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OPINION: The Academy Still Doesn’t Respect Animation

The Academy Awards have been around for nearly a century. While it’s the one night where the best of cinema is honored and praised, there’s one particular medium of film that has often been ignored or treated as an afterthought: animation.

Now, the Academy Awards have been criticized for years for their failures at acknowledging certain genres of film from horror to fantasy and even the superhero genre. While there have been some exceptions over the last few decades such as The Lord of the Rings, Get Out, and Black Panther, with animated films it feels like they go out of their way to not give them the proper time of day.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24:(EDITORS NOTE: Retransmission with alternate crop.) Ruth E. Carter, winner of Best Costume Design for ‘Black Panther’ poses in the press room during the 91st Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood and Highland on February 24, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

The Academy Award for Best Animated Feature was first introduced in 2002. For a while the Academy stated that the reason why they didn’t have such an award was because Disney was the primary animation studio in Hollywood, so it wouldn’t be a fair contest. There simply weren’t enough films to warrant an entire category. Now let’s ignore that there were in fact animated movies being made by other studios before 2002, so that argument is already dumb. This defense shows that the Oscars still don’t understand why people involved in animation are annoyed by the award. Animators didn’t want their own category they wanted to be respected like any other film.

In 1992, at the 64th Academy Awards, Beauty and the Beast was nominated for Best Picture. It was the first Animated film to ever be nominated for that award. And it would be the only animated movie to be nominated when only five films were included for Best Picture. There was some criticism over the decision to nominate the film by idiots (for a lack of a better word) simply because it was animated. Beauty and the Beast obviously didn’t win that year, but since then there have only been TWO other animated films nominated for Best Picture: Toy Story 3 and UP.

Most people in the animation industry viewed the award for Best Animated Feature award as a participation trophy more than anything else. It was as if the Academy was telling them they’re not good enough to be included with the rest of the films and have to be placed at a table for kids – which is another annoying aspect of this situation because so many people view animation as a medium that can only be enjoyed by kids.

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At last year’s Oscars (the 94th ceremony), the nominees for the category were presented by Lily James, Naomi Scott and Halle Bailey all three of which have portrayed live-action versions of animated characters. During the segment they made remarks about how animated films were something for children to enjoy and parents have to endure. Needless to say, this joke did not land well with a lot of animation filmmakers.

Phil Lord, Chris Miller, and Guillermo del Toro (who have all made Academy Award-winning animated features) have consistently spoken up about how animation should be treated with more respect from Hollywood. And they’re not wrong because, in my opinion, each of their respective award-winning movies (Into the Spider-Verse and Pinocchio) are way more deserving of Best Picture nominations than films like Elvis or Top Gun: Maverick.

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The closest thing to an animated film being nominated this year was Avatar. But you won’t see the Academy ever refer to it as such, even with the amount of time it takes to make these films and the hard work being put in from so many people. It’s truly insulting, and the worst part is that it doesn’t seem like it’s going to change anytime soon. The fact that a movie like Puss in Boots can get as much critical acclaim as some of the other “best” films of the year, but still be passed over for Best Picture in favor of another musical biopic is both unbelievable and boring.

I’ll leave you with one final thought. The original 1991 Beauty and the Beast was nominated for Best Picture, but the 2017 live action remake was not. Because one is an incredible film made by a passionate team of people and the other is a soulless and dull imitation made by delusional people who thought they could make it better in live-action. There’s a reason why certain things work better in an animated medium. While some members of the Academy will never admit it, the way they vote tells us just how much it still doesn’t respect animation.

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