Oscars Lowdown 2014: Best Animated Short - Does the Disney double start here?
In the lead-up to the 86th annual Academy Awards on March 2, HitFix will be bringing you the lowdown on all 24 Oscar categories with multiple entries each day. Take a few notes and bone up on the competition as we give you the edge in your office Oscar pool!
Best Animated Feature, like the other short categories, used to be something of a crapshoot in prediction terms -- you'd watch all the nominees and imagine how the majority of voters might spontaneously respond to each one, with hit-and-miss results. Now things have changed slightly: with voters no longer required to prove they've seen all the nominees, the profile of each contender now counts for more than it should -- and with Disney the reigning champ in the category, we're about to see if a corporation-friendly pattern is being set.
The nominees are...
"Feral" (Daniel Sousa and Dan Golden)
Before the rule change, I might have put my money on "Feral" in this category as the most artistically striking and thematically substantial of the nominees -- it's the only film here with much of an emotional kick, and if enough voters do their homework and view it, that could make it something of a spoiler in the race. Sousa competed in the short film category at Sundance last year for this exquisitely designed, dialogue-free tale of a young boy, reared in the wild, unhappily introduced to human society; he also won three awards, including the FIPRESCI critics' prize, at the prestigious Annecy animation fest. Visually, it's a distinctive piece, making sophisticated use of old-school animation techniques, while Sousa's stylized, monochrome-pastel imagery seamlessly blends reality and fantasy. It gets my vote easily.
"Get a Horse!" (Lauren MacMullan and Dorothy McKim)
Disney broke a decades-long dry spell in this category last year with "Paperman," and they enter the race once more as heavy favorites with what is easily the most widely-seen nominee in the category -- thanks to its attachment in theaters to Animated Feature shoo-in "Frozen." Under the new voting roles, it could scoop a lot of votes from members who were charmed by it in that context, but haven't necessarily seen all the nominees. The Disney brand, after all, could hardly be stronger than it is in this Mickey Mouse-starring romp, which employs state-of-the-art animation techniques to literally break the fourth wall: contemporary 3D invades the black-and-white world of a 1930s-style cartoon, and all hell breaks loose. Many think it's brilliant; I found it wholly charmless, and couldn't help noting that the 21st-century intervention does little to fix its retrograde sexism. (Minnie's never been more vapid.) But that's by the by: it'll likely make Disney the first studio to claim that Animated Short and Feature awards in the same year.