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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.

Edited by SLAM!
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