There will be a tight race at the 2017 Academy Awards in an unexpected category: Best Animated Feature. This year's top two contenders are both Disney pictures — Zootopia and Moana, both of which were phenomenal box office successes. Moana was also recognized in the Best Song category; Lin-Manuel Miranda got a nomination for the ballad "How Far I'll Go." So, what are Moana's chances at the Oscars?
As for whether Moana will take home either award, it's tough to tell. Zootopia won the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature, but Golden Globes don't always predict the Academy Awards. Moana was a beautiful film with an unconventional and diverse Disney hero with a killer soundtrack from Lin-Manuel Miranda, and with the added bonus of Dwayne Johnson.
Moana is about a Polynesian girl who takes control of her own destiny, and notably, there is not a whisper of a love interest in the film. Zootopia's message is progressive, too: It's a tale about discrimination and stigma, giving a pretty sophisticated message through an animal story with an adorable bunny as the protagonist. Moana, delightfully, is a musical, and the music written by Miranda sends the film to new heights. Zootopia and Moana both have so much to offer, and both were critical smashes and fan favorites. It's hard to compare the reviews when the films are so different, though, and also when reviews of both are far and away exultant.
Peter Debruge of Variety called Moana "one of Disney's most remarkable heroines yet," while Christy Lemire from RogerEbert.com said, "Moana would have been enormously entertaining regardless of when it came out, but its arrival at this particular moment in history gives it an added sense of significance — as well as inspiration." Moana hit theaters on Thanksgiving, fresh after Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election. That timeliness could very well play into the film's chance at a win, if voters are holding on to that moment. Oscar predictions seem to favor Zootopia, though. Pete Hammond at Deadline thinks Zootopia is a sure thing, as does Anne Thompson at IndieWire. And Brian Lowry and Lisa Respers France at CNN predict the same, so it looks like Moana would be a surprise winner in the category.
But even if Moana doesn't win in the Best Animated Feature category, it does have a very strong shot at taking home a statue for Best Original Song. As Gold Derby notes, many animated films end up winning Best Original Song category. (How could we ever forget "Let It Go," even if we wanted to?) Miranda is nominated for "How Far I'll Go," which could win an award for the movie and give its writer EGOT status. In fact, Gold Derby predicts that "How Far I'll Go" could very well be an upset in a category that La La Land is expected to win with one of its two nominated songs.
Both Zootopia and Moana were timely and inspiring; Moana for its unconventional, diverse hero, and Zootopia for the message it sent about division and prejudice. Zootopia seems to be widely favored as a lock for Best Animated Feature. But it would be fantastic to see Moana win, because it stars a a strong, independent, and adventurous girl hero — something we need more of. We'll see on Sunday night!