The race for best animated feature is usually fairly easy to predict. With a few exceptions, you can always count on Disney/Pixar to win or place. The studio has had a pony on this track nearly every year the category has been in existence since 2001 (when DreamWorks’ Shrek became the inaugural winner). In fact, Pixar has won the prize an astonishing seven times, most recently last year when Brave triumphed. In off-years, other studios have had a shot, too, with Warner Bros. winning for Happy Feet and Paramount for Rango. And although several independent lower-budget toons have been nominated recently, the win usually goes to the higher-profile studio offerings. This year, there are lots of indies entered, but expect the battle to continue among the titans, especially studios who are pouring money into campaigns for their box office behemoths. So when it comes to predicting a surefire winner, there just doesn’t seem to be one this year.
A late-breaking entry into the race has been Disney’s musical Frozen, which has wowed critics and has been cleaning up at the box office throughout the holiday season. That, plus a huge push by Disney may be propelling it to the top of the pack. In the vein of Tangled and The Little Mermaid, Frozen comes from the creative team behind last year’s Wreck-It Ralph and carries a long pedigree of the studio’s tuneful toons, which have enjoyed a string of enormous successes over the past two decades. The fact that the songs come from the same group that delivered The Book Of Mormon also gives it a hip factor. Voters might want to reward Disney for returning to its roots, but ratcheting up the material. Disney also has Planes, a modest late-summer performer that is basically another sequel of sorts to the Cars franchise and won’t fly high in this company. But more promisingly on the subject of “planes,” Disney has famed Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, which is the fictionalized biography of the man who created the Zero plane used during World War II.