Filed in: Animation, Awards, Featured, Film

93rd Annual Oscars Spotlight on Animated Feature Film

April 14, 2021 08:00 | By

Every year, Walt Disney Studios dominates the Academy Awards in the category of Animated Feature Film. The company is expected to produce high-quality animation time and time again due to their extensive track record. Disney consistently elevates the world of animated filmmaking with fresh ideas and emotionally-driven storytelling. As Disney continues to create magic, we still hope that one of these other animated feature nominees have a chance to upset the champs.

Last year, Disney outdid themselves with two Pixar Animation films, Soul and Onward. The other nominees include Over the Moon, Wolfwalkers, and A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon.

Over the Moon is animated in collaboration with Pearl StudioSony Pictures ImageworksNetflix Animation, and Dentsu Inc. Wolfwalkers is made as a co-production between Cartoon Saloon and Melusine Productions. A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon is created by Aardman Animations StudioCanal, and MEDIA sub-programme of Creative Europe.

Let’s check out the list of nominees in order by their release date and the chances of an upset.

Shaun the SHeep

Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (Netflix)

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

Directors: Will Becher, Richard Phelan
Animation Studios: Aardman Animations, StudioCanal, MEDIA sub-programme of Creative Europe
Release Date: February 14, 2020

The first release comes from Directors Will Becher and Richard Phelan with A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon. Shaun the Sheep being a British stop-motion animation series based on the Wallace and Gromit franchise. Other associated properties include Shaun the Sheep Movie, Shaun the Sheep: The Farmer’s Llamas, and Shaun the Sheep: Adventures from Mossy Bottom. In Farmageddon, a colorful puppy-like alien Lu-La (Amalia Vitale) crash lands in Mossy Bottom Farm. Soon after, Shaun the Sheep (Justin Fletcher) befriends the alien and tries to help it return home to its parents. The story feels like an animated version of E.T. The animation style in Farmageddon relies heavily on the stop-motion animation technique mixed in with 3D. For those that have no clue, stop-motion animation involves a tremendous amount of time and can take years to complete. As mentioned earlier, the alien is extremely vibrant, popping out from Shaun’s world and setting it apart from the other characters. The music features an original score from Composer Tom Howe and a fun soundtrack from various artists. There is also no clear understandable dialogue within the film; the communication is all through random sounds with the animation driving the story forward.

Onward

Onward (Disney/Pixar)

Onward

Director: Dan Scanlon
Animation Studio: Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios
Release Date: March 6, 2020

Onward is next on the list from Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios with Director Dan Scanlon (Monsters University, Toy Story 4, Incredibles 2). Onward was one of the last films to enjoy an actual theatrical run before movie theaters were shut down due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The story in Onward takes us on the journey of Elven brothers Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt) who embark on a quest to bring their father back to life with Ian’s newfound magical powers. This film is similar to Frozen in the sense that the main focus is on the bond between two siblings who must learn to understand and value one another. The film blends Pixar’s premium brand of storytelling with their signature style of visually stunning computer-generated 3D animation. The soundtrack includes an original score composed by Jeff and Mychael Danna, which includes the featured song “Carried Me with You” by Brandi Carlile.

Over the Moon

Over the Moon (Netflix)

Over the Moon

Director: Glen Keane
Animation Studio: Pearl Studio, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Netflix Animation, Dentsu Inc.
Release Date: October 16, 2020

With the closing of theaters nationwide, streaming services became the distributors of new film releases, with the streaming giant Netflix leading the pack. Former Disney animator Glen Keane (Tarzan, Tangled, Pocahontas, and the Oscar-winning animated short, Dear Basketball) hit it out of the park with Netflix’s international co-production Over the Moon, which is worthy of theatrical distribution. Every year, Fei Fei (Cathy Ang) and her parents (John Cho and Ruthie Ann Miles) would celebrate the Moon Festival by making mooncakes. The festival honors the mythical Moon Goddess Chang’e (Phillipa Soo) who, legend has it, took a potion for immortality that caused her to ascend to the moon and leave behind her lover Houyi (Conrad Ricamora). Four years after the passing of Fei Fei’s mother, her father brings home a new romantic interest Mrs. Zhong (Sandra Oh) and her hyper son Chin (Robert G. Chiu). While most of Fei Fei’s family doesn’t believe in the mythical tales of the Moon Goddess, Fei Fei sets out to build a rocket with the momentum of the high-speed magnetic train to propel her into space and prove them all wrong. The film features an outstanding Asian cast which is a rare sight in the land of English-language animated feature films. The animation style is visually riveting with vibrant colors and outstanding 3D computer animated technology. This animation stands alone as the only musical led by the smash hit song “Ultraluminary” performed by Hamilton star Phillipa Soo, as well as other enjoyable songs from Cathy Ang, Ruthie Ann Miles, Conrad Ricamora, and Ken Jeong who plays Gobi. The concept and animation are so original, it just blew me away.

Wolfwalkers

Wolfwalkers (Apple)

Wolfwalkers

Directors: Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart
Animation Studios: Cartoon Saloon and Mélusine Productions
Release Date: November 13, 2020

The fourth film comes from Irish Directors Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart. Wolfwalkers is the third installment in Moore’s “Irish Folklore Trilogy” after The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea. In the film, an unexpected encounter forges the bond between human Robyn (voiced by: Honor Kneafsey) and transforming wolfwalker Mebh (voiced by Eva Whittaker). This leads to complications as Robyn’s father is ordered to hunt and eradicate all the wolves and mystical wolfwalkers, while Robyn simultaneously realizes that she has become a wolfwalker herself. The animation style in Wolfwalkers appears to embrace multiple art styles from 2D hand drawn, 3D, linocut, woodblock printing, and waterbeds. The beautiful score comes from French Composer Bruno Coulais with additional tracks from Irish band Kíla, including the featured song “Running with the Wolves” from AURORA. More details on the animation style can be found here.                                                                  

Soul

Soul (Disney/Pixar)

Soul

Directors: Pete Docter, Kemp Powers
Animation Studios: Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios
Release Date: December 25, 2020

Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios is the last to release the final nominee from Director Pete Docter (Inside Out, Up, Monster’s Inc.) with the highly anticipated Soul. All of Docter’s films focus on the deeper meaning of life that moves us emotionally through the profound connection of the characters and the story. Soul takes it to another level, exploring the spiritual realm beyond our physical existence on Earth. One day, pianist and middle school music teacher Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) is called up to the main stage to open for Jazz icon Dorothea Williams. However, before his lifelong dream comes true, he suddenly dies after falling into a manhole. After Joe’s death, he finds himself in the “Great Beyond” (“The Afterlife”) and is mistakenly assigned to mentor a cynical soul named 22 (Tina Fey). Desperate to return to his life on Earth in time for his big break, he and 22 search for a means to reunite his soul with his physical body. The message is heartfelt with a spiritual inner connection, much like the energy showcased in Inside Out. The animation style is computer generated imagery with bright, vivacious, and energetic colors immersed in the almighty “Great Beyond.” The film features music composed by Trent ReznorJon Batiste, and Atticus Ross, who have already won a Golden Globe and BAFTA award for their score.

The animation styles in Soul, Onward, and Over the Moon look the most similar with visually mesmerizing 3D imagery. The Wolfwalkers animation style appears to embrace multiple art styles with an emphasis on the 2D hand-drawn skillset. A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon primarily utilizes the stop-motion animation method.

Onward, Wolfwalkers, and A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon all deal with friendship and a bond or connection with one another. It’s fascinating that all five films have spiritual, heavenly, and/or supernatural elements entrenched within the storytelling. Soul, Over the Moon, and A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon specifically encompass an outer world aura.

Although I enjoyed all five animated feature films, the concepts and stories in Onward, Wolfwalkers, and A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon feel as if they have been done before. Whereas, Soul and Over the Moon were fresh, innovative, astonishing, and entertaining to watch. There’s just something powerful, spellbinding, and emotionally moving about the celestial enigma and storytelling animation represented in both of the films. Soul has already taken home the Golden Globe for Animated Feature, as well as the BAFTA and numerous critics and industry awards. Can Soul make a clean sweep by wrapping up the Oscars? 

Check out my rankings and prediction on a possible upset below, but first, here is how I would rank the animated films.

Best: Soul
2ndOver the Moon
3rdOnward
4thWolfwalkers
5thA Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

Will Win: Soul

Should/Could Win: Over the Moon

While the voting for the 48th Annual Annie Awards has already closed, you can check out the nominations here. The Annie Awards will take place on Friday, April 16, while voting is still open for the Academy Awards until April 20. 

You can read the full list of ALL the nominees for the 93rd Annual Academy Awards here.