Furry Movie Award Watch: August 2013
However, I don’t feel much like celebrating; this wasn’t exactly a banner year for the column. Let’s see; I was late November, February, April and May. [This time, it was the editor's fault.] Oh, and there was the part where I only got one out of three awards I was supposed to guess right. And the movie that beat me was terrible; not even a fun terrible, like Avatar or Prometheus, but a boring terrible. I can’t even find myself really mad at the choice; I mean, it was a nice, safe pick, after all. Nothing interesting at all going on here.
crossie’s Current Best Guesses
Things are unclear right now, so I’m basically rotating Monsters University into the winner’s circle in place of Ernest & Celestine and My Little Pony: Equestria Girls from last month. I’d say it’s about 50/50 between MU and MLP:EG in the Ursa Majors race; and in the other two, a three-way race between MU, Ernest & Celestine The Wind Rises (there are rumors it may be Japan’s entrant for Best Foreign Language Film, boosting its chances as an Animated Feature).
|Academy Award for Best Animated Feature
|Annie Award for Best Animated Feature
|Ursa Major Award for Best Anthropomorphic Motion Picture
Despicable Me 2
Ernest & Celestine
The Wind is Rising
|Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Ernest & Celestine
The Wind is Rising
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
My Little Pony: Equestria Girls
So, what’s the point?
In case I didn’t make it ridiculously clear, I wasn’t happy with Brave’s pair of wins earlier this year. It rode completely on studio pedigree; it was honestly the single worst nominee at the Oscars. There were much more interesting possibilities that got shunted to the side by its nomination; The Rabbi’s Cat was the obvious choice, but even Hotel Transylvania would have been a more inspired nominee.
The thing is, last year’s crop of nominees was weak; Brave was a piece of junk, but I can’t say I had much love for Frankenweenie or ParaNorman, either, while The Pirates! A Band of Misfits was decent in a year where “decent” felt mind-blowing. If it weren’t for Wreck-it Ralph, the Oscar nominees last year would have been a wash.
This came after a year which many critics called weak for animation (though I was perfectly happy with the output). Admittedly, that was mostly due to a preponderance of sequels – most actually very good – and the fact that, though John Lasseter rightly banned everyone else at Disney from making crappy sequels to their movies, it turned out he exempted himself from that rule.
Let’s not even get started on this year; man, what a waste-land. Its telling that this year saw not one, but two movies originally intended as direct-to-DVD merchandising cash-ins make it to theaters. It’s even more telling that those are two of the movies I have the warmest feelings for.
So, we’ve got a year many critics felt were weak (though I liked), followed by a year I felt was weak (though other critics were more okay with), followed by this year, where everyone is pretty much not okay with the animated output. You’ve really got to be asking what’s the point of the Best Animated Feature Oscar, anymore.
It could still be worse
The thing is, these years are weak compared to… what, exactly?
The nineties? Okay, so Disney was at its peak during the early half of that decade, but seriously, what else was there? Don Bluth, who stormed off from Disney to do his own thing and was a legitimate rival for a while, began a nosedive at the beginning of the nineties that wouldn’t end. Until DreamWorks and Pixar came along, it was basically Disney taking its beginning-of-the-decade success, turning that into a formula, and ramming that into the ground so hard, it still hasn’t recovered.
The eighties? Oh, hell no. Yeah, you had Bluth before his nosedive, but Disney was in its own low point, while everything else was just a toy commercial. The seventies? Disney, and that’s about it. Before that? Same as above, except even more so.
Of course, there will probably be comments along the lines of, “But what about Fill in the Blank? Fill in the Blank was a classic!” Yes, there were stand-outs in every decade since the beginning of the animated feature film, but that’s just it; they were stand-outs. If you read Jerry Beck’s animated movie guide, you’ll notice quite a few completely forgotten movies; the difference being that today, it’s a weird week at the movie theater where something animated isn’t playing. Back then, an animated dud would play a week and that was it for months, if not years.
For what it’s worth, this decade has seen something we’ve never seen before; a large number of animated feature films hitting the theaters year after year, a surprisingly large percentage of which do not suck! Now, we can still complain about the ones that do (darn right, we can complain! Our God-given right, that is!), but the truth is we’re living in a golden age of animated feature films.
Right now, every major production company has, or is making plans to acquire, an animation studio. Which actually means more animated features will fail; more competition for essentially the same audience. Yes, this added competition can drive creativity; in theory, the best animated feature will be the one least likely to fail. On the other hand, it can also put the brakes on creativity; Cars 2 was terrible, but people liked Cars, so it was still the domestic animated box office champ — meaning, yes, there will almost certainly be a Cars 3, even beyond Planes.
But why are all these studios popping up to begin with? Well, the start of the decade saw something brand new; a competitive award at the Oscars for animated features. Finally, animation studios had something to compete for beyond audiences: their own award. Pixar dominated the early years because they were the first to realize that quality and creativity will win. They’ve got such a reputation that even when they don’t live up to the standard (not just their own, but that of everyone else at this point), they still get a pass; they’re Pixar, and Pixar means quality, right?
However, now the bar has been raised; Brave’s win at the Oscars is actually, ironically, a bizarrely hopeful sign. It was the first true bad call from the Academy in that category. You can’t have calls of “snub!” if there’s nothing worth snubbing. There’s so much quality out there that the safe choice was wrong; the standards are not what they were when Shrek won.
Yes, awards like the Oscars are shallow, petty and self-indulgent; they get it wrong more often than they get it right; and though you can’t straight-out buy one, the size of your pocket book helps. But if the state of the Animated Feature race is any indication, an award to celebrate and promote quality, however nominally, does help to create quality.