who we'd like to win: The Ice Merchants