Sunday, August 16, 2009

Animation Deliberation

I just got home from seeing Ponyo. I don't need to tell you it was wonderous. Hayao Miyazaki always promises adventure and magic, which is exactly what you get with Ponyo, a little fish who longs to be human after befriending a young human boy named Sosuke. The plot is very loosely based on the classic 1989 Disney film The Little Mermaid.

It's turning out to be one hell of a year for animation. With the wonderful stop-motion picture Coraline, Pixar's fantastical Up, and now Ponyo, we may already have the Best Animated Feature category's three nominees.

But there's a wealth of animated features still to come in the next few months, too. There's Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Robert Zemeckis' new take on the classic A Christmas Carol, the hotly anticipated 9 from Tim Burton, and Wes Anderson's The Fantastic Mr. Fox, to name a few.

And don't count out Disney's return to hand-drawn animation, The Princess and the Frog, the classic fairytale with a twist.

With all these promising projects, I'm thinking this could be a year for five nominees instead of three. My guess at how it will all line up is there at the top. I think we may be on the verge of another golden age for animation, and with ten Best Picture slots, I no longer think the question is whether or not an animated film will be among them. Now it's just a question of which one it is. My money's on Up, which definitely deserves it, but could also benefit from voter's remorse after WALL-E's unthinkable snub last year.

Another big question. Is it possible that TWO animated films could make the Academy's top ten? How much do those extra spots really open the members' minds? Ponyo and Up are two of the best-reviewed films of the year thus far, but stubborn voters still may not recognize them as important works.

I'm not the biggest champion of having 10 nominees, but if it helps people take animation more seriously, I'll be all for it. Animation truly knows no bounds, and I hope more and more adults start embracing it as a valid art.


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