Why do the Oscars Give Animation the Cold Shoulder?

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Often, when people think of award-winning films, or even film in general, they think of live-action, big budget extravaganzas. Most people do not put animated films in the same in the same category. Neither do award shows. In the 90 odd years that the Academy Awards has existed, only three animated films have even been nominated for Best Picture- Beauty and the Beast (1991), Up (2009), and Toy Story 3 (2010).

Some of the most beloved films in all of film history have been animated. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, for example, grossed  $6.5 million, when it was released in 1937- an unprecedented return at the time. That box office made it the most successful sound film of all time. The film was also a huge critical success, with many reviewers hailing it as a genuine work of art. Even with near-universal praise and a tremendous box-office showing, at the 11th Academy Awards, the film received an “Honorary Award” and a nomination for Best Original Score.  The Lion King (1994), which opened to near-universal critical acclaim and nearly a billion dollars at the box office received only a Best Animated Feature nomination and again, nominations for Best Original Song and Best Score. Wall-E, one of the top ten highest grossing films of 2008 maintains a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes to this day. The film was nominated for WALL-E was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing at the 81st Academy Awards, but was again shunted to the Best Animated Feature category, rather than Best Picture. 

There are likely several reasons for the lack of recognition for animated films in Best Picture categories. The introduction of the Best Animated Feature category in 1992 has likely made Oscar voters less willing to nominate animated features for Best Picture, the logic being that truly excellent animated features have multiple avenues for recognition, while live action pictures have only Best Picture.

Second, an perhaps more saliently to this piece, animated features are often seen, rightly or wrongly, as less artistically valuable then live action films. True, there are no live actors to emote, but anyone who has sat through any Pixar film can see that often times animated films are better written and more enjoyable than a majority of films released per year.

Animation could tell the same stories as a dedicated live-action
movie and the beauty of animation is that it can be even more expressive and can achieve certain impossible things that might be difficult or take a longer time to replicate in a live action film. That should be celebrated by main stream award shows, not shoved off into specialized categories. Nowadays, animated films have increased in popularity, even more so since the Covid-19 pandemic. It is long past time for animated films to be considered for an Oscar for more mainstream categories and for the Oscars, and other award shows to shed their biases against these works of art.

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