2020’s gong for Best Animated Feature went to Toy Story 4, the colourful Pixar sequel that saw Tom Hanks and Tim Allen reprise their plastic counterparts Woody and Buzz for a largely formulaic fourth outing. The win gave Pixar its thirteenth Oscar, making them the most award-laden animation studio in the world, despite their increasing reliance on sequels and recent internal strife following allegations against its founder and CCO, John Lasseter. More noticeable however were the films that it beat out. Sure, there was the usual spattering of mainstream fare with Dreamworks lush threequel How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World - but 2020’s shortlist also included powerhouse works like Laika’s beautiful stop-motion adventure Missing Link, Spain’s rich 2D Christmas comedy Klaus and the heart-wrenchingly poignant French feature I Lost My Body. With the latter three in this category containing more depth, diversity and originality than anything in Pixar’s latest toybox, is it time the Academy looked at something other than mainstream success when it comes to celebrating feature animation?
Pixar’s undisputed track record when it comes to the Oscars proves that this is nothing new. Last year’s win for Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse undoubtedly marked a step towards honouring fresh animation styles - but it still gave mainstream studios a win over independent features like Japanese fantasy Mirai. In 2018, Pixar’s Coco topped the social political message contained within Nora Twomey’s warmly animated The Breadwinner and the painstakingly created Loving Vincent, while in 2017 the star-studded Zootopia somehow emerged victorious against the tender French childhood drama My Life as a Courgette and Michaël Dudok de Wit’s stunningly crafted Studio Ghibli co-pro The Red Turtle. With so many animated features left in the wake of Disney, Sony and the like, it’s no wonder the animation community is paying less and less attention to the Academy’s praise.
“If you look to BAFTA and the Golden Globes where Klaus and Missing Link won, you get the impression more care was placed in the voting system - but the Oscars don’t seem open to change,” says Henderson. “There have been some amazing animations this year that didn’t even get nominated - The Swallows of Kabul, Buñuel in the Labyrinth of Turtles, Weathering with You, Funan and This Magnificent Cake didn’t make the nominee list but we’re all incredible works of art. Maybe if they were only to give animators the opportunity to vote we would see a change. Viewers who want to open their horizons and see something unique should take a chance on some of the lesser-known animated films that you can find on home streaming platforms, animation festivals or in independent cinemas,” he adds. “Don’t rely on the Oscars to act as a barometer of quality when it comes to animation.”
Do you think Toy Story 4 deserved to win Best Animated Feature at the 2020 Oscars? Let me know in the comments section below!