Wide open race

In the ab­sence of a Pixar film, the race for this year’s Best An­i­mated Fea­ture could go any nom­i­nee’s way.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - OSCAR SPECIAL - By MIcHaeL cHeang en­ter­tain­ment@thes­tar.com.my

APAIr of Dis­ney princesses, a fam­ily of cave­men, a mob of min­ions, a French/Bel­gian mouse and a bear, and a Ja­panese air­plane de­signer. This year’s os­car nom­i­nees for Best An­i­mated Fea­ture – Frozen, The Croods, De­spi­ca­ble Me 2, Ernest & Celestine and The Wind Rises – are an eclec­tic, enig­matic bunch that truly de­serve their nom­i­na­tions.

But wait, some­thing seems miss­ing. Where’s the movie from the an­i­ma­tion stu­dio that has been a main­stay of the cat­e­gory since it was cre­ated in 2001?

Con­spic­u­ous by their ab­sence is Pixar An­i­ma­tion Stu­dios, the com­pany that has won this par­tic­u­lar os­car seven times from a to­tal of nine nom­i­na­tions, through WALLE, Find­ing Nemo, The In­cred­i­bles, Rata­touille, Brave, Up and Toy Story 3 (the lat­ter two also notched best pic­ture nom­i­na­tions in 2009 and 2010 re­spec­tively).

In con­trast, Dreamworks An­i­ma­tion has only won two de­spite be­ing nom­i­nated nine times as well – Shrek won the first-ever os­car in this cat­e­gory in 2001, and Wal­lace And Gromit: The Curse of The Were-Rab­bit won in 2005; while out­side these two, only Spir­ited Away (2002), Happy Feet (2006) and Rango (2011) have tri­umphed.

So that’s seven out of 12 os­cars that Pixar bagged, though it has only won one out of the last three. Has the gi­ant from emeryville lost its touch?

The past few years have seen the stu­dio seem­ingly on cruise con­trol, with just Brave, er… bravely stand­ing out as the only orig­i­nal story amongst sequels Toy Story 3, Cars 2, and Mon­sters Univer­sity. The lat­ter two in par­tic­u­lar did not res­onate as well with crit­ics and au­di­ences as Pixar’s ear­lier films, and are the only Pixar films noT nom­i­nated for Best An­i­mated Fea­ture since the cat­e­gory was cre­ated.

It’s not that they were bad films, just that Pixar had set the bar so high that they were not good enough to be con­sid­ered Pixar films. Since Mon­sters Univer­sity missed out this year, and with no Pixar movies sched­uled to be re­leased next year, it’s look­ing like a bar­ren patch for the stu­dio.

of course, an­other way to look at it is that all the other stu­dios have fi­nally caught up. Dreamworks es­pe­cially has upped its game con­sid­er­ably, with films such as How To Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda and this year’s De­spi­ca­ble Me 2 com­ing close to the qual­ity in terms of story and an­i­ma­tion that we have come to ex­pect from Pixar.

De­spi­ca­ble Me 2 in par­tic­u­lar is one of the fore­run­ners for this year’s award, thanks in part to the im­mense pop­u­lar­ity of those an­noy­ingly cute Min­ions.

With Hayao Miyazaki an­nounc­ing that The Wind Rises would be his fi­nal fea­ture film, the Ghi­bli Stu­dios ef­fort can be con­sid­ered a dark horse for this year’s os­car; while The Croods and Ernest & Celestine are prob­a­bly out­siders.

But wait, just take a look at who is the favourite for this year’s os­car – Frozen, which al­ready beat The Croods and De­spi­ca­ble Me 2 at the Golden Globes.

Who made the film? Walt Dis­ney Pic­tures. And who is Dis­ney’s chief cre­ative of­fi­cer? John Las­seter, co­founder of Pixar, and cre­ator of Toy Story. Pixar it­self may have been shut out of the os­cars, but it sure isn’t ready to let go just yet.

Stop goof­ing off and get back to rig­ging the Os­car bal­lots: Could min­ion power alone pro­pel De­spi­ca­bleMe2 to vic­tory?

Frozen, pos­si­bly the clos­est thing to a Best An­i­mated Fea­ture Os­car favourite, still has a Pixar con­nec­tion, even though Pixar it­self is not rep­re­sented in the race.

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