When it comes to movies, I am a sucker for good animation. Regardless of genre or subject matter, whether it’s hand-drawn, CGI, or stop-motion, any film that features great animation gets a huge boost in my opinion of it, even if other aspects of the film aren’t necessarily as good (see Brave, for one example). If I had to give a reason for this, I would have to say that I love the nearly unlimited possibilities offered by animation. Animation can be used to enhance any genre, it an be utilized for any subject matter. Unlike live-action films, which are still constrained by the more limited visual possibilities of the „real world,“ animation can use any colors it wants, take any tone it wants, and break as many laws of gravity as it pleases without having to resort to a green-screens. Animation is not a genre- it is a method that can be adapted to ANY genre you can think of, literally, any genre, and enhance it.
For this reason, it always discourages me that animation (at least in the US) is still considered to be „kid’s stuff.“ That is to say, if a film is animated, the automatic assumption is that it HAS to either be meant exclusively for little kids (i.e., over-simplified and stupid), or it has to be a „family film,“ safe enough for kids but complex enough for adults to be able to enjoy it as well. And that really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for me. Adults are able to handle issues of far more complexity and subtlety than kids are, so why not, in addition to the great tradition of „family“ animation in this country, have a whole other level of animation devoted to the even greater heights and depths of storytelling that adult live-action films have been exploring as long as films have been around? This is already the case in Japan, where animation is used in both kids movies and adult fare. They have their fun, innocent, kid-directed films like Kiki’s Delivery Service, while also recognizing and appreciating the deep and complex tones and messages of darker, more adult films like Grave of the Fireflies and Princess Mononoke.
I am hopeful that attitudes towards animation are starting to mature more in this country. Animation via motion capture (used in films like Avatar and Tintin) is starting to blur the traditional boundaries between animation and live action, and in 2001, the Academy Awards finally created an award that formally recognized full-length animated films, in the wake of Pixar’s CGI revolution and Disney’s „Golden Age“ in the mid-90’s, when The Beauty And The Beast became the first animated film EVER to receive a Best Picture nomination (and remained the only one until Up and Toy Story 3 got nominated in 2010 and 2011, respectively).
And, when you look at the list of animated films that have been nominated in the 13 years or so since the award was created, there’s already a huge variety of really great animated films that have come out in the last decade. So, in honor of all things animated, and in honor of the great line of animated films that have come out in the new century alone, I will be devoted the next two articles in this blog (and possibly more) to ranking and revisiting the films nominated for Best Animated Feature since the award was created.