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[personal profile] dixon_green

It's time for the 2012 Animated Film Oscar evaluation.  This year, twenty-one films are eligible to be nominated for one of five slots available.  I've seen four of them. All in all, 2012 was a much stronger year for animated films than 2011.  So, let's break it down. 

Adventures in Zambezia - .  Entry from South Africa, and first film from Triggerfish Animation Studios. Sony will be distributing it haven't seen this one, but that's because it does not go into wide release at the end of March.  The IMDB synopsis reminds me somewhat of Rio, minus the rom part of the com.  Not going to get nominated.

Brave - Pixar/Disney - Pixar's first foray into the Disney Princess genre.  Fairly solid story telling, although a bit weak in the world building, definitely pushed technical boundaries (all that hair!), and pretty pretty pretty.   It's the first Disney princess story that doesn't revolve around a True Love Romance, and both parents survive to the end of  the movie. In many ways, it is more closely related to Alice in Wonderland than Cinderella.  But. Merida is one of the few Disney heroines who is actually lives as a princess, not one who becomes a princess:  Snow White - princess, but grew up as a servant.  Sleeping Beauty, princess, but raised as a peasant.  Rapunzel,  princess, but stolen and raised in isolation.  Cinderella, aristocracy, but forced into servitude.  Belle, middle class. Tia, working class.  Mulan, member of the landed warrior caste; her romance is with a social equal.  Pocahontas, princess, and actually acts like someone raised to power. Ariel, princess, and a spoiled one at that.  And much like Ariel, Merida is a spoiled and indulged little daddy's girl.  Unlike Ariel, Merida grows as a character, changing from that spoiled little girl into a young woman ready and able to shoulder responsibility.  Guaranteed a nomination (so much better a film that Cars 2), but not guaranteed the win.  It has already picked up nominations for the Annie and the Golden Globe.

Delhi Safari – Entry from India, released in December. I haven't seen this one.  From the descriptions, it sounds like a mix of Fern Gully, Land Before Time, and The Lion King.  I think I will give this one a pass, and so will the Academy.

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax – Illumination Entertainment/Universal.  Skipped it.  I'm just not that interested in the Dr. Seuss adaptations.

Frankenweenie – Disney.  Tim Burton directed stop motion film, an expansion on an animated short he did nearly 30 years ago.  Favorable reviews, Golden Globe nomination.  However, I skipped it. I’m rather over the Tim Burton style.  It could very well garner a nomination.  It has already secured both Annie and Golden Globe nominations.

From Up on Poppy Hill – Entry from Japan, Studio Ghibi.  At some point, Disney will release it in the US.  The Studio Ghibi name immediately jumps it to the top of the potential list, but without the widespread recognition, and the very strong slate of contenders, it won’t win.

Hey Krishna – Another entry from India, and this one looks to be hand drawn.  Other than that, I’ve got nothing,

Hotel Transylvania – Sony Pictures Animation, directed by Genndy Tartakovsky (so this is what he has been doing instead of The Power of the Dark Crystal).  I haven’t seen this one, although I was initially intrigued by the trailers.  However, I rather lost interest when it became apparent that the plot was going to be driven by the monsters' freakout of a human interloper/star crossed lovers plot leading to a let's get together kum-bai-ya ending.  And if that is not it, well, marketing fail.  That, and it came out during Fest, and I was just too busy and too tired to make the effort to go see it.  A rather lightweight little comedy.  It has pick up a nomination for the Annie and for the Golden Globe.

Ice Age Continental Drift - Blue Sky/20th Century Fox.  Skipped it. Meh.  Another in the franchise.  A good enough, and safe enough, kiddie flick, and clearly the franchise is making money, 'cause they keep making more of 'em.  But, the quality of the plot takes a distinct back seat to "hey it worked last time, let's do it again, but MORE!" sight gags, character stunts, and sit-com awkwardness, some of which are now on their second or third, or fourth iteration.  Which is too bad, as the first film was surprisingly good.  A nomination is doubtful.

A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman - I haven't seen this one, as it had a very limited release in November.  I don’t think this one is going get a nomination.

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted - Dreamworks - Skipped it.  I haven't seen this one, or any of the Madagascar movies, but maybe I should.  Dreamworks has been turning out film after film, two or more a year, and none of them have been especially adventurous in the type of story it tells (see WALL-E for risk taking in story telling), but they do exceptional executions of the stories they do tell.  Probably not going to get a nomination, especially if Dreamworks is smart and throws their efforts at promoting Rise of the Guardians.

The Mystical Laws – Another entry from Japan.  Apocalyptic story with religious over tones (I think).  I haven't seen this one, not going to get a nomination.

The Painting – Entry from France, joint France/Belgium project.  It looks to be a very artsy film.  I haven't seen this one.  No nomination.

ParaNorman – Laika, distributed by Focus Films.  Stop-motion animation from the same studio that did Coraline.  I haven't seen this one.  It initially intrigued me, but then, well, here’s the IMDB description:  “A misunderstood boy takes on ghosts, zombies and grown-ups to save his town from a centuries-old curse.” Yeah, not interested.  It has picked up a nomination for the Annie, but it did not get a Golden Globe nomination.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits – Aardman Animation.  I had high hopes but distinct reservations about this movie when it came out.  The reservations were correct.  Cute enough, but the plot was weak, and the character development non-existent, and the parody of historical figures painful.  The inherent charm of Aarman's house style of animation was not enough to carry this film.  Not going to get a nomination, although it did pick up a nomination for the Annie

The Rabbi’s Cat – Another entry from France, based upon a series of children’s graphic novels. I haven't seen this one, but it looks to be the type of film the Academy likes to nominate.  It has picked up an Annie nomination.

Rise of the Guardians - Dreamworks.  I really really really liked this film.  Tight story telling, outstanding character design, beautiful sets and scenery, internal coherence and logic to its world building, and generally, just a lot fun.  Much like How to Train Your Dragon, this is not so much a coming of age story as it is a story of finding your place. Pretty sure it's going to secure a nomination, and I would really like to see it win.  It has also secured a nomination for the Annie and the Golden Globe.

Secret of the Wings – Disney.  A theatrical release of its direct-to-DVD Tinkerbelle movie.  So not going to get a nomination.

Walter & Tandoori’s Christmas – Entry from Canada.  A “message” film of ecological disaster told from the POV of lovable farm animals, at the holidays!  No.  Just, no.

Wreck-It Ralph - Disney.  In the wrong hands, this movie would have been a train wreck.  At various times in its history, Disney would have been those wrong hands.  But not this time.  Impressively tight story telling, excellent use of video game characters, tropes, and quirks, and a villainous reveal that was hiding in plain sight.  This film deserves a nomination, but may be a bit too pop culture-ish to win.  Like Brave, it has secured nominations for both the Annie and the Golden Globe.

Zarafa – Another French/Belgium entry.  Traditional animation, travel/adventure story.  I haven't seen this one, don’t think it is going to get a nomination.

 I would nominate:  Brave, Rise of the Guardians, Wreck-It Ralph, The Rabbi’s Cat, and ParaNormal, with Hotel Transylvania and Frankenweenie as alternates.  Predicting the winner is where it get's tricky.  It's the animation people who get to select the nominees.  It is the Academy at large who gets to vote on the nominees.   A few years ago, Toy Story 3 and How to Train Your Dragon were both up for Best Animated Film, and Toy Story 3 won.  EVERY animation person I have spoken to is in agreement that How to Train Your Dragon was robbed (and having seen it more times than I remembered to count in the past three months, I still stand by this.  Robbed, I say!). But it is easy for the general Academy to vote "PIXAR!"  So Brave is the obvious choice.  Wreck-It Ralph had better world building and plot twists.  It made me laugh more.  Rise of the Guardians was every bit as lush as Brave, but I was far more sympathetic to Jack than I ever was to Merida (I can't even begin to count the number of times I wanted to smack her).  The sheer level of wonder in Rise of the Guardians was delightful.  And, of course, Elves=Minions, and I have no problem with that. If Frankenweenie gets a nomination, it could potentially win, too, ‘cause so many people are enamored with the Tim Burton mystique.

This is so much more fun than last year.  The studios brought their A game, and did so repeatedly.
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