Sunday 27 January 2013

Oscars 2013: Munir's Best Animated Feature Predictions

By Munir Abedrabbo.

With awards season in full swing, it’s always customary to start predicting the winners, and, while most predictions centre around the Best Picture category, the Best Animated Feature category is just as important for animation lovers. 2012 brought a strong slate of animated films and, more importantly, it was a year that was not dominated by CGI features – offering a nice variety of mediums to help audiences appreciate the diversity and beauty of animation. Most awards institutions have nominated more or less the same candidates, with the odd exception here or there (The Pirates! snubbed from the BAFTAs; ParaNorman replaced by Hotel Transylvania at the Golden Globes), but now that we have the five nominees for the Oscars, I think it’s time to evaluate each nominee’s pros, cons and chances of winning the prestigious award.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits

The surprise nominee (not because it doesn't deserve it, but because it's been snubbed by many other awards circles), it was released early last year to critical acclaim but not so great box office success (in the US that is, it did very well in other parts of the world, especially and understandably in the UK). Nevertheless, The Pirates! is a fun adventure with Aardman’s usual trademark dry humor, witty dialogue and not-so-bright characters. The stop-motion animation (“Claymation”) is superb and the whole movie moves at a brisk pace, providing non-stop laughs and fun. Unfortunately, I don’t think this will be enough for the film to take home the award, as The Pirates! faces an uphill battle against more popular and broadly appealing films. As noted in an earlier editorial by William, Aardman films tend to be very British with their humour and some people either don’t get it or don’t appreciate it. This limitation may have prevented the film from reaching more audiences (or Academy members) and I doubt it will take home the award.


After the ‘supposed’ Cars 2 debacle last year, Brave seemed to be a return to form for Pixar, with greater box office success and a much more positive reception. The film offers a unique and fresh take on the fairytale genre and provides a feisty lead heroine and heartfelt story about a mother-daughter relationship. All this, of course, set against beautiful and breathtaking animation. Brave is a winner on all fronts, but will it be enough to win the Academy Award? In past years (with the exception of 2011), Pixar films (from Ratatouille to Toy Story 3) have been praised unanimously and predictions were futile since they were the obvious winners. Not so this year. Even though Brave was received favourably and secured a nomination at the Oscars, praise has not been as positive as Pixar’s previous efforts – and let’s note that it was only nominated for one Academy Award, whereas previous films had more than two nominations. All of this, plus the strong competition, makes Brave winning a dubious prospect. It still has a strong chance though, and if its surprising Golden Globe win (I predicted Wreck-It Ralph would take the award) is any indication, Brave could still rise as the victor.


Laika’s second effort is not as strong as their first – which is an undisputed masterpiece – but is nonetheless a very strong offering that deserves all the nominations and awards it’s been getting. This year’s second stop-motion nominee features a very heartfelt and relevant story about bullying and incomprehension, set against a zombie apocalypse with both hilarious and emotional results. As in Coraline, the animation is beautiful and you can appreciate the labour of love in every puppet and movement throughout the film. As with The Pirates! though, the film’s limited appeal could play against it. Even if it has many hilarious moments, ParaNorman is a much more serious film than the other nominees and some moments are very gloomy and sad. While I think that is a good thing, its seriousness can turn off many viewers (and voters). It may not help that (spoiler alert) it features the first gay character in a mainstream animated feature – while I think it was a bold and brilliant move, will the often-conservative members of the Academy think the same?


Tim Burton’s second stop motion picture is an utter delight and his best film since Sweeney Todd. By expanding his own 1984 live action short film, he created a very fun and heartfelt story about a boy and his dog. With gorgeous top-notch animation and breathtaking black and white cinematography, Frankenweenie is the strongest stop motion picture of the year. It may not be as profound as ParaNorman, but it’s equally engaging and less likely to alienate voters – like Laika’s effort may do. Additionally, with an array of quirky characters, lots of monster references and Burton’s usual macabre trademarks, this is an appealing contender for the Oscars. It has already won many awards so it's at the front of the race, but, again, its modest theatrical performance and limited appeal (mostly due to its B&W cinematography) may well play against its chances of winning.

Wreck-It Ralph

The last of the nominees is also the best of the bunch and my official pick to win the Oscar. Walt Disney Animation Studios' latest effort is a very accomplished achievement, mixing silly fun, genuine heart and gorgeous animation in one sugar coated package. In contrast with most of the other nominees, Ralph is appealing for every member of the family and the colourful animation will surely delight every member of the audience. The story of a guy wanting to change who he is is nothing new, but the film makes his story an engaging one thanks to great characters, top-notch voice performances and a witty plot with many surprising twists. The end result is an amazing and heartfelt story that will leave everyone satisfied and with a smile on their faces. Wreck-It Ralph is the best film from WDAS since John Lasseter took over (and that’s saying something, since all the films from Meet the Robinsons onwards have been great) and the strongest animated film of the year. It surely helps that is an homage to video games, with many beloved characters making amusing cameos (not that non-gamers can’t enjoy it [read fellow contributor Damien's review of Wreck-It Ralph, on that theme, here]) and that elevates the picture to grandiose heights.

2012 was a very strong year for animation and all five nominees are great pictures in their own right. It was also a very strong year for Disney who has three films in the running. My prediction: Wreck-It Ralph will get the Oscar, as I feel it’s the most deserving of the five; even if it doesn't  it seems likely Disney will win anyway, with one of their other two great offerings.

Oscar Chances:
  1. Wreck-It Ralph 
  2. Frankenweenie 
  3. Brave 
  4. ParaNorman 
  5. The Pirates! Band of Misfits
The 85th Annual Academy Awards ceremony will take place on 24th February, from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, and is hosted by Seth MacFarlane.


  1. While I agree Ralph will (and should) take the prize, I'd disagree vehemently on the order of how deserving each film is.

    Paranorman was WAY better than Coraline, and a firm favourite of mine (indeed I'd actually like to see it win if Wreck It Ralph doesnt) from all of 2012's movies.

    Brave meanwhile was ok for what it was, and was funny enough, but wasn't at all up to the usual Disney/Pixar standard and would be WAY down the bottom of my list.

    If I were ordering them it would be:
    1) Dead heat between Wreck It Ralph/Paranorman (as I say, Ralph probably edges it, but its CLOSE)
    3) The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists (sorry, can't help but use the film's actual title)
    4) Frankenweenie
    5) Brave

    1. Thanks for weighing in, James!

      I'd disagree that ParaNorman's better than Coraline - I really liked PN, but I'm not as taken with it as others seem to be.

      Having not seen Frankenweenie, and with Ralph not out here yet, Brave's my favourite at the moment (I loved it!), followed by The Pirates! But I agree that it'll probably be Ralph or ParaNorman that wins the award.

      I'm sure Munir will have a rebuttal for you soon too. :)

    2. First of all let me say that appreciate your thoughts and I love this kind of discussions because I'm able to appreciate the different opinions and about this films. Now I thought ParaNorman was superb but I had a problem with it which is that it does not handle its comedic and dramatic moments very well (I have the same problem with The Hunchback of Notre Dame). At one moment it's very serious and emotional and other is funny and silly without a cohesive transition. That lack of tonal balance through me off quite a bit. Coraline on the other hand, maintained its creepiness the entire time making it a more fluid picture.

      I can say that Brave is not Pixar's best film but I think is it far from merely ok. While some supporting characters didn't add anything to the picture, the central mother-daughter relationship was handled exceptionally and in a way that it feels both real and heartfelt at the same time.

      I still maintain that 2012 was a great year for animation and the five nominees are excellent movies but the three Disney films are the best of the bunch.

  2. What on earth is the appeal of Frankenweenie? I loathed it. I couldn't even finish it. I really enjoyed the rest of the contenders (and adored Paranorman with all of my being) but Frankenweenie was just.... ugh. What am I missing here?

    1. Are you not a Burton fan in general, Moonie?

    2. It depends.

      But I've seen most of his films, and I know he and his work well. (and well enough to recognize he reused many, many, many elements of The Corpse Bride) And something being a Burton film doesn't mean I'll dislike it.

  3. I'm not sure who is the favorite this year - or if there ever is one. It's very hard for me to guess what the Oscars results are gonna be. And sometimes they disappoint me a lot.

    But in that particular case, I think I won't be too disappointed, whatever happens. All great films. I think all should win, really. But it'd be nice for one of the less award-recognized movies (like Pirates or ParaNorman) to get it.

    Note : tired of my no-avatar pic each time I post a comment, so trying something here...

    1. I thought ParaNorman was a cert to win it for months, but, the closer we get, the more I think Ralph's going to win it. I don't think Brave will, unfortunately.

      Yeah, it'd be great to see The Pirates! win it! I doubt it'll happen, but we know how The Academy likes to seem controversial from time to time.

  4. I think Wreck-It Ralph was the best animated film of the year followed by Frankenweenie. Although I would perfer Ralph to win, since it's the best and Disney has never won an award in this category.

    1. Amen! Not only Ralph in the best animated picture of last year but also is about time that WDAS wins the Oscar for Best Animated Feature!