A record 27 films will compete in this year’s Oscar race in the Best Animated Feature category, which should be a real shootout in Toontown.
The Academy released the list of qualifying films on Friday, and it is a blueprint for the most crowded and one of the most competitive races ever in the 16-year-old animation category.
The previous high was the 20 features that qualified in 2014. Last year, 16 films met Academy eligibility requirements, which is the minimum necessary for a full slate of five nominees. Fewer eligible films can lead to only three or four nominees, though the race has had the full five for the last five years running.
Virtually every major animation studio has films in the race. Disney and Pixar, which between them have won 10 of the 15 Oscars handed out in the category, have three. Disney has “Zootopia,” the closest thing to a favorite in the race, and the upcoming “Moana,” with songs by “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. Pixar has one, “Finding Dory.”
DreamWorks Animation, which won the first animated-feature Oscar for “Shrek,” has “Kung Fu Panda 3,” the best-reviewed film in the series that has landed two prior nominations, and “Trolls,” with the voices of Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick.
Illumination Entertainment has “The Secret Life of Pets” and the upcoming “Sing,” which launched at the Toronto Film Festival and is a clear play on the part of the company that brought us the Minions to move beyond kids’ stuff. Sony has “The Angry Birds Movie” and the significantly cruder “Sausage Party.” Blue Sky/Fox has “Ice Age: Collision Course.” Warner Bros. has “Storks.”
On the stop-motion front, Laika has “Kubo and the Two Strings,” which should easily follow that company’s first three movies (“Coraline,” “ParaNorman” and “The Boxtrolls”) to a nomination.
But the major animation studios rarely capture all the nomination slots, with the committee that selects nominees in the category typically coming up with a slate that mixes big CG films with at least one or two smaller hand-drawn or stop-motion films.
They’re particularly fond of stop-motion, which is good news for Mark Osborne’s unconventional adaptation of the classic “The Little Prince,” which was released in the U.S. by Netflix. And it could be good for the stop-motion Swiss film “My Life as a Zucchini,” which is also competing in the foreign-language category and is inventive and touching enough to score well with round-one voters.
And “Zucchini” is only one of three entries from the New York-based GKIDS, which specializes in picking up foreign, adult-oriented animated films and landing them nominations: eight in the last seven years.
GKIDS also has the Japanese drama “Miss Hokusai” and the French steampunk film “April and the Extraordinary World.” Sony Classics’ “The Red Turtle” is another hand-drawn gem with a top pedigree: It was directed by Oscar short winner Michael Dudok de Wit and made for the legendary Japanese company Studio Ghibli).
There’s also “Long Way North,” a striking hand-drawn work from Remi Chaye, and smaller titles like “Your Name,” “Phantom Boy,” “Bilal” and “Snowtime!”
“Zootopia” and “Kubo and the Two Strings” are probably the closest thing to front-runners, followed by “Sing,” “The Red Turtle,” “My Life as a Zucchini,” “Moana,” “The Secret Life of Pets,” “Finding Dory,” “Kung Fu Panda 3,” “The Little Prince,” “Miss Hokusai” and “Long Way North.”
But voters have surprised us in the past, which means that you can’t rule out anything.
The list of qualifying films:
“The Angry Birds Movie”
“April and the Extraordinary World”
“Ice Age: Collision Course”
“Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV”
“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“Kung Fu Panda 3”
“The Little Prince”
“Long Way North”
“Monkey King: Hero Is Back”
“Mustafa & the Magician”
“My Life as a Zucchini”
“The Red Turtle”
“The Secret Life of Pets”