Oscar animation race remains tightest in years

"Wreck-It Ralph" director Rich Moore, right, and producer Clark Spencer celebrate at the Critics Choice awards, one of several prizes they've picked up during the awards season. Will Oscar be next?
(Frederick Brown / Getty Images)

“Wreck-It Ralph’s” five-trophy haul at this weekend’s Annie Awards makes it a favorite of sorts in the race for the animated feature Oscar, but the category still lacks the kind of clear front-runner that we’ve seen the last five years.

Since the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences began giving the animated feature prize in 2002, the Annie winner, presented by the Hollywood chapter of the International Animated Film Society, has gone on to win the Oscar eight out of 11 times.

But those involved in this year’s race believe it will remain too close to call.

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Says one Oscar consultant, who asked for anonymity given his ties to the industry: “It’s really between ‘Brave’ and ‘Wreck-It Ralph.’ Basically, it will boil down to which movie academy members will actually watch. And also whether if they end up watching just one movie, they’ll still vote in the category.”

Complicating this year’s race, says the strategist, is the new rule allowing the academy as a whole to vote in the documentary race. Will members, particularly those not given to watching animated fare in the first place, put a greater premium on watching the documentary nominees and punt on checking out, say, “ParaNorman”?

“It’d be nice if the academy would do something next year to raise the animation category’s awareness,” the campaigner says. “For a lot of people, it’s just an afterthought.”

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As for this year, Pixar’s touching mother-daughter tale “Brave” and “Wreck-It Ralph,” Disney’s quasi father-daughter story set in the video game world, seem to have the edge over the category’s three stop-motion nominees -- “Frankenweenie,” “ParaNorman” and “The Pirates! Band of Misfits.”

Although all five films were generally well-reviewed, the box-office receipts of “Brave” and “Wreck-It Ralph” dwarf their competitors. And though Tim Burton’s “Frankenweenie” has won more major critics group prizes, many academy members, we hear, have been put off by its black-and-white format as well as its title. (And yes, we agree: That’s absurd. But we’re hearing it, nonetheless.)


If “Wreck-It Ralph” wins, it will be the first time Disney takes the animated feature Oscar. The studio had not won the top prize at the Annies since “Mulan” won in 1998.


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