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‘Cars 2’ falls flat with critics, leaving Oscars open for furries

Your rating: None Average: 4.4 (5 votes)

Though it led the race at the box office this weekend, Cars 2 has become Pixar’s first critical failure after over a decade of critically acclaimed films.

This dismal showing with critics, plus new rules for the Academy Award for Best Picture, may have opened up the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature for furry movies, with Rango and Kung Fu Panda 2 both currently top (if early) contenders for the title.

Cars 2 currently has a aggregate score of 33% on Rotten Tomatoes – considerably lower than previous Pixar pictures, most of which are above 90%. Critics lambasted the mediocre storyline, kid-unfriendly violence and dependence on a character (Larry the Cable Guy as Tow Mater) who many found annoying. Most reviews begin with a variation of the line “it had to happen sometime,” and agree that the animation itself is top notch.

Academy rules

According to the Academy, a year must contain at least eight animated movies released to theatres for the award to be presented; there are currently 18 listed on the Animated Movie Guide for 2011. In a year where 16 or more movies are released, the shortlist grows from three to five. However, not all movies listed may qualify, and there have only been two years in which five features were nominated.

New rules affecting movies released in 2011 require that at least five titles be nominated, and up to five more if the Academy feels they deserve it. Cars 2 would have been less likely to make the cut even if it had been a critical darling.

Past victories

Pixar has won Best Animated Feature five times since the award’s inauguration in 2002, and has never failed to gain a nomination. For the last two years, a Pixar feature has also been nominated for Best Picture. However, the shortlist contained ten pictures in those years. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is the only animated movie to be nominated to a shortlist of five titles.

Though animated movies are unlikely to win Best Picture for the foreseeable future, nomination virtually assures a victory in the Best Animated Feature category. Up and Toy Story 3’s nominations gave them a distinct edge over distinguished (and furrier) challengers such as Fantastic Mr. Fox and How To Train Your Dragon.

This year it seems to be a moot point, as Cars 2 will probably be lucky to get a nomination for Best Animated Feature, with multiple titles from multiple studios making decent runs for the title.

Stiff competition

Rango currently holds the year’s best wide-release animated movie score on Rotten Tomatoes, with Kung Fu Panda 2 right behind. The original Kung Fu Panda was nominated for the award. Rio, another furry contender, is also ”certified fresh,” and has a decent studio pedigree.

Other upcoming movies with furry themes and decent chances of nomination include Winnie the Pooh (with its traditional animation and Disney heritage giving it an edge), A Cat in Paris (the Academy likes to round out the Best Animated Feature shortlist with a smaller-release animated film) and Happy Feet 2 (the original Happy Feet beat out Cars for the award). Less likely furry contenders include Puss in Boots – probably too commercial for the Academy – and the smaller release The Lion of Judah, with a current rating of 0% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The biggest challenge to a furry victory may come from none other than Steven Spielberg, who is directing his first animated movie this year, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. Just being a Spielberg directed movie could get it on the ballot.

Though 2011 is shaping up to be a good year for furry films at the Academy Awards, it’s possible that none of these films may win the fandom’s Ursa Majors, with the homegrown Bitter Lake throwing a twist into possible nominations. Cars was nominated for an Ursa Major in 2006 as an example of anthropomorphism, despite receiving the poorest ever reviews for a Pixar movie; its sequel is unlikely to manage that in such a furry-rich year.

Comments

Your rating: None Average: 5 (3 votes)

Spielberg's movie won't qualify for the animation award because it's mocap, and the Academy recently changed the rules to disqualify mocap from the animation award.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

>motion capture is no longer considered "animation"
Feels good, man...

Your rating: None

I really wasn't sure about that, as the rule is stated as "Motion capture by itself is not an animation technique," (italics added). That "by itself" is an odd word choice. It's a good, if badly written, rule, anyway. What is the point of mocap (or the older rotoscope techniquie, which Ralph Bakshi apparently fell in love with) movies, really? Of course, if anyone could get the rules changed back to allowing mocap, it would be Spielberg.

But, for right now, that eliminates both Spielberg and Mars Needs Moms from the running. Mars Needs Moms was unlikely to be nominated even if it counted, but would "count" toward the yearly total, which would effect the number of nominees. The Smurfs and Hop are also unlikely to count (and will probably end up being cut from the Guide after the year's over), but Cats vs. Dogs 2 was somehow counted as an animated movie by the Academy. So, we're looking at approximately 14 films, and a shortlist of 3.

It is way, way too early to be making predictions, but that isn't going to stop me. At the very least, it'll be fun to see how wrong I am when the smoke clears in over half a year from now.

I think the ballot'll be Kung Fu Panda 2 (partially because it is that good, but mostly for the rather cynical reason that the Academy will get to pat itself on the back for nominating a film directed by an Asian American woman), Rango (it's pretty much an animated movie for film buffs, so, uh, duh), and A Cat in Paris (the Academy really likes to throw in a foreign, indepedent or otherwise "art" film). The award will go to Rango, because the Academy will never forgive itself for giving any award to sequels two years in a row, and though they like to throw in the "art" film, it never wins.

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I don't think A Cat in Paris will make it in. It's... well, I'd give it a 7 out of 10, it's good in a nice way with a bit of a dark edge, but the plot is very basic, and after watching it, it's largely forgettable. Plus its animation uses a very simplistic style which won't impress anyone who prefers Pixar and CGI. I enjoyed it until one pivotal scene when the daughter needs to speak up but doesn't - I couldn't sympathize with her character at all after that point. However its ending was nicely dramatic and even mildly surreal. Sadly, the cat is a minor character that mainly serves as a linking device, as well as attacking people's faces when it's convenient. :P

I'm far more curious to see The Rabbi's Cat!

Your rating: None

As I said, it was way to early to start really guessing. Especially since most of the films I obviously either haven't or even couldn't have seen yet.

That being said, it's not as much fun if I'm the only one. What are your picks?

Your rating: None

And, while I'm at it, I might as well make some Ursa Majors predictions; I'm going to guess Rio, Kung Fu Panda 2, Rango, Happy Feet 2 and Bitter Lake; Bitter Lake will win even though most of the people voting for it will never have seen it.

Despite a lot of furry movies out this year, I have this sneaking feeling that most don't actually appeal to furries; Rango is to "out there" for most furries (who ran screaming from another "movie buff" animated film, Fantastic Mr. Fox), furries seem to hate Jack Black's guts or something (I was surprised at how angry some people seemed to be in the comments to my review of Kung Fu Panda 2, and the first one did lose to Bolt), and a lot of furries (myself included) are still too biased for furries with, you know, fur to vote for the bird based titles.

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Generally I tend to ignore the Awards, but if they need 5 nominations, it'll probably include Rango, Kung Fu Panda 2, Winnie the Pooh, Puss in Boots... other possibilities are Rio (which wouldn't win)... maybe Arthur Christmas? but that's months away. Probably one foreign film, but who knows which; it's hard to find out what's out there. (Just tried searching with little success... best hit was this site.) I guess Arrietty missed being nominated last year; I'd like to see that at some point.

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I've really started to pay attention to the Best Animated Feature for a couple of reasons; unlike Best Picture, which will rarely go to a film "regular Joes" would want to watch for fun, Best Animated Features are often popular with regular audiences as well as the Academy. The Academy is notorious for rarely nominating genre films, much less giving them Best Picture; with the Animated Feature award, something beyond drama can be nominated. I think it's kind of telling that the only horror movie to be win, The Silence of the Lambs beat the only five film shortlist animated feature, Beauty and the Beast. Must've been a bad year for dramas.

I feel like we're seeing an almost quantum leap in quality for American animation; I believe this is mostly due to the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Studios have something they can fight for, rather than just kid's parents' money. Dreamworks' studios, for instance, seems to have realized they can't win this thing like they did with Shrek, when nobody had a clue what was going on and Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius was a nominee. They actually have to make really decent films, now; How To Train Your Dragon took some risks, and had one of the most realistic distant father/son relationships ever put on film. And other studios are responding; last year was probably the first year where they've had the problem of not having enough movies to allow them to nominate five; both Tangled and Despicable Me were worthy of a nomination, at least.

Of course, Pixar itself is a big reason, as well. They have been pushing animation for over a decade now, but even more than that, they're kind of the inspiration. All the other studios are basically gunning for them; it's got to be, on one hand, exciting, but on the other, a little disheartening for the other guys to see them stumble. Yeah, it's going to be nice to beat Pixar, but it would be even better to beat one of Pixar's critical juggernauts, rather than the apparent sacrificial lamb to the alter of the movie critics.

Arrietty is supposed to be released in 2012 in America. Part of qualifying for any Academy feature award is playing at least one week in L.A. A lot of foreign animated movies book one week in L.A. only for their American premiere, then have a wider release later on next year, hoping for a boost from a possible nomination. It worked for The Secret of Kells and The Illusionist. Having been released in a foreign home market in a prior year I don't think disqualifies a movie, as long as it was originally theatrical.

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Although I enjoyed Kung Fu Panda 2, honestly it was not anywhere near the level of the first movie. Haven't seen Rango but I've heard good things. Rio was a fun and really cute movie but forgettable in a lot of ways.

I'm leaning towards your pick of Rango based on not really feeling much for the competition I have seen plus what I've heard about that movie.

Your rating: None

Kung-Fu Panda = master race.

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About the author

crossaffliction (Brendan Kachel)read storiescontact (login required)

a reporter and Red Fox from Hooker, Oklahoma, interested in movies, horror, stand up comedy

Formerly Wichita's only furry comic.