Animation can explain whatever the mind of man can conceive – Walt Disney

Tag Archives: Oscars

Disney Checklist BeautyPart of the purpose of this blog is to treat animation with the same level of analysis and respect that live action cinema gets in many blogs, websites, magazines and newspapers. Too often animation is sectioned off by audiences and critics alike as for children, or a lesser medium, or somehow less relevant or powerful. Less review space is given to most animations except the biggest studio releases; previews and anticipation of animated films don’t reach the same levels as it does for the next blockbuster or big auteur release. They rarely play at the big festivals, let alone headlining them. This is a massive bug-bear of mine, as you might have guessed. However, every so often an animated film breaks out of its ghetto and crosses over into the realm of universally respected classic – the kind that appear on Best Ever lists and Most Important lists. In 1991, Beauty and the Beast was one of these films, an animated film seen by audiences around the world, raking in a gigantic box office critical adulation and, importantly, was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.

The Best Picture nomination – the first ever for an animated film, and still only one of three after they increased the number of candidates – was a massive milestone. It was almost an acknowledgement of surprise – one of the most universally loved films of the year was… an animation? It was beaten to the big prize by Silence of the Lambs, which swept the board that year. Nevertheless, Beauty and the Beast has stayed with audiences, and has the same enduring power as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, another crossover hit. Producer Don Hahn describes the production as a ‘perfect storm’ of people at the top of their games coming together to create a once-in-a-lifetime film – every person on it was essential, and would not have been the same without them. Many of the people that worked on it have gone on to direct – the story department alone included Chris Sanders (Lilo and Stitch, How to Train Your Dragon), Brenda Chapman (Prince of Egypt, Brave), Roger Allers (The Lion King) among many others. Buoyed by the success of The Little Mermaid, this was a studio and crew at the very top of their game creating unforgettable cinema. This serendipitous collaboration of talents caused the film world to pay attention to animation once again and rightly so – Beauty and the Beast is a triumphant, gorgeous, emotional masterpiece and I use that word with no reservations and no fear of hyperbole.

The reason it is so successful is that it is technically impressive both as a story and animation, but is also thematically and emotionally satisfying. To start with the former point, the most immediately obvious achievement is the standard of animation. Beauty starts with a series of images in the style of stained glass windows (more on that later), functioning as a return to the most basic forms of visual storytelling before transitioning to a state of the art blend of hand drawn and CG animation. The integration between the two styles here is far smoother than in films like Basil or even Aladdin, which followed on from it. The initial provincial town that Belle wants to escape from, as well as the exteriors of the castle and the principal characters, are all animated beautifully using traditional techniques, placing Beauty and the Beast firmly in the realm of the fairy tale – the soft colours of the backgrounds recall Snow White and Cinderella, while Beast’s iconic castle gives everything an enchanted air. CG is then introduced, subtly, when the scene calls for grandeur – most notably in musical numbers and in the legendary ballroom scene. The resulting aesthetic is one that manages to impress you with its scale and opulence at the same time as captivating you with an intimate, magical atmosphere. It’s a piece of escapism, rooted firmly in fantasy; in short, it looks exactly like the fairy tale of a thousand childhood imaginations.

beauty window

Accompanying the stunning animation is Alan Menken’s finest work as a composer. The songs are obviously incredible (more on them later), but the score that runs throughout is just as impressive. The stained glass opening is so memorable partly because of Menken’s spin on Saint-Saens’ famous Aquarium segment of his Carnival of The Animals. There’s something haunting about the high, twinkling motif that opens the film and recurs throughout, conveying the melancholy behind the magic of the story; the castle may be enchanted, but at the cost of the freedom of the people who lived there. It’s a deeply romantic theme but, fittingly for the character of Beast, tragic as well. Every plot point is matched, beat for beat, by the score. It is as romantic and dramatic and comical as the film requires, and contributes once more to the mystical appeal of the film.

Structurally, Beauty is impressive, too, packing in quite a lengthy story into a tightly written 84 minute film. The audience is asked to buy into a relationship that goes from fear, to anger, to love over the course of its running time, and miraculously it achieves this. Where many a fairy tale romance is trite, only there because it is expected to be, the growing romance between Belle and captor is more credible – and also far more complex than some ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ jokers would imply. The opening song perfectly captures Belle as a character (more on her later), and her resentment of the simplicity of her provincial home: her fellow townspeople are banal, dim or leery. So it quickly establishes that she is seeking adventure, something a bit different, and someone who shows more compassion and interest in her beyond her looks, so that when she finds all this in Beast and his castle, it is not difficult to believe that she might fall for him in spite of his initial temper and bad decision making. The rest plays out as a series of moments interspersed with songs, culminating in the ballroom scene. We don’t see every minute of their blossoming romance, but we see the important ones, making Beauty and the Beast one of the most believable and moving of any Disney couple. If there has to be boy-meets-girl story, at least make it as good as this one.

Beauty river

Which leads to the second reason for the success of this film: it is emotionally and thematically satisfying. Part of this is down to a collection of cleverly written characters. Gaston is a complex villain for children to get their heads around because he isn’t obviously evil in the way that Cruella De Vil wants to skin puppies, or that Maleficent has horns and green skin. He’s someone that, in another film, could be the Prince Charming character. At first he is just an arrogant doofus and has no grand plan or evil scheme – he just lets his arrogance and need for control take over until his own stupidity leads to him plunging to his death. Beast, a more obvious villain character, cuts a terrifying figure, often in silhouette at first, as he storms around the castle – yet the loyalty of his staff, even though he is responsible for their curse, hint early on that there is more to him than meets the eye. The transformation at the end into a bland, long haired fop slightly betrays the character transformation he has already undergone; becoming good looking is merely a footnote to the far more interesting story that it marks the climax of. Then there is Belle, seen as an oddball because she reads lots of books and isn’t interested in men. She’s a fantastic heroine, and her cry of ‘I want adventure in the great wide open’ is one that speaks to a far wider audience than ‘some day my prince will come.’

With these two fascinating characters at the centre, the script teases out a number of familiar but fascinating themes, which again show the complexity of the central relationship beyond falling in love. There’s the obvious theme captured even in the title, that our initial perceptions of people often betray us. Belle’s love of books is a charming trait, but it also builds up expectations of being swept away by a man, hence her confession in a song ‘true, that he’s no Prince Charming.’ She is aware of fairy tales, and almost expects to be in one, but has to overcome her ideas about what a Prince Charming might look like before she falls for hers. Beast, too, has to change his ideas about love to the extent where his ultimate redemption comes from the symbolic act of letting Belle leave to find her father. Their relationship is built on meeting each other half way, of letting their guard down and being prepared to change. In contrast, the small mindedness of the townspeople is what leads to them attacking the castle. ‘We don’t like what we don’t understand, in fact it scares us,’ they all sing as they brandish flaming torches and march to kill the Beast. Extrapolating from that, one wonders if Howard Ashman, who wrote the lyric and was openly gay, was deliberately giving a tale as old as time a more pointed relevance to the time it was released. This is a film that champions being open minded and criticises ignorance.

beauty ballroom

Yet it’s not just another ‘look beyond the surface’ story (although that is a favourite theme of 90s Disney, cf Aladdin, Hunchback), as the writers also weave in themes of sacrifice and freedom. Love, in different forms, is shown by sacrifice throughout the film – Beast is first drawn to Belle because she is prepared to give up her freedom to save her father. This magnanimous act is later reflected and inverted in Beast releasing her to go, once more, and save Maurice. Both make huge sacrifices out of love, and Belle’s substitutional imprisonment feels particularly powerful: not only does it make her an active, not passive, participant in her story, but it rings with a spiritual truth that the greatest love is known in giving up your life for someone else.

It is these sacrifices that ultimately lead to freedom, another preoccupation of the film. Most characters are imprisoned in one way or another: Belle and Maurice by the Beast; the staff are trapped by a curse; the people are imprisoned by their own ignorance, unwilling to think outside the box or leave their simple town; even Le Fou is kept in a kind of voluntary servitude to Gaston. Yet freedom comes for the characters when love through sacrifice is shown. When Beast roars into the night sky in anguish as Belle rides away from the castle, he hasn’t just let the person he loves leave him, he has given up his chance to become human again and effectively condemned himself to life as a monster. Yet this act of love is what eventually brings Belle back to him and frees the castle from the witch’s curse. Freedom comes at a cost, but one, perhaps, worth paying.

beauty final image

What all this ultimately adds up to is a film that resounds with emotion in the way that only the best stories can. The songs, written by the legendary Howard Ashman before his untimely death in 1991, are lyrically witty and emotive, each one telling a story in a way that you couldn’t get away with if it was merely spoken. There’s the fabulous ‘Be Our Guest,’ which fits into the great Broadway tradition as I discussed in my article on The Little Mermaid, and ‘Kill The Beast’ which throws in references to 20s musicians and Shakespeare. Each song acts as mood-setter, expressing the emotional developments of the film in a way that is both simple and effective. The highlight is, of course, the ballroom scene, the culmination of a relationship that has been building up to this grand romantic gesture. As the unlikely pair waltz gracefully around the golden dancefloor, and Mrs Potts warbles the line ‘Bittersweet and strange / finding you can change / learning you were wrong,’ this most unbelievable of stories aims straight for the heart and hits with unnerving accuracy. It’s the kind of song and thus, the kind of film (and consequently, this article) that has no room for cynicism. This is unabashed escapist romance, and it does it beautifully.

Beauty and the Beast, therefore, is a total triumph for Disney, a stunningly told story that resonates with universal themes of love, sacrifice and freedom. It is no wonder that audiences, critics and awards boards alike responded so enthusiastically to it, and that people continue to return to it today. It’s a stunningly executed film, one that has the power to speak to people of any age if you let yourself be drawn in by its spell. Which is impressive in any medium, but it should prove once and for all that animation is capable of achieving all these things and more. In short, films like Beauty and the Beast essentially justify the existence of this blog. Here’s the thing: it’s not even my favourite from this period, so if you thought this article was over the top, wait til you read my review of The Lion King.

Graph Disney8 The List

My second favourite of the Oscar Nominations for Best Animated Short Film is still one of the best things I’ve seen this year. On Saturday, I’ll publish the final Oscar Shorts article and you can watch all four before the ceremony (where the Simpsons short, unreviewed here, will probably win just to spite me). 

I’m not married, but the impression I often get is that sometimes you don’t really understand your husband or wife. When it gets particularly bad, it may feel like you are working on entirely different levels. Head Over Heels is a stunning stop-motion short that takes this abstract concept and makes it a visible reality. It’s about an old couple who don’t communicate especially well any more, and the rift between them is represented by the fact that they have opposite gravities. They live in a house with two floors, two kitchens, two worlds. The interaction between them is limited and strained. But this is a hopeful short film, and the conclusion is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen in any short. The house they live in is brilliantly realised, showing inventively how two people can live literally on top of each other. The stop-motion is fluid, the set is minutely detailed, and the character animation showcases how to use the face to great effect. But in spite of the technical brilliance, it is the story that impresses.

I’m not married, but the impression I often get is that love means having to go out of your way for the other person, of finding some kind of compromise even when you seem to disagree at a fundamental level. That’s what I love about Head Over Heels. Their method of working with each other is so simple, yet so instantly moving, that it captures some of the beauty of being in love, of its constancy, and of working together even through seemingly impossible situations. And really, you don’t have to be married to be moved by that.

Continuing the series on the Oscar Nominated Short Animations in order of how much I like them, here comes a film so incredibly good that the remaining two must be absolutely phenomenal for me to choose them ahead of this. It’s Disney’s Paperman, available online or at the cinemas before seeing the wonderful Wreck-It Ralph.

A chance romantic encounter seems like the perfect subject for a short film. In a matter of minutes you can capture an entire romantic arc, one potentially life changing moment, and then leave the audience to fill out the rest of the story. Paperman captures one such moment, in stunning black and white. The animation – blending CG and hand drawn elements – is gorgeous, the focus on transport and office blocks giving it a somewhat Japanese feel. One morning an office worker meets a ludicrously big-eyed woman at the station, but misses his chance to talk to her. When he later sees her in the tower across the street, he tries to catch her attention. It quickly becomes a fable about fate, buying into the ancient romantic notion that some people are just meant for each other, and there isn’t much you can do to stop that. If that sounds a little mawkish, it works within the context of the story as it slowly escalates to its triumphant, magical finale.

Arguably the film could have ended in some way without requiring the planes coming to life – there was a beautiful tone and story to the film before that plot development – but it makes the brief encounter even more magical and romantic. As the music swells to a crescendo, and the man cannot escape the power of the paper planes, it gets into shameless heart stirring territory, but it does it beautifully. In six minutes Paperman manages to be more romantic than the vast majority of rom-coms released today. It’s a little bit twee, but if you get past that, you are sure to get swept away by its army of paper planes.

In the run up to The Oscars, I’m going to take a look at four of the five short films nominated for Best Animated Short Film. Only four because the Simpsons short, The Longest Daycare, is unavailable online. On the strength of the competitors this year, it must be an incredible piece of animation to match up to the masterpieces on display here. Each of these four films showcase a different kind of animation, and the stories you can tell with it. I’m also going to publish each article in order of preference, so today’s Oscar Short is my least favourite (although it’s still impressive) ending with the one I would most like to see win.

PES has a collection of short films available on Youtube that are all marked by his unique visual style; he takes objects and uses them in totally different contexts to create bizarre, inventive scenes. So in Kaboom! he uses keys as anti-aircraft guns and matchsticks as missiles, whilst in Game Over he uses all sorts of strange objects to re-enact famous computer games like Pacman. Perhaps most impressive is The Deep, which uses a variety of tools to create an eerie underwater scene.

His Oscar nominated short Fresh Guacamole is a kind of sequel to his earlier short Western Spaghetti. Both are simple cooking demonstrations, but using anything but food to create the dishes. Fresh Guacamole, it turns out, is made with a combination of grenades, baseballs and dice. What PES does so well is to match up items to their food counterparts, making this a constantly inventive, amusing short. He also has a great flair for sound effects, making it even more believable. This is an impressive, entertaining short but I would love to see what PES can do with a story. He’s proven with all his shorts that he can set a scene really well, so now it’s time to see him have something happen in these wonderful worlds he creates.

Who cares about the Oscars when the Annies are in town? It’s the awards ceremony that properly cares about animation, recognising the stellar efforts of production and character designers, of voice actors and editors. There’s such a wide range of categories that it makes the keen animation fan really consider the different facets of animated films. Whilst some elements seem a bit strange – they have different level ‘sponsors’, from platinum to bronze (unsurprisingly, Disney and Pixar pay top dollar here) – these awards are a must for for any of you who love this red carpet-filled time of year.

On January 30th the awards were held and the film that came out on top was Wreck-It Ralph, taking Best Feature, Director, Writing, Voice Actor for Alan Tudyk as King Candy and even the sublime Paperman, which plays before it, picked up best short. I personally preferred a couple of other animated films from last year, but Wreck-It Ralph is undeniably an impressive achievement. It just shows that this is a strong year for animated films. Elsewhere Rise of the Guardians and ParaNorman picked up many of the technical awards such as Storyboarding and Character Design, whilst the Dreamworks television spin off Dragons: Riders of Berk swept up the small screen awards. My biggest gripe is that this is very focussed on American animation – very little mention of Britain’s Pirates! or Japan’s From Up On Poppy Hill, both of which deserved more recognition.


As to what this augurs for the Oscars, where the five nominated films are Brave, Frankenweenie, ParaNorman, Pirates! and Wreck-It Ralph, it’s difficult to say. The industry experts here appear to be endorsing Disney’s submission, but the Academy isn’t made up of as many animation buffs as this awards group is. Also, the sponsorship programme with Annies may make some difference, I’m not entirely aware of the processes there. Brave took the Golden Globe, so this is still an open race. They may even just award it to Frankenweenie just to encourage Tim Burton to stop making monstrosities like Dark Shadows.

Here are the full results:


Best Animated Feature

  • Brave – Pixar Animation Studios

  • Frankenweenie – The Walt Disney Studios

  • Hotel Transylvania – Sony Pictures Animation

  • ParaNorman – LAIKA/Focus Features

  • Rise of the Guardians – DreamWorks Animation

  • The Pirates! Band of Misfits – Aardman Animations and Sony Pictures Animation

  • The Rabbi’s Cat – GKIDS

  • Wreck-It Ralph – Walt Disney Animation Studios


Best Animated Special Production

  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 – Warner Bros. Animation

  • Beforel Orel – Trust – Starburns Industries, Inc.

  • Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem – Illumination Entertainment

  • Disney Tron: Uprising – Beck’s Beginning – Disney TV Animation

  • Dragons: Gift of the Night Fury – DreamWorks Animation

  • Justice League: Doom – Warner Bros. Animation


Best Animated Short Subject

  • Brad and Gary – Illumination Entertainment

  • Bydlo – The National Film Board of Canada

  • Eyes on the Stars – StoryCorps

  • Goodnight Mr. Foot – Sony Pictures Animation

  • Kali the Little Vampire – Folimage Studios, Ciclope Filmes, The National Film Board of Canada and Studio GDS

  • Maggie Simpson in ‘The Longest Daycare’ – Gracie Films

  • Paperman – Walt Disney Animation Studios

  • The Simpsons – ‘Bill Plympton Couch Gag’ – Gracie Films in Association with 20th Century Fox TV


Best Animated Television Production For Preschool Children

  • Bubble Guppies ‘A Tooth on the Looth’ – Nickelodeon Animation Studios

  • Chuggington ‘Magnetic Wilson’ – Ludorum

  • Jake & The Never Land Pirates ‘Peter Pan Returns’ – Disney TV Animation

  • Doc McStuffins ‘The Right Stuff’ – Brown Bag Films

  • Justin Time ‘Marcello’s Meatballs’ – Guru Studio


Best Animated Television Production For Children

  • Adventure Time ‘Princess Cookie’ – Cartoon Network Studios

  • Dragons: Riders of Berk ‘How to Pick Your Dragon’ – DreamWorks Animation

  • LEGO Star Wars ‘The Empire Strikes Out’ – Threshold Animation Studios

  • Penguins of Madagascar ‘Action Reaction’ – Nickelodeon Animation Studios

  • SpongeBob SquarePants ‘It’s a SpongeBob Christmas!’ – Nickelodeon Animation Studios

  • The Amazing World of Gumball ‘The Job’ – Cartoon Network Studio Europe

  • The Fairly OddParents ‘Farm Pit’ – Nickelodeon Animation Studios

  • The Legend of Korra ‘Welcome to Republic City’/’A Leaf in the Wind’ – Nickelodeon Animation Studios


Best General Audience Animated Television Production

  • Archer ‘Space Race, Part 1’ – Floyd County Production and FX Productions for FX

  • Bob’s Burgers ‘Earsy Rider’ – 20th Century Fox TV

  • Motorcity ‘Blond Thunder’ – Disney TV Animation

  • MAD ‘FrankenWinnie/ParaMorgan’ – Warner Bros. Animation

  • Robot Chicken ‘DC Comics Special’ – Stoopid Buddy Studios

  • South Park ‘Raising the Bar’ – Central Productions


Best Animated Video Game

  • Borderlands 2 – Gearbox Software

  • Family Guy – Back to the Mutiverse – Heavy Iron Studios

  • Journey – Sony Computer Entertainment America

  • Skullgirls – Lab Zero Games


Best Student Film

  • Can We Be Happy Now – Tahnee Gehm

  • Defective Detective – Avner Geller & Stevie Lewis

  • Head Over Heels – Timothy Reckart

  • I Am Tom Moody – Ainslie Henderson

  • Ladies Knight – Joseph Rothenberg

  • Origin – Jessica Poon

  • The Ballad of Poisonberry Pete – Adam Campbell, Elizabeth McMahill, Uri Lotan

  • Tule Lake – Michelle Ikemoto

Temp Outstanding Achievement, Animated Effects in an Animated Production

  • Andrew Nawrot, Joe Gorski, Grant Laker – ‘ParaNorman’ – LAIKA/Focus Features

  • Andrew Schneider ‘Ice Age: Continental Drift’ – Blue Sky Studios

  • Andy Hayes, Carl Hooper, David Lipton – Rise of the Guardians – DreamWorks Animation

  • Bill Watral, Chris Chapman, Dave Hale, Keith Klohn, Michael K. O’Brien ‘Brave’ – Pixar Animation Studios

  • Brett Albert – ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ – Walt Disney Animation Studios

  • Jihyun Yoon – ‘Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted’ – DreamWorks Animation

  • Joel Aron – ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ – Lucasfilm Animation Ltd.


Outstanding Achievement, Animated Effects in a Live Action Production

  • Jerome Platteaux, John Sigurdson, Ryan Hopkins, Raul Essig, Mark Chataway ‘The Avengers’ – Industrial Light & Magic

  • Stephen Marshall, Joseph Pepper, Dustin Wicke – ‘The Amazing Spiderman – Sony Pictures Imageworks

  • Sue Rowe, Simon Stanley-Clamp, Artemis Oikonomopoulou, Holger Voss, Nikki Makar, Catherine Elvidge ‘John Carter’ – Cinesite

  • Willi Geiger, Rick Hankins, Florent Andorra, Florian Witzel, Aron Bonar ‘Battleship’ – Industrial Light & Magic


Outstanding Achievement, Character Animation in an Animated Television or other Broadcast Venue Production

  • Dan Driscoll ‘SpongeBob SquarePants: It’s a SpongeBob Christmas!’ – Nickelodeon Animation Studios

  • Jennifer Dickie ‘Justin Time: Yodel Odel Day’ – Guru Studio

  • Keith Kellogg ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Revenge’ – Lucasfilm Animation Ltd.

  • Savelen Forrest ‘SpongeBob SquarePants: It’s a SpongeBob Christmas!’ – Nickelodeon Animation Studios

  • Shi Zimu ‘Dragons: Riders of Berk’ – DreamWorks Animation

  • Sihanouk Mariona ‘Beforel Orel: Trust’ – Starburns Industries, Inc.

  • Teri Yam ‘Dragons: Riders of Berk’ – DreamWorks Animation

  • Yan Jiazhuang ‘Dragons: Riders of Berk’ – DreamWorks Animation


Outstanding Achievement, Character Animation in a Feature Production

  • Dan Nguyen ‘Brave’ – Pixar Animation Studios

  • David Pate ‘Rise of the Guardians’ – DreamWorks Animation

  • Jaime Landes ‘Brave’ – Pixar Animation Studios

  • Philippe LeBrun ‘Rise of the Guardians’ – DreamWorks Animation

  • Pierre Perifel ‘Rise of the Guardians’ – DreamWorks Animation

  • Travis Hathaway ‘Brave’ – Pixar Animation Studios

  • Travis Knight “ParaNorman’ – LAIKA/Focus Features

  • Will Becher ‘The Pirates! Band of Misfits’ – Aardman Animations and Sony Pictures Animation


Outstanding Achievement, Character Animation in a Live Action Production

  • Erik de Boer, Amanda Dague, Matt Brown, Mary Lynn Machado, Aaron Grey ‘Life of Pi – Orangutan’ – Rhythm & Hues Studio

  • Erik de Boer, Matt Shumway, Brian Wells, Vinayak Pawar, Michael Holzl ‘Life of Pi – Tiger’ – Rhythm & Hues Studio

  • Jakub Pistecky, Maia Kayser, Scott Benza, Steve King, Kiran Bhat ‘The Avengers’ – Industrial Light & Magic

  • Mike Beaulieu, Roger Vizard, Atsushi Sato, Jackie Koehler, Derek Esparza, Richard Smith, Max Tyrie – The Amazing Spiderman – Sony Pictures Imageworks


Outstanding Achievement, Character Design in an Animated Television or other Broadcast Venue Production

  • Andy Bialk ‘Dragons: Riders of Berk: Alvin and the Outcasts’ – DreamWorks Animaton

  • Andy Suriano ‘DC Nation-Plastic Man: The Many and the Fowl’ – Big Hair Productions, Inc.

  • Bryan Konietzko, Joaquim Dos Santos, Ki-Hyun Ryu, Kim Il Kwang, Kim Jin Sun ‘The Legend of Korra: Welcome to Republic City’ – Nickelodeon Animation Studios

  • C” Raggio IV ‘Kick Buttowski: Petrified’ – Disney TV Animation

  • Derrick Wyatt, Chap Yaep, Steven Choi, Shakeh Haghnazarian ‘Ben 10: Omniverse: The More Things Change, Pt. 2’ – Cartoon Network Studios

  • Gordon Hammond ‘T.U.F.F. Puppy: Dudley Do-Wrong’ – Nickelodeon Animation Studios

  • Robert Valley ‘Disney Tron: Uprising: The Renegade, Part I’ – Disney TV Animation

  • Thaddeus Paul Cauldron ‘Secret Mountain Fort Awesome: Secret Mountain Uncle Grandpa’- Cartoon Network Studios


Outstanding Achievement, Character Design in an Animated Feature Production

  • Bill Schwab, Lorelay Bove, Cory Loftis, Minkyu Lee ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ – Walt Disney Animation Studios

  • Carlos Grangel ‘Hotel Transylvania’ – Sony Pictures Animation

  • Carter Goodrich ‘Hotel Transylvania’ – Sony Pictures Animation

  • Craig Kellman ‘Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted’ – DreamWorks Animation

  • Heidi Smith ‘ParaNorman’ – LAIKA/Focus Features

  • Yarrow Cheney, Eric Guillon, Colin Stimpson ‘Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax’ – Illumination Entertainment


Outstanding Achievement, Directing in an Animated Television or other Broadcast Venue Production

  • Howy Parkins ‘Jake and The Never Land Pirates: Peter Pan Returns!’ – Disney TV Animation

  • John Eng ‘Dragons: Riders of Berk: Animal House’ – DreamWorks Animation

  • Mark Caballero, Seamus Walsh ‘SpongeBob SquarePants: It’s a Spongebob Christmas!’’ – Nickelodeon Animation Studios

  • Mic Graves ‘The Amazing World of Gumball: The Job’ – Cartoon Network Studio Europe

  • Michael Chang ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Never Say Xever’ – Nickelodeon Animation Studio

  • Zack Keller, Ed Skudder ‘Dick Figures: Kung Fu Winners’ – Six Point Harness


Outstanding Achievement, Directing in an Animated Feature Production

  • Genndy Tartakovsky ‘Hotel Transylvania’ – Sony Pictures Animation

  • Joann Sfar, Antoine Delesvaux ‘The Rabbi’s Cat – GKIDS

  • Remi Bezancon, Jean-Christophe Lie ‘Zarafa’ – GKIDS

  • Rich Moore ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ – Walt Disney Animation Studios

  • Sam Fell, Chris Butler ‘ParaNorman’ – LAIKA/Focus Features


Outstanding Achievement, Music in an Animated Television or other Broadcast Venue Production

  • Adam Berry ‘Penguins of Madagascar: Private and the Winky Factory’ – Nickelodeon Animation Studios

  • Alf Clausen ‘The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror XXIII’ – Gracie Films in Association with 20th Century Fox TV

  • Frederik Wiedmann ‘Green Lantern The Animated Series: Into the Abyss’ – F. Wiedmann, Composer

  • Guy Moon ‘T.U.F.F. Puppy: Really Big Mission’ – Nickelodeon Animation Studios

  • John Paesano ‘Dragons: Riders of Berk: How to Pick Your Dragon’ – DreamWorks Animation

  • Michael Rubin, John Angier ‘Bubble Guppies: Bubble Puppy’s Fintastic Fairytale!’ – Nickelodeon Animation Studios


Outstanding Achievement, Music in an Animated Feature Production

  • Alexandre Desplat ‘Rise of the Guardians’ – DreamWorks Animation

  • Bruce Retief ‘Adventures in Zambezia’ – Triggerfish

  • Henry Jackman, Skrillex, Adam Young, Matthew Thiessen, Jamie Houston, Yasushi Akimoto ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ – Walt Disney Animation Studios

  • Joel McNeely, Brendan Milburn, Valerie Vigoda ‘Secret of the Wings’ – DisneyToon Studios

  • John Powell, Adam Schlesinger, Ester Dean ‘Ice Age: Continental Drift’ – Blue Sky Studios

  • John Powell, Cinco Paul ‘Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax’ – Illumination Entertainment

  • Mark Mothersbaugh ‘Hotel Transylvania’ – Sony Pictures Animation

  • Patrick Doyle, Mark Andrews, Alex Mandel ‘Brave’ – Pixar Animation Studios


Outstanding Achievement, Production Design in an Animated Television or other Broadcast Venue Production

  • Alberto Mielgo ‘Tron: Uprising: The Stranger’ – Disney TV Animation

  • Ian Worrel ‘Gravity Falls – Tourist Trapped’ – Disney TV Animation

  • Lynna Blankenship, Sean Coons, Hugh Macdonald, Debbie Peterson, Charles Ragins, Lance Wilder, Darrel Bowen, John Krause, Kevin Moore, Brent M. Bowen, Brice Mallier, Steven Fahey, Dima Malanitchev, Karen Bauer, Eli Balser, Anne Legge – ‘The Simpsons: Moe Goes From Rags to Riches’ – Film Roman

  • Nick Jennings, Martin Ansolabehere, Sandra Calleros, Ron Russell, Santino Lascano, Derek Hunter, Catherine E. Simmonds – ‘Adventure Time – The Hard Easy’ – Cartoon Network Studios

  • Peter Martin, Chris Grine, Ira Baker, Ramon Olivera, Scott Brown ‘hoops & yoyo Haunted Halloween’ – Hallmark

  • Brandon James Scott, Keith Lee ‘Justin Time: The Rubbery Dumplings’ – Guru Studio


Outstanding Achievement, Production Design in an Animated Feature Production

  • Kendal Cronkhite-Shaindlin, Shannon Jeffries, Lindsey Olivares, Kenard Pak ‘Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted’ – DreamWorks Animation

  • Marcelo Vignali ‘Hotel Transylvania’ – Sony Pictures Animation

  • Nash Dunnigan, Arden Chan, Jon Townley, Kyle Macnaughton ‘Ice Age: Continental Drift’ – Blue Sky Studios

  • Nelson Lowry, Ross Stewart, Pete Oswald, Ean McNamara, Trevor Dalmer ‘ParaNorman’ – LAIKA/Focus Features

  • Norman Garwood, Matt Perry ‘The Pirates! Band of Misfits’ – Aardman Animation and Sony Pictures Animation

  • Patrick Hanenberger, Max Boas, Jayee Borcar, Woonyoung Jung, Perry Maple, Peter Maynez, Stan Seo, Felix Yoon ‘Rise of the Guardians’ – DreamWorks Animation

  • Rick Heinrichs ‘Frankenweenie’ – The Walt Disney Studios

  • Steve Pilcher ‘Brave’ – Pixar Animation Studios


Outstanding Achievement, Storyboarding in an Animated Television or other Broadcast Venue Production

  • Andy Kelly ‘Doc McStuffins: Righty-On-Lefty’ – Brown Bag Films

  • Cole Sanchez, Rebecca Sugar ‘Adventure Time: Lady & Peebles’ – Cartoon Network Studios

  • Doug Lovelace ‘Dragons: Riders of Berk: Portrait of Hiccup as a Buff Man’ – DreamWorks Animation

  • Holly Forsyth ‘Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess’ – Disney TV Animation

  • Irineo Maramba, Ciro Nieli ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: I Think His Name is Baxter Stockman’’ – Nickelodeon Animation Studios

  • Robert Valley, Kalvin Lee ‘Tron: Uprising: The Reward’ – Disney TV Animation

  • Ryan Kramer, Paul Linsley, Kenji Ono, Le Tang, Alice Herring, Mike Mullen, Aaron Hammersley ‘Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness: Enter the Dragon’ – Nickelodeon Animation Studios

  • Tom Herpich, Skyler Page ‘Adventure Time: Goliad’ – Cartoon Network Studios


Outstanding Achievement, Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production

  • Emmanuela Cozzi ‘ParaNorman’ – LAIKA/Focus Features

  • Johanne Matte ‘Rise of the Guardians’ – DreamWorks Animation

  • Leo Matsuda ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ – Walt Disney Animation Studios

  • Lissa Treiman ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ – Walt Disney Animation Studios

  • Rob Koo ‘Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted’ – DreamWorks Animation


Outstanding Achievement, Voice Acting in an Animated Television or other Broadcast Venue Production

  • James Patrick Stuart as Private ‘Penguins of Madagascar: High Moltage’ – Nickelodeon Animation Studios

  • Jeff Bennett as Keswick ‘T.U.F.F. Puppy: Pup Daddy’ – Nickelodeon Animation Studios

  • Jessica Walter as Malory Archer ‘Archer: Lo Scandolo’ – Floyd County Production and FX Productions for FX

  • Kevin Michael Richardson as Willem Viceroy ‘Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja: Gossip Boy’ – Titmouse Inc./Boulder Media

  • Kristen Schaal as Mabel Pines ‘Gravity Falls: Tourist Trapped’ – Disney TV Animation

  • Mae Whitman as April O’Neil – ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rise of the Turtles’ – Nickelodeon Animation Studios

  • Sam Witwer as Darth Maul ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Revenge’ – Lucasfilm Animation Ltd.

  • Tom McGrath as Skipper ‘Penguins of Madagascar: The Otter Woman’ – Nickelodeon Animation Studios


Outstanding Achievement, Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production

  • Adam Sandler as Dracula ‘Hotel Transylvania’ – Sony Pictures Animation

  • Alan Tudyk as King Candy ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ – Walt Disney Animation Studios

  • Atticus Shaffer as “E”Gore ‘Frankenweenie’ – The Walt Disney Studios

  • Catherine O’Hara as Weird Girl ‘Frankenweenie’ – The Walt Disney Studios

  • Imelda Staunton as Queen Victoria ‘The Pirates! Band of Misfits’ – Aardman Animations and Sony Pictures Animation

  • Jim Cummings as Budzo ‘Adventures in Zambezia’ – Triggerfish

  • Jude Law as Pitch ‘Rise of the Guardians’ – DreamWorks Animation

  • Kelly MacDonald as Merida ‘Brave’ – Pixar Animation Studios


Outstanding Achievement, Writing in an Animated Television or other Broadcast Venue Production

  • Doug Langdale – Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness: Kung Fu Day Care’ – Nickelodeon Animation Studios

  • Eric Horsted – Futurama: The Bots and the Bees’ – Gracie Films in Association with 20th Century Fox TV

  • Gabe Garza – ‘Penguins of Madagascar: Endangerous Species’ – Nickelodeon Animation Studios

  • Ian Maxtone-Graham, Billy Kimball ‘The Simpsons: How I Wet Your Mother’ – Gracie Films in Association with 20th Century Fox TV

  • Kacey Arnold – ‘Robot and Monster: The Blimp’ – Nickelodeon Animation Studios

  • Mike Teverbaugh, Linda Teverbaugh – Dragons: Riders of Berk: Animal House’ – DreamWorks Animation

  • Stephanie Gillis ‘The Simpsons: A Tree Grows in Springfield’ – Gracie Films in Association with 20th Century Fox TV

  • Trey Parker – ‘South Park: Jewpacabra’ – Central Productions


Outstanding Achievement, Writing in an Animated Feature Production

  • Chris Butler – ParaNorman – LAIKA/Focus Features

  • Gideon Defoe – The Pirates! Band of Misfits – Aardman Animations and Sony Pictures Animation

  • Hayao Miyazaki, Keiko Niwa, Karey Kirkpatrick – From Up on Poppy Hill – GKIDS

  • John August – Frankenweenie – The Walt Disney Studios

  • Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, Brenda Chapman, Irene Mecchi – Brave – Pixar Animation Studios

  • Phil Johnston, Jennifer Lee – Wreck-It Ralph – Walt Disney Animation Studios


Outstanding Achievement, Editorial in an Animated Television or other Broadcast Venue Production

  • Bret Marnell ‘Puss in Boots: Three Diablos’ – DreamWorks Animation

  • Chris Hink ‘Robot and Monster: Cheer Up Mr. Wheelie’ – Nickelodeon Animation Studios

  • Hugo Morales, Adam Arnold, Davrick Waeden, Otto Ferraye ‘Kung Fu Panda: ‘Monkey in the Middle’ – Nickelodeon Animation Studios

  • Hugo Morales, Adam Arnold, Davrick Waeden, Otto Ferraye ‘Kung Fu Panda – Enter the Dragon’ – Nickelodeon Animation Studios

  • Jason Tucker, A.C.E. ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Revival’ – Lucasfilm Animation Ltd.

  • Lynn Hobson ‘Dragons: Riders of Berk: Animal House’ – DreamWorks Animation

  • Pieter Kaufman ‘Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess’ – Disney TV Animation

  • Steffie Lucchesi, Matt Steinauer, Amy Blaisdell ‘Dan Vs Monster Under The Bed’ – Film Roman


Outstanding Achievement, Editorial in an Animated Feature Production

  • Catherine Apple ‘Hotel Transylvania’ – Sony Pictures Animation

  • Joyce Arrastia ‘Rise of the Guardians’ – DreamWorks Animation

  • Mark Rosenbaum ‘Secret of the Wings’ – DisneyToon Studios

  • Nicholas C. Smith, A.C.E, Robert Grahamjones, A.C.E., David Suther ‘Brave’ – Pixar Animation Studios

  • Tim Mertens ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ – Walt Disney Animation Studios


UPDATE: Turns out that this list is merely a list of all the animated films that are eligible for the award this year, as opposed to anything that has been judged. Thanks to @VoxPopple and @Elab49 for the heads up on my error here.


The Oscars are a funny time for animated films. The category for Best Animated Feature came about in 2001, seemingly because they were so impressed with Shrek they just had to give it an award of some kind. It has largely been the realm of Pixar ever since, who have won the award six times, two of which they deserved. In theory, the category is there to celebrate animated films, and to give them a bit more coverage in awards season. Yet the problem with this (and a very similar issue exists in the Foreign Language category) is that it suggests, somehow, that they are not good enough to compete in the Best Picture category. Since the award first began, only Up and Toy Story 3 have been nominated for Best Picture (Beauty and The Beast was the only previous nominee), and they only made it in because of an increased number of nominees. Yet how many incredible animated films have missed out simply because of misconceptions about the medium?

In 2009, well acted but dull An Education, trite sports drama The Blind Side and the quite frankly atrocious misery porn Precious all managed to score a nomination. Up was the token nod from the Academy to say, hey, we like animation (read: Pixar), but the stunning and inventive The Secret of Kells, which was better than almost all the other nominees, just got an animation nomination. Now it’s crazy talk for me to think that the Academy will suddenly start nominating small, independent, Irish animations in the Best Picture category alongside prestige pics and their precious sports films, but there’s a point to be made here. Animation is deserving of far more attention than one paltry category which, more often than not, only has three nominations.

Not only that, but their choices are often odd. Whilst they frequently make good choices for nominations – Persepolis, A Cat in Paris and The Illusionist are three quite unpredictable picks – their winners tend to be the most technically accomplished films as opposed to those that tell their stories the best, or at least show some real originality. But then just about every film fan has a gripe with the Oscars, so one animation fan complaining about this category is largely meaningless. And no matter how much I whinge, I will still follow the Oscars year in, year out (although most years stopping short of actually watching them). As such, I’m intrigued to see their longlist which has just been released:


Adventures in Zambezia


Delhi Safari

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax

From Up on Poppy Hill

Hey Krishna

Hotel Transylvania

Ice Age Continental Drift

A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

The Mystical Laws
The Painting


The Pirates! Band of Misfits

The Rabbi’s Cat

Rise of the Guardians

Secret of the Wings

Walter & Tandoori’s Christmas

Wreck-It Ralph




bold denotes the films I’ve seen

Now the two films stand out against the rest, for me, are Brave and From Up On Poppy Hill. They, alongside Wolf Children (I’m unsure about the eligibility of this), are my favourite animations of the year so far. I have high hopes for Rise of the Guardians and Wreck-It-Ralph, and I’ve not heard of many of them, although I look forward to discovering them if they get a UK release. The rather poor Hotel Transylvania doesn’t stand a chance against some of the heavyweights in that selection. One more thing to note – a film making this list does not mean that it is a good film, it just means that a studio has submitted it for contention. The shortlist should (hopefully) sort the wheat from the chaff.

I won’t go into too much detail about each of the nominees now, because the other thing about Oscar season is that it is really, really long. Which means I have to drag this out for all it is worth.

source: The Hollywood Reporter