Janet’s Animation Corner: Oscar On The Kiddie Table

In Features by Janet Leigh

Last week, the Oscar for Best Animated Feature found a new home with directors Don Hall, Chris Williams and co. when they scooped a victory for the movie Big Hero 6.  An impressive feat considering it was up against the likes of the stunning How to Train Your Dragon 2 and The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya which, by most people’s accounts was a “rich, astonishing swan song for [director] Takahata” or something to that effect. Indeed, it was celebrations all round for the team of heroes until it was discovered the Lords of The Academy seem to have done it again.

Last year, the attitude of the Academy towards animated features can be summed up in this simple quote from one of the voters: “I have seen none of them. I have no interest whatsoever.” Words that were later followed by an abstained vote. Charming. As rich, complex and clever as animated features can be, let’s just brush them under the carpet because they happens not to be your cup of tea.

This year … and it seems that attitudes have remained apathetically dismissive. According to comments posted by Cartoon Brew, of the seven Academy members to have voted, four had seen a few or none of the films in this year’s Animated Feature category. This resulted in two abstained votes and two unsubstantiated votes in favour of this year’s winner. On the flip side of that folly (I just love that word … folly) some voters were too busy being miffed by the fact that The Lego Movie hadn’t even made the final cut to worry that their colleagues couldn’t actually be bothered to watched the nominated films.

If that wasn’t enough salt in the wound for the animation industry, the following words from one voter should add that extra squeeze of lemon to that nice throbbing cut. Of The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya and Song Of The Sea, one Academy decision maker was reported to have referred to them as “two obscure freakin’ Chinese f…in things that nobody ever freakin’ saw.”

I won’t even begin to go there on how utterly reproachable those  words were, but to devalue the films based on one’s narrow-minded assumption that nobody watched them is appalling. This voter then went on to say that the award should have been given to The Lego Movie for it’s cultural richness. I believe the exact words were “culturally hits all the right chords”… By whose standards? This may be true, but I am baffled by the inability of the Academy to step out of their comfort zone and make an earnest attempt to fully appreciate other types of animation before wagering in on a decision as important as an Oscar award. It kind of takes all the fun out of winning, don’t you think? Sucks all the joy out… like a deflated Baymax.

The Academy has a history of being belittling the animation medium, seeing it as lesser than other types of movie making because of its childlike appeal which has in the past (and clearly up-to-date) resulted in this air of nonchalance. I think it’s long passed time for animation to get some serious respect. Respect that acknowledges the medium’s ability to seamlessly connect with all audiences of ages, its ability to tap into that creative side of us all – not only mesmerising us – but taking us on that journey for a mind-blowing ride. It definitely, at the very least, has earned the right to a well thought through, unbiased, entirely watched Oscar judging process, so that when a film’s name is called and they are asked to accept such a prestigious award the makers can take value in its worth.

And breathe…

Enough talking, I’m off to watch The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya because, unlike some, I can actually appreciate the beauty of some ‘obscure’ Chinese … movies.’