Since its inception, the Best Animated Film category used to be an almost automatic Pixar win. They times are not exactly a-changin', but the landscape for animated films certainly is. Dreamworks is still behind the pack as far critical acclaim goes (though kids love their films), but the emergence of LAIKA and the Pixar Brain Trust infiltration of Disney has flipping things around a little.
The joke this year was that Disney made the Pixar's movie, while Pixar made Disney's. Wreck-It Ralph, from former-Simpsons and Futurama director Rich Moore, was the most Pixar-like film never made by Pixar. It screams Pixar in every frame of animation and every joke. Meanwhile, Pixar visited the land of castles and princesses, telling the first fairytale in the company's 25 year existence.
Is Disney Animation Studios back though? They've had three hits on the trot (critically anyway) if you go back to Winnie the Pooh and Tangled (four if you include the short film, Paperman
), and the upcoming Frozen
looks like it has promise. It would be enormously exciting if that was the case. Most critics dismiss Disney out of hand for some reason, but I've always been a sucker for the House of Mouse, even when I don't particularly like the films. But Wreck-It Ralph
was fantastic. The only thing that might hold it back in terms of Oscar is that it was a film squarely aimed at viewers who are in their 30s right now, which is quite a bit younger than the average Academy members' age. I just don't have a valid criticism of the film though.
I don't have a lot of criticism for any of these films really. Brave
was fantastic and still very much in Pixar style, despite its Disney-esque pedigree and minor similarities to How to Train Your Dragon.
I wasn't floored by it like I have been with Pixar in the past, but it was a hell of a lot better than either of the Cars
movies and didn't make me nauseated like Ratatouille
. Most likely it will win on Sunday and hopefully we actually get to hear the film's original director Brenda Chapman give a speech.
were cut a little bit too much from the same cloth to do much besides cancel each other out, but ParaNorman
was, to me anyway, by far the better and more imaginative film. Frankenweenie
, based on an earlier live-action shortfilm (which can be found on the Nightmare Before Christmas
DVD), takes Frankenstein and transplants it to middle school. The twist on the original is minor and the character design falls deadly flat compared to earlier Burton stop-motion animations. Character design (done by LAIKA's Heidi Smith) is one of the biggest plusses for ParaNorman
, on top of a clever and kind of heartfelt twist on the very tired zombie trope. Still, it does fall back on some cliches, most annoyingly the bullied fat kid sidekick (which Frankenweenie
also falls back on), which needs to be hit over the head with a shovel and buried in the graveyard of finished ideas. I enjoyed both a lot though, these are really very minor complaints.
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
was a little too far towards children for me. The best children's films, at least the ones that have stayed with me for so long, are the ones that I enjoyed on one level as a child and then saw its whole other level as an adult as I got more of the jokes. The jokes here that are above children's heads are somewhat oddly sex jokes (the strangely villainous Charles Darwin lamenting his imminent death by saying he never got to second base with a girl, or every joke involving the Strangely Curvacious Pirate). I'm not sure that there is much left beyond that for kids to get aside from becoming fans of the people who do the voices (Hugh Grant, Brenden Gleeson, Martin Freeman, Salma Hayek, Jeremy Piven).
Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman -- "Brave"
Tim Burton -- "Frankenweenie"
Sam Fell and Chris Butler -- "ParaNorman"
Peter Lord -- "The Pirates! Band of Misfits"
Rich Moore -- "Wreck-It Ralph"
, for I am within the age that was perfect for every joke in the film and lived in an arcade called Buddy's when I was a kid before they knocked it down and we all moved on to Street Fighter at the pizza place or the awful arcade cavern in the bowling alley.