Can An Animated Film Win Best Picture?

It's Oscar season, and in just a couple weeks the nominations for the 88th Academy Awards will be announced. As always, there will be some surprises and there will be some snubs, but the question on my mind is whether or not Inside Out will garner a Best Picture nomination. I consider the film to be the best movie I've seen this year by a mile, and I know I'm not the only one. The movie has earned a 98 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which actually puts it ahead of current Oscar favorites like Spotlight, Room, and Carol. I consider it to be Pixar's best effort yet, or at least second best (I waffle between Inside Out and Up depending on my mood), and for a studio that consistently hits home runs, I think that's saying something. But Inside Out has one major factor going against it in the Oscar race: It's an animated film.

Animated films generally are not considered serious movies at the Oscars. The have been awarded sparingly in the past, with an honorary Oscar going to Walt Disney recognizing Snow White and the Seven Dwarves ' innovation in 1939, and the Academy For Special Achievement Award going to Pixar's Toy Story in 1995 for being the first full-length computer-animated film. So besides a couple of technical achievement awards, how have animated films fared at the Oscars?

Beauty and the Beast was the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture in 1992 at the 64th annual Academy Awards. It didn't win, but just being nominated after 64 years of no respect for animation was a milestone. However, the next several years proved fruitless for animated films, with Disney's subsequently released and similarly praised films Aladdin and The Lion King failing to snag a Best Picture nomination.

Then in 2002, the Academy instated a Best Animated Feature category. Although the inclusion of this new category guaranteed that animated films would always be recognized at the Oscars from then on, some critics believed that the new section was a way for the Academy to avoid nominating animated films in the Best Picture category. But those fears proved to be unfounded, as Pixar films Up and Toy Story 3 were nominated for Best Picture in back to back years. Not coincidentally, this is also when the field of Best Picture nominees expanded from five to ten, widening the field and allowing some animated flicks to sneak in. And although each film won in the animation category, both were defeated when it came to Best Picture.

It's been five years since the last time an animated film was nominated for Best Picture, so I'd say it's time to start respecting cartoons again. Not only that, but Pixar has only been nominated in the Best Animated Feature once in that timeframe (in 2013 for Brave, which won), after nearly a decade of domination. So a lot is riding on Inside Out, not only to bring animation back into the Best Picture fold where it belongs, but also to restore some of the sheen Pixar has lost in recent years after it turned into a sequel factory.

Right now though, unfortunately, things don't look great for Inside Out. Not only because of what history says, but also because of the oddsmakers. Goldderby.com currently ranks the film in 12th place in the Best Picture race, meaning that while it's still in contention, it's more likely than not to miss out on a nomination. However, despite this bad news, there is perhaps a silver lining for the film. The same site also ranks Inside Out number two for a Best Original Screenplay nomination, meaning that it will almost certainly be nominated in the category, and has a great shot of winning. If Inside Out can pull off a win in the Best Original Screenplay category at the Oscars, something no animated film has ever done, it could signal the start of a new era of respect for animation at the Oscars. And that's something even Sadness could get excited about.

Images: Disney/Pixar; giphy