I do not think the Oscars really takes this category seriously. It more or less seems to be the Disney/Pixar category, despite their often being movies outside those studios who are more deserving. They gave the award to Up over Fantastic Mr/Fox for heaven’s sake. Now I like Up, I really like it. But it objectively worse than Fantastic Mr.Fox. Pixar has won the award 8 times in the 17 years this award has existed. A non-Pixar Disney movie won it three times. Whereas other categories reward art and tend to ignore the big blockbusters, the best-animated category tends to ignore art. Anomalisa was not only one of the best-animated movies of 2015, but one of the best movies. It was a beautiful work of art. But it lost to Inside Out. Inside Out is a fine movie. But it is nothing special.
One of the biggest sins in my book from this category was in 2014. To my surprise, The Lego Movie came out and was a masterpiece. It was a brilliant movie about consumerism and conformity. it may have been one big commercial for Legos, but it was the smartest feature-length commercial I have ever seen. But somehow, it wasn’t even nominated. Big Hero 6, which I like, won the award.
Brave and Frozen both have Oscars because of this award. Now I know many people are obsessed with Frozen, even if it is mediocre, but everyone can agree Brave is one of the weaker Pixar movies. They award mediocrity in this category.
Because of this, it is very easy to predict which movie will win this year. But first, let’s rank the nominees, and look at the snubs.
Lego Batman was not quite as good as The Lego Movie. Still, it was very entertaining. Whereas the theme of Lego Movie was about consumerism and conformity, Lego Batman went for a more personal theme about family. They hilariously parody Batman as being moody, and full of himself. He doesn’t see the value in friends or family and pushes those close to him away. It works really well inside the world of Batman. Just as in the Lego Movie, the way they replicate a stop motion animation style works really well. But for some reason, the Academy does not like Lego movies. I guess they must be Kinex fans. I’d give Lego Batman a 7/10.
Now I would have never predicted I would be saying this. I pegged Captain Underpants as a bad movie the second it was announced. I liked the comics as a kid, but they are only for kids. Which is fine, and I figured the movie would only be for kids. But it was surprisingly ok. Not good but Ok. Way better than one particular movie that was nominated, which we will talk about later, and probably better than two of the other nominated movies. It is not good, probably a 5/10, but in a bad year for animated films, it is still better than most.
N/A- The Breadwinner
I tried to find a way to watch this movie. It was in no theaters near me when it came out, and I have yet to see a way to get the DVD or watch it legally online. It got good reviews, for whatever that is worth, but I cannot just judge it based on reviews. It may be a great movie, but with it making less than $300k, and almost no one even having heard of it, it has zero chance of winning. Every year has one or two artsy movies in this category, and this is one of them. They found a well-received movie that no one saw to create the illusion they care.
4. Boss Baby
Boss Baby is awful. The animation is decent, but with a budget of $125 million, it damn well better be. Many animated movies are good for both kids and adults. This is not one of them. It did end up making $500 million, which means it will get a sequel, but it is a bad movie. The premise is dumb, and ‘humor’ leans way too heavy on poop jokes. Now it is made for kids, which is fine. But if it wasn’t nominated for an Oscar, I would not be talking about it. It can be the dumbest kid movie ever, but the Oscars should not be celebrating that. I have no clue how this beat out Lego Batman. 3.5/10
3. Saving Vincent
The idea of a movie animated with paint is fascinating and it works here. The movie is a visual feast. Unfortunately, the great visuals are wasted on the most boring screenplay of the year. The screenplay itself feels like something a 4th-grade school teacher would put together to teach her kids about Vincent Van Gogh. It is boring, the score is uninteresting, and it has nothing to offer outside of its gimmick where the movie is painted. Hopefully, this animation style will be used again, except next time in a movie that is as interesting as the style. 4/10
Ferdinand was about as average as an animated movie can be. It is a cute story about a bull in Spain, that doesn’t want to fight. We have seen a story similar to this a thousand times. Where the main character has a pre-ordained purpose, but they want to be something else instead. It is a story that has been told before and told better. It is completely fine as a kids movie, but nothing special at all. It is a very weak year for animated films, so maybe it deserves to be in here, but it is at best, average. 5/10.
Coco was a shining star among the rest of this mediocre field of nominees. It felt unique and heartfelt. Is it a masterpiece? No. But I do genuinely love it. It is probably the best Pixar movie that came out since Wall-E. The music is great. The story feels authentic. The voice acting is good, the animation is good. I had some problems. One, the bones of the story we have seen before. Like Ferdinand, the main character is expected by his family to so a certain thing, in this case, make shoes, but he wants to be a musician instead. The only problem is his family hates music. It is a simple starting plot, but they do expand it in a unique way. The plot takes our main character to the city of the dead, which is beautifully animated. When we arrive here, is where the movie really shines. A simple unoriginal story becomes way more interesting. The twist is fairly obvious, but that isn’t a huge issue. It relies on a little bit of easy humor at times. The whole thing with the dog secretly being a magical creature makes no sense to me. But still, it far exceeds the other nominees. I know I started out this post saying they are biased to Pixar movies, but this year, the Pixar movie actually deserves the win. Had Lego Batman been nominated, it would be a tough call. I give Coco a 7/10.