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‘Marcel the Shell,’ ‘Apollo 10 1/2,’ and ‘Eternal Spring’ All Qualify for Best Animated Feature Oscar

This past November, the Academy deemed the stop-motion shell eligible and reversed its previous decision on Richard Linklater's animated memoir.

"Marcel the Shell with Shoes On"

“Marcel the Shell with Shoes On”

A24

This article contains a previous version of IndieWire’s Best Animated Feature predictions for the 2023 Oscars, originally published on November 11, 2022. We regularly update our predictions throughout awards season, and republish previous versions (like this one) for readers to track changes in how the Oscar race has changed. For the latest update on the frontrunners for the 95th Academy Awards, see our 2023 Oscars predictions hub.

Nominations voting is from January 12-17, 2023, with official Oscar nominations announced January 24, 2023. Final voting is March 2-7, 2023. And finally, the 95th Oscars telecast will be broadcast on Sunday, March 12 and air live on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET/ 5:00 p.m. PT. We update predictions through awards season, so keep checking IndieWire for all our 2023 Oscar picks.

The animated feature race just got more interesting with three new qualifying entries: “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On,” “Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood,” and “Eternal Spring.”

This is significant because A24’s heart-warming “Marcel” marks the first stop-motion/live-action hybrid ever entered in the race; Richard Linklater’s semi-autobiographical “Apollo 10/12” (from Netflix) was first disqualified for its use of rotoscoping, but, after an appeal first reported exclusively by IndieWire, it has been reinstated by the animation branch’s executive committee for being predominantly 2D and CG; and “Eternal Spring,” the animated documentary about the 2002 hijacking of a Chinese TV station by the persecuted, right-wing Falun Gong movement, represents the first Canadian film to be submitted for both Best Animated Feature and Best International Feature.

“The Academy is committed to recognizing the innovations within our industry,” an Academy spokesperson told IndieWire.

“Marcel,” the feature debut from director Dean Fleischer Camp (adapted from his series of shorts with Jenny Slate) has been embraced for its charm, wit, inventive stop-motion (overseen by animation director Kirsten Lepore), and adorable breakout star. The 1-inch animated shell (voiced by Slate) goes on a journey to find his family, becoming a viral sensation with the help of a doc filmmaker (played mostly off-screen by Fleischer Camp).

Even though A24 and the director have been adamant about “Marcel’s” stop-motion qualification, its heavy use of live-action left its Oscar prospects an open question. But it passed the 75 percent threshold for animation, and was ruled to contain “a significant number of animated characters,” counting Marcel, his grandmother, and additional stop-motion creatures introduced at the end of the movie.

“Eternal Spring,” a Lofty Sky Pictures release from Toronto director Jason Loftus and famed Chinese comic illustrator Daxiong, mixes live-action interviews of surviving witnesses with graphic novel-style animation boasting intricate line work. The opening bravura tracking shot, for instance, swoops through an apartment building during a violent police crackdown, luring the viewer with magnificently rendered, criss crossing points of view.

The impact of the three entries into the animation race is varied: Historically, there’s never been a hybrid that’s been nominated, which means “Marcel” faces an uphill climb. The critical darling now becomes the little engine that could, which just might charm its way into the final five, provided its momentum isn’t slowed by two other stop-motion contenders: “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (an early favorite in the category) and Henry Selick and Jordan Peele’s “Wendell & Wild.” The first and only time there have been three stop-motion nominees was in 2013 with Tim Burton’s “Frankenweenie” (from Disney), Laika’s “ParaNorman,” and Aardman’s “The Pirates! Band of Misfits.”

While “Apollo 10 1/2” stands apart for its audaciousness in recounting Linklater’s personal coming-of-age at the height of the space race, his previous, critically lauded forays into animation — “Waking Life” and “A Scanner Darkly” — went unrecognized by the Academy due to the director’s preference for rotoscoping. Unless there’s a sudden groundswell of support for a nomination, Linklater will have to be satisfied with this moral victory.

“Eternal Spring” follows on the heels of last year’s “Flee,” the extraordinary Danish animated doc about childhood trauma and oppression from Jonas Poher Rasmussen, which received first-time multiple nominations in the categories of animated feature, documentary feature, and international feature. However, “Eternal Spring’s” animation is not on the same level as “Flee’s,” and it might also suffer from controversy surrounding its association with Falun Gong.

In terms of assessing the race, look for “Pinocchio” and Pixar’s “Turning Red” to definitely make the cut. As for the other three slots, DreamWorks has two potential nominees in “The Bad Guys” and the upcoming “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” both of which boast vastly different 2D-like aesthetics. Netflix could nab a nomination for “My Father’s Dragon,” which hails from Academy favorite Cartoon Saloon and comes to Netflix November 11 on the heels of a Jury Prize win at last month’s Animation Is Film festival. But mixed reviews could dampen its chances, along with those of Pixar’s other potential contender, the “Star Wars”-influenced “Toy Story” spinoff “Lightyear.” In addition to “Puss in Boots” (which opens December 21), the last question mark among studio heavyweights remains Disney’s “Strange World” — the sci-fi adventure about legacy with a graphic look culled from mid-century pulp magazines comes to theaters November 23.

Frontrunners
“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” (ShadowMachine/Netflix)
“Turning Red” (Pixar/Disney)
“Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” (A24)
“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” (DreamWorks/Universal)
“Wendell & Wild” (Netflix)
Note: Only films that the author has seen will be named frontrunners at this time

Potential Frontrunners
“Strange World” (Disney)
“The Bad Guys” (DreamWorks/Universal)

Contenders
“Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood” (Netflix)
“Charlotte” (Good Deed)
“DC League of Super-Pets” (Warner Bros.)
“Drifting Home” (Netflix)
“Eternal Spring” (Lofty Sky Pictures)
“Goodbye Don Glees!” (GKids)
“Inu-Oh” (GKids)
“Lamya’s Poem” (Unity Productions Foundation)
“Lightyear” (Pixar/Disney)
“Little Nicholas, Happy as Can Be” (Buffalo 8)
“Luck” (Skydance Animation/Apple Original Films)
“Mad God” (Shudder)
“Minions: The Rise of Gru” (Illumination/Universal)
“My Father’s Dragon” (Cartoon Saloon/Netflix)
“New Gods: Yang Jian” (GKids)
“Oink” (LevelK)
“Paws Of Fury: The Legend Of Hank” (Paramount)
“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” (DreamWorks/Universal)
“Run, Tiger Run!” (Huaxia Film Distribution)
“The Bob’s Burgers Movie” (20th Century/Disney)
“The Sea Beast” (Netflix)

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