There’s a wider range of indie movies joining the usual studio suspects in this year’s animation race. Disney/Pixar returns with “Incredibles 2,” Brad Bird’s superb advance on the original Oscar-winning 2004 superhero feature, while Disney Animation offers its own sequel to an Oscar-nominated original, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” (November 21), and Universal/Illumination will try to make its return to awards contention with another Dr. Seuss adaptation, “The Grinch” (November 9).
Longer shots include Aardman’s stop-motion “Early Man” (Lionsgate) and two Sony Animation entries, sequel “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation,” from director Genndy Tartakovsky, and the Phil Lord & Chris Miller-produced “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (December 14), a likely holiday hit with a wild stylistic look directed by animators-turned-directors Bob Persichetti and Rodney Rothman and Peter Ramsey (“Rise of the Guardians”). Are Lord and Miller now considered worthy of Oscar contention, with experienced animators in the directors’ chairs? We shall see.
On the indie side are Wes Anderson’s acclaimed Japanese-accented smash “Isle of Dogs” (Fox Searchlight), his stop-motion follow-up to Oscar-nominated “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” and four Japanese GKids imports, Masaaki Yuasa’s “Lu Over the Wall (May 11), a fantasy about merfolk; Mamoru Hosoda’s time-traveling fantasy “Mirai” (November 30), which debuted in Cannes’ Directors Fortnight; Yuasa’s young-adult romantic comedy “Night is Short, Walk on Girl,” and “MFKZ” (October 11), an LA-inspired dystopian mashup of first-person shooter mayhem from directors Guillaume “Run” Renard and Shoujirou Nishimi. At the 2018 Oscars, Nora Twomey’s “The Breadwinner” became the tenth GKids film to earn an Oscar nomination.
Also in the running are two from Shout! Studios: a Chinese mystical fantasy from Liang Xuan and Zhang Chun, “Big Fish & Begonia” (April 6), and the Brazilian “Tito and the Birds” (October) about an epidemic of fear using an assortment of techniques. Also, Sony Pictures Classics will release “Ruben Brandt, Collector” (November), a Hungarian crime drama directed by Milorad Krstic about a celebrated psychotherapist forced to steal 13 paintings to exorcise his demons.
Last year, new Academy voting rules enlarged the voter pool for animated features, which used to be voted on by as few as 200 members of the shorts and animation branch. Now some 8,200 Academy voters may be able to vote — as long as they opt in and see enough of the movies (that’s still a small group). And nominations in this category, like Best Picture, are now preferential instead of based on a numerical scoring system.
The results will come down to the usual bottom line — what a small group of animation-loving voters are actually motivated to watch.
No film will be deemed a frontrunner unless we have seen it. Lists in alphabetical order.
“Incredibles 2” (Disney/Pixar)
“Isle of Dogs” (Fox Searchlight)
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” (Disney)
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (Sony)
“Ruben Brandt, Collector” (Sony Pictures Classics)
“Tito and the Birds” (Shout! Studios)
“The Grinch” (Universal/Illumination)
“Big Fish & Begonia” (Shout! Studios)
“Bunuel and the Labyrinth of Turtles” (ZDF/Arte)
“Early Man” (Aardman/Lionsgate)
“Funan” (Les Films d’Ici)
“Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” (Sony)
“Lu Over the Wall” (GKids)
“Night is Short, Walk on Girl” (GKids)