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Replacing A Nominee With “The Lego Movie” Isn’t as Easy as it Sounds

Replacing A Nominee With "The Lego Movie" Isn't as Easy as it Sounds

It was the
talk of the town
last week as the
Lego Movie failed to
garner a coveted nomination
for the Academy Awards
to be held next
month. Seemingly everyone had
something to say
about it, and almost
all were unequivocally
disappointed that the
film where everything is
awesome was not able
to translate that positive energy
into the real world
of award shows. While
everyone was voicing their
displeasure though, the
rather ordinary news of
the actual nominees got overshadowed.
What it revealed was
a very strong field,
and begs the question:
if the Lego Movie
did manage to get a
nomination, which film
would it have replaced?

The Best Animated
Feature Award has come
a long way since
its inception, and while
I don’t agree with
the many reasons for its existence, things
have come a long
way since 2001. With almost
20 films fighting for
just five nomination slots,
it’s safe to say
that the competition
this year is certainly hot.
So which films made
the cut?

The nominees:

• Big
Hero
6
(Walt Disney Animation Studios)

The
Boxtrolls

(Laika)

• How
To
Train Your Dragon
2
(Dreamworks Animation)

Song Of
The
Sea
(Cartoon Saloon)

The
Tale
Of Princess Kaguya
(Studio Ghibli)

Let’s say that you
find a magic lamp,
and the genie inside
grants you a wish:
you can add the
Lego Movie to the
list of nominees, but
you must replace an existing
one. Which one would it be and
would you be able to
justify your decision?

Big Hero
6
surely deserves a
spot on the list.
Not only was it
Disney’s first comic book
movie, it wowed audiences
with visually stunning graphics
and a heartwarming
tale. Not to mention
introducing us all
to Baymax; the most
loveable robot since Wall-E.
It’s the mega-budget
film from the large
corporation that is
only too eager to
sell it to kids.
It should get replaced!
But wait, the Lego
Movie is also a
large budget ($60 million)
film, and it’s produced
by a large corporation
(Warner Bros.), and it
features only the main product
of the largest toy
company on the planet… What it
comes down to is which film does a better job of hiding their corporate
background, and Big Hero 6
does it better because the movie drives the
merchandising, whereas the
Lego Movie is essentially
a 100 minute Lego
commercial wrapped in fancy packaging.
What about the
Boxtrolls then? It’s
the weakest of the
line-up as far as
the critics are concerned,
and wouldn’t a film
that got 96% on
Rotten Tomatoes be a
much better replacement
than one that got
74%? The Boxtrolls may
not have been the
darling of the critics,
but it pushes the
animation envelope with
3-D printing and CGI
to enhance, not replace
physical sets. Does the
Lego Movie push the
animation envelope? Eh,
sort of. True, it
managed to pull off
a stop-motion look using CGI,
and the Lego smears
are clever, but does
mimicking Lego actually advance
the art of animation?
In the decades to
come, we may well
look back on the
Boxtrolls as a
finely crafted piece of
art, and the Lego
Movie as a pastiche
of something we thought
was innovative, but didn’t
really alter the game (like fake
Christmas trees, or TV dinners.) For those
reasons, the Boxtrolls deserves
to be nominated.

How to Train
Your
Dragon
2
was the film
that managed to get
the short end of
the stick last year.
Despite good critical reviews
and being the follow-up
to a superb film,
it failed to ignite
the US box office
or become a sleeper
hit like the original.
Immediately discarded by
many as a dud,
the film did well
overseas and ultimately brought
in $619 million; about
as far from a
dud as you can
get. Of all the
films that made the
cut, this is the
one that has been
hounded the most. Fortunately,
HTTYD2 deserves to be
on the list for
one very special reason:
its characters. Taking a
decidedly different approach
than just about every
other sequel known to
man, the studio aged
the entire cast. No longer
is Hiccup the clumsy
lad we all know
and love, now he’s
a strapping young man
out to find his
way in the world.
Yet the filmmakers went
further by exploring Hiccup’s
mother, and presented audiences
with a very interesting
female character that added
a lot of depth
to what could have
been a very ordinary
film. In contrast, the
Lego Movie was derided
for having very few female
characters, and the lead one
played sidekick to Batman
at that. The characters
in the Lego movie
came secondary to the
plot and animation; HTTYD2
puts them front and
center. In addition to
adequate animation and a
decent story, HTTYD2 is,
in fact, worthy of
a nomination for best animated feature.

Would you really,
honestly, put the
Lego Movie in place
of Song of
the
Sea? C’mon,
it’s an independent,
hand-drawn, mystical film
from the same awesome
Irish studio that gave
us the Secret
of
Kells. The
Lego Movie is an
animated film; Song of
the Sea is an
animated film. There’s
a real difference,
and bumping it in favour of the Lego Movie would run counter to
the notion that traditional animation is still a worthwhile venture.

Lastly we come
to a film that
is the true black
sheep of the lineup.
From the famous Studio
Ghibli, but not directed
by the usual Hayao
Miyazaki, The
Tale
of Princess
Kaguya
is directed
by Isao Takahata and
uses an ancient story
told by way of
animation that is
even more traditional
than Song of the
Sea. The Lego Movie
and Kaguya are polar
opposites in almost
every way. The latter
is slow, methodical,
artistic, and ultimately
very emotional. It uses
animation as a
vehicle for the storytelling
but does not allow
it to overwhelm the story; something
the Lego Movie is
only too happy to
do. In the end,
the Tale of Princess
Kaguya may only have
been given a slot
because it is so
different, but removing
it would also narrow
the artistic range of
the field significantly.

 

When it comes
down to it, all
five films in addition to the Lego Movie deserve a nomination.
They’re all fantastic films and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the
industry is a lot stronger today than in 2001 when the award was first given.
Unfortunately the rules are the rules, and in this instance, the Academy did,
in fact, select five excellent films that are more than acceptable. Would the
debate have been as ferocious if the Lego Movie had been nominated? Probably
not, but then it could have happened anyway if the film had been nominated but
not actually win. 

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