An animated movie has never won the Best Picture Award at the Oscars. Only 3 have ever even been nominated: Beauty and the Beast in 1992, Up in 2010 and Toy Story 3 in 2011. Let that wash over you. Plenty are nominated, mind - but there seems to be something of a barrier still in place between animation and consistent Academy recognition.
So this week, join me as I vent my futile rage and frustration at THE MAN by talking about the best animated films that didn’t win an Oscar.
10. Your Name (2016)
Telling the story of a high school girl in rural Japan and a high school boy in Tokyo who swap bodies, Your Name was the first non-Miyazaki-directed anime to earn more than $100 million at the box office.
Not a nomination in sight, though. Perhaps this is due to the Academy missing the cultural significance of a non-western production? Whatever the reason, don’t make the same mistake they did, it’s made over $330 million worldwide and racked up incredible reviews for a reason.
9. Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
I’m a bit of a gaming nut so I’ll try not to let that cloud my judgement here… But can we just talk about the cameos that include Super Mario’s Bowser, Street Fighter’s Zangief, Sonic the Hedgehog and Pac-Man?! It’s got a bit of a gaming hall of fame thing going on which I dig very much and that alone deserves recognition!
Seriously though, WIR did the impossible: made a film about video games that didn’t make the world collectively cringe (looking at you, Pixels). It had colourful, varied and stylish visuals which evoked video gaming really well. It’s just a shame that Brave was released in the same year and pipped it to the Oscar.
8. The Wind Rises (2013)
Calling this one of the best and most beautiful productions in Studio Ghibli’s roster is a serious claim given their other titles, yet The Wind Rises holds the torch confidently. It was the last production worked on in master filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki’s career, and what a film to go out on.
So why didn’t it win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature? Guess what else came out in 2013 - I’ll give you a clue: I still haven’t Let It Go...
7. Monsters Inc. (2001)
A firm favourite of many, Monsters Inc. was a fantastic movie with a cool take on the ‘monster under the bed’ story and showcased groundbreaking 3D animation throughout. Sully’s fur defied belief back in 2001 - something that Dreamworks didn’t have to worry about with their bald ogre Shrek, whose movie won the very first Academy Award for Best Animated Feature that year.
6. The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013)
Based on The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, a 10th-century Japanese work of folklore, this is another of Studio Ghibli’s beautifully crafted productions, this time directed by Isao Takahata (studio cofounder) who also directed the tearjerking classic: Grave of the Fireflies.
I adore the watercolour style which breaks away from the studio’s established look in such an inventive way. It has to be seen to be fully appreciated.
5. Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
Atlantis ages like a fine wine - in fact, it has a bit of a reputation for being underrated. When it came out in 2001, it was somewhat unfairly greeted by mixed reviews. Nowadays, we can fully appreciate the Michael J. Fox-starring adventure with its unique setting, gorgeous hand-drawn style and engaging story.
4. The Little Prince (2015)
Based on the 1934 novel by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince is a French 3D animated film about a young girl’s friendship with her elderly neighbour and the story of the Little Prince that they share.
The blending of styles is seamless yet striking - this narrative is told in 3D animation which frames the story of the book which is in stop-motion animation. Its global release has been fraught by rights issues and when Netflix picked it up in 2016, it didn’t make as big of an impact as it deserved. The good news is that this means you probably have access to The Little Prince right now! You know what to do.
3. The LEGO Movie (2014)
This one actually blew me back a little when I was researching and found out that it hadn’t won an Oscar. Well I damn well nearly fell off my chair when I found out it didn’t even get nominated!
The LEGO Movie is an impressive showcase of CGI animation and the one that made LEGO a serious contender as a film studio. It had catchy tunes, a slew of great cameos and a surprisingly endearing story... and was dumpstered in favour of Song of the Sea, How to Train Your Dragon 2, and winner Big Hero 6.
2. Persepolis (2007)
A touching and dramatic retelling of a memoir by Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis tells of a little girl’s struggle to express herself and survive the repression during the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979. The only thing fresher than the visuals was the content matter, a really pioneering foreign film that tackles a serious and lesser-talked about event in the near past.
Even amongst Pixar’s formidable roster Ratatouille is an outstanding movie, so it shouldn’t shock you that Persepolis lost out to it that year. It shouldn’t shock you, but it should perhaps make you a wee bit miffed.
Charlie already gave a nod to this back in our Animated Films for Adults post, which is almost as good as winning an Oscar to be honest. Definitely worth checking that out if you’re looking for something to watch!
1. Howl’s Moving Castle (2005)
YES I’M STILL SALTY. Also yeah I’m probably leaning a little too heavily on ol’ Studio Ghibbers, but they make some pretty mind-blowing animated movies, Howl’s being my personal favourite among them.
This is one of SG’s most imaginative and memorable pictures. It follows the fate of Sophie, a young girl cursed with an old woman’s body, whose only chance at returning to her true form rests with the young, enigmatic wizard Howl and his companions inside the gigantic, mechanised, walking steampunk castle. Jean Simmons, Billy Crystal and even Christian Bale offer their vocal talent for the English localisation.
Despite everything that this flick had going for it, it still lost out to Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. To be fair, big up Aardman Animations, that’s an awesome movie too - but Howl’s is becoming a classic in the way that their goofy, stop-motion caper isn’t and probably never will.