Although the nominees for Best Picture get the most attention at the Oscars, people really shouldn't ignore the nominees for Best Animated Feature. Just because a film isn't live action doesn't mean that it's in any way inferior — especially this year. The 2016 nominees in the category are all outstanding, and even though none of them managed to break into the overall Best Picture category, that doesn't mean that they should be any less appreciated. And one of the most impressive aspects of the category, especially given the lack of diversity among nominees in the acting categories, is how diverse the Best Animated Feature Oscar nominees are.
Of the five films: Inside Out, Boy & the World, Anomalisa, Shaun the Sheep, and When Marnie Was There, only two are American productions. One comes from the U.K., another from Japan, and the last from Brazil. Then there are the styles of the films, with each one being markedly different from the next. Anomalisa is a stop-motion animated film that uses puppets that are incredibly lifelike. Shaun the Sheep utilizes claymation for its stop-motion process. When Marnie Was There is a traditionally animated anime film. Boy & the World also uses traditional animation, but has a distinctly hand-drawn style that's unlike anything ever seen before. And finally, Inside Out is the only nominee this year that uses what has become practically the industry standard of 3D computer animation.
These five films are wildly different from one another, which makes this category far more interesting than the boring ol' Best Picture nominees. To further underscore there differences, here are some facts about each of the films that make them even more unique.
It's not often that you see a film that is this adult end up being nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards. Actually, let me rephrase that: There has never been a film that is this adult that's been nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards. The movie marks the first time an R-rated movie has earned a nomination in the category, and it's pushing the boundaries of what an animated film can be.
Boy & The World
The animation here isn't just gorgeous, it's also necessary to tell the story. That's because the film uses no actual dialogue. At all. The characters almost never talk, and when they do it's merely gibberish with some emotion attached. Even all signage in the film reads like nonsense. This allows for a new kind of movie, where the director (who also drew the film's animation) has 100 percent control over the way his story is conveyed.
There's not much that hasn't been said about Inside Out. The Pixar film is heavily favored to win in the category, which would be the eighth victory for the studio, but it could pick up another award that would be even more impressive. The movie is nominated in the category of Best Original Screenplay. The film's concept was supremely original and wonderfully executed, and a win here would be a first for an animated film, adding some serious prestige to the genre and garnering a new level of respect for animation.
Shaun The Sheep
At first glance, Shaun the Sheep may look a little out of place. Its story about a flock of sheep making their way through the big city seems far less involved than its competition, but it actually leads the pack with a ridiculous 99 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so go figure. As for how the film came to be, that's where things get really interesting. The movie is based on a TV show that was based on a movie. Let me explain. The 1995 animated short film Close Shave, starring the characters Wallace and Gromit, first introduced the character of Shaun the Sheep. The fluffy little guy was a hit, and earned his own TV show on the BBC in 2007. Continued popularity on the small screen led to his own big screen animated adventure, and now the sheep finds himself at the Oscars.
When Marnie Was There
This anime film is somewhat bittersweet for fans of the genre, because it may be the final film ever produced by one of the most recognizable names in the business, Studio Ghibli. The studio announced they were going on indefinite hiatus following the retirement of legendary animator and director Hayao Miyazaki in 2014, leaving When Marnie Was There as maybe the final film on their impressive résumé (five of their films have been nominated for Oscars, with one win). If it is indeed their swan song, it's an incredibly moving and haunting way to go out.
As I've laid out here, this year's Oscar nominees for Best Animated Feature are an impressive and diverse lot. They prove that animated films are as legitimate an art form as live action movies, and each of these films is fully deserving of the accolades it's earned.