It became clear that animation is an overlooked medium within The Academy when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson presented the award for “Best Animated Feature” Sunday night. Johnson began to introduce the lineup of animated nominees by incorrectly labelling animation as a genre. Animation is a medium, not a genre. Animation is just a means by which a genre can come alive. When a presenter can’t correctly speak about the category for which they are presenting in the most influential film awards show, you know there’s a problem.
While animation has had a notoriously low profile in The Oscars, it has be recognized on exceptional instances for films like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or Beauty and the Beast. The medium didn’t even have its own category until 2001, when the “Best Animated Feature” category was introduced. Since then, the award has generally been given to crowd-favorites and I usually tend to agree with The Academy’s judgement. (I’m still bitter, however, that Tangled wasn’t even nominated in 2011, but that’s beside the point.) But, what about this year?
The award for “Best Animated Feature” went to Big Hero 6. Before I give my opinion, I first must give a big congratulations to everyone involved on the film. I was rooting for you, and the win is well deserved. However, not everyone felt this way; this win earned a huge mixed reaction in the animation world.
Looking through social media, you’ll see that people are torn on the matter. You have those who are ecstatic that Big Hero 6 won the Oscar. There are those who are furious that How To Train Your Dragon 2 didn’t take it home. Others swore that The Tale of Princess Kaguya would be the favorite. And then you have those still bitter about The LEGO Movie’s snub. When it comes down to it, though, the film that wins and the film that doesn’t isn’t up to us. It’s up to those fine men and women who make up The Academy, and who make it their duty to give each nominee a fair shot. If you are going to give an award to one of five potential films, you should probably view all of them, right? Wrong. At least, wrong in the eyes of some of The Academy’s voters.
An interesting article popped up over on Cartoon Brew (warning: some explicit language) the other day in which opinions from some Academy voters in regards to the nominated animated films surfaced. Reading through these blurbs is disappointing, but I highly encourage you do if you’re interested in the state of animated films and shorts at The Oscars. You’ll see that voters either didn’t watch all of the films, didn’t watch any of them at all, or did watch them but they voted for one for an unsatisfying reason. For example, one voter chose Big Hero 6 simply because she thought it was “adorable.” Another voted for it because her family and kids liked it. Are these good reasons for picking a film to win an Oscar? No. It’s just not acceptable. Now, if someone voted for Big Hero 6 because of its heartfelt story, amazing visuals, fantastic musical score, and its great mix of comic and sad, heartstring-tugging moments, I would take their vote seriously. I won’t accept a film winning simply because it was cute.
One voter, whose thoughts are pretty offensive and won’t be explicitly stated here, has inconceivable judgement regarding the films. He opens his blurb with “I only watch the ones that my kids want to see.” What does that tell you about animation and The Oscars? It relegates the art form to nothing more than something kids enjoy and, if the kids like it, let’s vote for it! This particular voter goes on to call two of the other nominated films (Kaguya and Song of the Sea) “Chinese” (one is Japanese and the other Irish) and generally plasters a complete veil of ignorance over his his opinions, making it increasingly difficult to take him seriously with each sentence.
I’ll be honest, seven voters out of nearly 6,000 is a microscopic sample size and obviously isn’t the best information statistically. However, as an animation fan and aspiring animator, when you look at seven random voters, and see that nearly all of them are relatively indifferent to animation, it’s very disheartening. Seeing films that are masterfully crafted and imagining the countless hours that talented men and women spent pouring their hearts and souls into creating them, there’s no word to describe the opinions of these Academy voters other than “sad.”
I think The Academy (and Dwayne Johnson) should take a note from Brad Bird: “Animation is an art form, and it can do any genre.” Here’s hoping that animation will eventually gain wider respect within the film world, and that Awards’ shows will come to recognize animation as the beautiful art form that it can be.
What do you think about the treatment of animated films at The Oscars? Do you agree or disagree with the opinions of The Academy voters?
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes