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Best Animated Feature - 2021

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It's that time of year again.

 

Last year, I opened the animated feature prediction thread after the Annecy Film Festival announced their selections for their feature film competitions. This year, I'm doing the same thing.

 

As per usual, heavy hitters such as Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, Sony, and Netflix will have a plethora of mainstream animation titles that will act as serious threats to this year's competition for the Oscar. Though it must be said that Disney is in a peculiar position not too different from 2016, as they'll be releasing two Disney animation films and a Pixar film, all three of which seem like solid bets for critical acclaim (that year, it was ZootopiaFinding Dory, and Moana--this year, it's Raya and the Last DragonLuca, and Encanto). Then there's all the films that are planned for release on Netflix (or have already released on the platform), such as The Mitchells vs. the Machines and hopefully stuff like Henry Selick's Wendell and Wild. Dreamworks will also be releasing films this year such as their sequel to The Boss Baby and Spirit: Untamed, the latter of which might be a modest critical surprise despite crummy animation due to its voice acting, screenwriting, and beating heart. Then Vivo will release later this year, and Ron's Gone Wrong has a chance at being a wildcard in the race. Interestingly, it's a strong enough year as to where none of these films seem like the obvious winner yet, at least not to me. Toy Story 4 was obvious. Soul was obvious. Spider-Verse (in hindsight) was obvious. And none of these films feel nearly as obvious as those films were.

 

So what films beside mainstream Hollywood films and Netflix films could gain enough passion and buzz for a nomination this year? There's two films off the top of my head. Belle is the next film by Wolf Children director Mamoru Hosoda, and Cartoon Saloon is collaborating with Studio Chizu, a pairing that ensures many people will be interested in the film. Then there's Flee, an animated documentary about a refugee fleeing their country that won an award or two at the Sundance Film Festival where it premiered. Time will tell if another foreign candidate emerges... But as will be proved by the list of Annecy selections I'm about to drop, this is one of the most exciting years for animated films in a long time.

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Annecy 2021 Feature Film Selections

 

Annecy announced their feature film competition selections today. They have two feature film categories, one for the official competition, and then the "Contrechamp" which houses films that have more of an experimental edge.

 

Official Competition

  • The Ape Star (Denmark, Norway, Sweden)--hand-drawn film where an orphan is adopted by a single mom, only to find out that the mom is a gorilla.
  • The Deer King (Japan)--the ambitious directorial debut of Masashi Ando, who was a character designer and animator on films by Satoshi Kon and Hayao Miyazaki. Based on a series of Japanese novels.
  • Flee (Denmark, France, Norway, Sweden)--the aforementioned documentary about a refugee who flees his country.
  • Jiang Zhia: The Legend of Deification (China)--a sequel to the first Jiang Ziya film.
  • Josée, The Tiger and the Fish (Japan)--a coming-of-age contemporary anime story about a paraplegic girl and a boy interested in marine biology.
  • Lamya's Poem (Canada, United States)--syrian refugee girl meets 13th century poet Rumi and helps him write one of his most influential poems. The director wrote the screenplay for Bilal: A New Breed of Heroes.
  • My Sunny Maad (Czech Republic, France)--Czech woman falls in love with an Afghan and moves to Afghanistan; the film is about her experience living in post-Taliban Afghanistan as a westerner.
  • Poupelle of Chimney Town (Japan)--CG-animated anime film based on a kids book.
  • Snotty Boy (Germany, Austria)--3D-computer animated coming-of-age film set in the 60s about the son of an innkeeper who draws to vent his frustrations about the town's Catholic attitudes.
  • You Animal! The Nimfa Dimaano Story (Philippines)--romantic comedy set in a Zootopia-ish world where an anthropomorphic cat can't decide between the dog she's currently with and the dog who comes from out of town.

Contrechamp

  • Absolute Denial (United Kingdom)--basically made by one animator; young man tries to build a powerful computer, and its power gets out of control.
  • Archipelago (Canada)--abstract hand-drawn film about imagined "islands"--commentary on the constructs of nationhood. From the director of Ville Neuve, which was a feature selection three years ago. 
  • Bob Spit: We Do Not Like People (Brazil)--stop-motion homage to Brazilian cartoonist Angeli that was supposed to be at last year's festival before COVID-19 delayed its production.
  • Chicken of the Mound (Germany, China)--I have no idea what this one is about 😅
  • City of Lost Things (Taiwan)--3D-computer film where teenager runs away and comes across the "city of lost things," where a community of sentient objects (such as mannequins and a plastic bag) reside.
  • Climbing (South Korea)--CG-animated film about professional climber who finds out she's pregnant.
  • Cryptozoo (United States)--a film about a zoo of mythical creatures that received warm reception from its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.
  • Mount Fuji Seen from a Moving Train (Canada)--poetic meditation inspired by trips the director took to Japan.
  • My Uncle José (Brazil)--2D black-and-white animation about Brazilian politics in the 80s that's also a coming-of-age story.

 

In my opinion, this is a more exciting set of feature films than last year's selection, and I'm excited to watch these films in June. Well, as many of these films as I can. For the online showcase, some of them will only have excerpts or promotional videos due to rights issues. And I won't make the same mistake I did last year where I skipped out on the majority of the short films--since the budget can be spread out, that's where a lot of the real magic is. But I'm very excited to see if there's any breakout hits from this group of films. It's happened before with films like My Life as a Zucchini and I think it's nigh time that it happens again.

Edited by SLAM!
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Luca might not even compete if the rules end up going back to what they were pre-COVID but I imagine Disney will announce at least a one-week run at the El Capitan at the last minute (Cruella is expected to play for only three weeks there and the next theatrical Disney release after that isn't until Black Widow in early July).

Edited by filmlover
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https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-news/cannes-2021-ari-folman-gaspar-noe-bill-murray-films-added-1234965898/

 

An animated film has been added to the Cannes lineup as an out-of-competition selection. The film is titled Where Is Anne Frank? and is from Ari Folman, the writer/director of Waltz With Bashir. The 2D-animated film tells a story of Kitty, the imaginary friend Anne Frank dedicated her diary to; Kitty wakes up in the modern world and goes out to look for Anne, believing she might still be alive. If the film is executed well and receives praise from critics at Cannes, we could be looking at a safe bet for Oscar consideration.

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Does Mitchells vs the Machines qualify? 

 

Haven't seen it mentioned whether it had any qualifying run unlike Luca.

 

Would be sad for the Sony Animation team, being sold to Netflix and then not even being considered? I didn't like it but the animation is the best since Spiderverse (same team) and should try and convince the likes of Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, Illumination etc to all not use the same general style. Well Illumination's is different, but very cheap looking. The rest are like the former 3 or mimicking them at lower budgets. 

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40 minutes ago, BK007 said:

Does Mitchells vs the Machines qualify? 

 

Haven't seen it mentioned whether it had any qualifying run unlike Luca.

 

Would be sad for the Sony Animation team, being sold to Netflix and then not even being considered? I didn't like it but the animation is the best since Spiderverse (same team) and should try and convince the likes of Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, Illumination etc to all not use the same general style. Well Illumination's is different, but very cheap looking. The rest are like the former 3 or mimicking them at lower budgets. 

It does. The rules from last year (where any movie that was supposed to be set for a theatrical release at one point will still be able to qualify even if they go straight to streaming) will apply to this year as well.

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https://variety.com/2021/film/global/annecy-winners-2021-flee-sunny-maad-1235000829/amp/

 

So how did the Annecy competition play out?

 

Flee, the Sundance selection about a refugee, won the Cristal for Best Feature, solidifying the documentary as a frontrunner for this year's foreign nomination slot. Neon will distribute the film, and if they can deftly campaign Parasite toward a Best Picture win, then they have a good chance of positioning this animated documentary well.

 

My Sunny Maad won a jury award, while The Crossing, a late entry and the first feature entirely animated via oil painting, won a distinction award. On the Contrechamp side, Bob Spit won the main award while Archipelago won a distinction.

 

So out of Annecy, it looks like Flee is this year's serious Oscar nomination candidate unless Gkids makes a really smart play with one of their foreign films. (At this point, they have the rights to Belle and The Deer King. Another big anime from Annecy, Josee, is handled by Funimation, and it's probably good, but if they couldn't get Your Name nominated in 2016... Yeah.)

 

Where is Anne Frank? is still a question mark and will premiere at Cannes soon, but I think it would have the best chance under Sony Pictures Classics or a streaming service like Netflix. Gkids has multiples great options every year, but they end up juggling to many, which has led to their films getting shut out in the past.

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22 hours ago, lorddemaxus said:

Belle seems good enough to get a nomination. Getting some early raves. Hosoda already got a nomination for Belle. Late winter release and gkids distribution (pretty much the best at pushing anime films for awards) will help.

 

Belle would unequivocably deserve to be nominated. The big question mark is that there's three foreign films vying for spots this year—BelleFlee, and Where Is Anne Frank?—and ideally, all three of them would be nominated. It's such a competitive year, though, so it might be tough for that to happen, and something might end up being cut in favor of Disney/Pixar stuff.

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19 minutes ago, SLAM! said:

 

Belle would unequivocably deserve to be nominated. The big question mark is that there's three foreign films vying for spots this year—BelleFlee, and Where Is Anne Frank?—and ideally, all three of them would be nominated. It's such a competitive year, though, so it might be tough for that to happen, and something might end up being cut in favor of Disney/Pixar stuff.

Where is Anne Frank's? chances are really based on its distributor. Belle has Gkids and Flee has Neon. Both are good at getting films nominated for Oscars. At this point, I'd say Luca, Encanto, and Michells vs the Machines are very likely to get nominated from the Hollywood side, so that leaves two spots, which I say Belle and Flee fill up.

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This race has gotten a little bit more interesting, as Netflix has another horse in the race with The Summit of the Gods, a French adaptation of a manga about a man's struggle to climb a mountain. The film will be a breathtaking film that is sure to make the category even more competitive than it already was, especially in the hands of Netflix.

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On 11/6/2021 at 1:24 AM, 4815162342 said:

Tangentially related since animated short 

 

 

 


I don’t know why they have to settle for only submitting one of the episodes. They should all at least be up for it, especially the other standouts like “The Twins” and “Akakiri.” I’ll still be rooting for it, I guess.

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39 minutes ago, SLAM! said:


I don’t know why they have to settle for only submitting one of the episodes. They should all at least be up for it, especially the other standouts like “The Twins” and “Akakiri.” I’ll still be rooting for it, I guess.

It's cuz they gave it a qualifying run in the El Capitan before the show was released the other episodes wouldn't be eligible.

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On 10/4/2021 at 12:11 AM, cookie said:

My best guess right now would be:

  • Luca
  • Encanto
  • Mitchells vs. The Machines
  • Belle
  • Another indie/foreign film for the last slot

You totally ignored Raya?

 

On 7/16/2021 at 4:27 AM, lorddemaxus said:

Belle seems good enough to get a nomination. Getting some early raves. Hosoda already got a nomination for Belle. Late winter release and gkids distribution (pretty much the best at pushing anime films for awards) will help.

GKIDS has three anime nominated at the Oscar and none of those are winter release. In fact, Mirai was a summer release. In fact, I blame GKIDS for releasing WwY so late that lead WwY's eventual snub. This smaller more niche anime probably need more time of exposure than streaming giant like Netflix.  Release them in Jan isn't helping at all. 

 

I have seen belle, it is step up in every way from Mirai, hope GKIDS know their strength 

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