Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

Oscars 2011: Best Animated Feature

Note: This is my personal ranking, listed in order from best to worst, with #1 being my favorite. Prediction for the actual winner is in orange.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

1. Toy Story 3

2. The Illusionist

3. How to Train Your Dragon

This may be the easiest category of the evening. There is no way in hell anything but the critically acclaimed smash hit of the summer, Toy Story 3, is going to win. How to Train Your Dragon has many endearing moments, most of which involve the feline-like dragon, aka Toothless, learning to trust and love his mini-viking protector, Hiccup. Dreamkworks’s animation of the human characters is actually superior to Pixar’s (to my inexpert eyes), but unfortunately while the film is cute, it’s not superlative in any way (whether in story, score, or general artistry/technique). Thankfully instead of the lackluster Tangled, or the not-nearly-as-funny-as-everyone-says Despicable Me, our third nominee is the art film disguised as an animated feature, The Illusionist. Ceaselessly charming and sans dialogue, our title character is an older, out-of-work magician who travels to Scotland where he meets a young woman who changes his life, and he, hers forever. Hand-drawn with colored pencils, the film is overflowing with beautifully landscaped pictures reminiscent of early Disney animated features (think of 101 Dalmatians, The Sword in the Stone), but it is decidedly too low-key and sophisticated to triumph at the end of the night.

To win, you need to be buoyant and heartbreaking and full of humor and fast-paced fun, not to mention expertly-crafted by the world’s top animators. And so it would seem Toy Story 3 fits the winning bill. And while the animation is still shimmering and superlative and startling in its superiority to all other animated films, the third installment of the beloved series sadly disappointed me. I was one of the few adults not shedding tears in the theater, nor was I laughing nearly as much as I did in the previous two films. Yes, it’s full of warmth and character and good, sentimental intentions, and so yes, it will win. But it’s not nearly as emotionally¬† startling as the first 10 minutes of Up, nor is it as heartbreaking as the “She Loved Me” sequence in Toy Story 2. Buzz and Woody’s denouement simply fizzled out for me. (Un)fortunately, Pixar’s previous brilliance had taught me to raise my expectations to impossible levels, and I simply wanted something more for my favorite toys.

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4 comments on “Oscars 2011: Best Animated Feature

  1. Jaime
    February 16, 2011

    I’m actually starting to think they should just do away with this category and send Pixar an Oscar every February. I haven’t seen The Illusionist yet but I’m always blown away by Chomet. The clips I’ve seen do actually have a bit of a Don Bluth feel (who was an animator on the Disney films you reference)but with much more intriguing characterization and I have no doubt more heart.

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  2. Julie
    February 16, 2011

    Jaime, as much as I enjoyed The Illusionist, it can’t nearly compare to the “heart” of early Disney films. Not by a long shot. That being said, though, you’re sure to love The Illusionist much more than TS3.

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  3. Jaime
    February 17, 2011

    If by early Disney films you mean Bambi and prior or Cinderella or maybe even Sleeping Beauty, I’ll totally agree. However, if you’re referring to that period post-1960 that you reference in your post, I will have to respectfully disagree. As much as I loved those, the quality of the story was nowhere near what it had been. By that point Walt was much more concerned with the parks and the live action films. One of the reasons I love Pixar being a part of Disney is that in many ways their focus on story and characterization is a throwback to what made the initial films so successful.

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  4. Julie
    February 17, 2011

    The couple I mentioned are not amongst my favorites (they were just used as examples of the animation style), and I agree with you about the earliest features, but you know I’m a fan of The Little Mermaid through Mulan years. The animation was getting a bit iffy at the end of that era (Mulan, Pocahontas..why was everything so rectangular and sharp? All the soft, round features went away), but the stories and the characters and the music (for the most part) were all there. Everyone tries to tell me that Tangled is a return to that style, but Tangled isn’t even close to the quality of those earlier films.

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This entry was posted on February 15, 2011 by in Animated, Award Predictions, Oscar-Nominated.

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