We’ll be analyzing the incredibly lackluster Best Animated Feature Film field in due time. Pieces are still falling into place and the race for the win looks to be another Pixar vs. in-house Disney showdown. A press release landed today announcing what at first looked to be another potential player, but it turns out Academy rules will actually keep it from qualifying.
The French-Belgian film “Approved for Adoption,” directed by Jung Henin and Laurent Boileau, is already a prize winner, having scooped up the Audience Award and the Unicef Award at the 2012 Annecy International Animation Film Festival. The film traces the unconventional upbringing of Jung, one of thousands of Korean children adopted by Western families after the end of the Korean War. It melds animation and live action (even featuring super 8 home movie footage) to form a bit of a hybrid.
It’s that last bit that will keep it out of contention. I’m told that it is just (literally just) shy of qualifying in the animated feature race because it is 73 percent animation. The AMPAS requirement is 75 percent. And nevertheless, Jung identifies the film as non-fiction first and foremost. You might recall the last time an animated documentary was in the mix for both categories was 2009’s “Waltz with Bashir,” which ultimately failed to qualify as animation due to the use of rotoscoping technology and failed to qualify as a doc because that was back when you had to book your theatrical run by Aug. 31. (Luckily it had three shots on goal: “Bashir” was ultimately a nominee for Best Foreign Language Film.)
They’ve done away with that doc rule now, and so “Approved for Adoption” should be eligible for the documentary feature race, unless the branch decides to disqualify it for whatever reason. You never can tell. The film will be released in New York on Nov. 8 and in Los Angeles on Nov. 22.
It’s too bad it can’t figure in to the animated field, though, given how truly thin it is and how something like this would really invigorate it. GKIDS can never be underestimated in that category. Landing a nomination for “The Secret of Kells” in 2009 and a pair of them for “A Cat in Paris” and “Chico & Rita” in 2011 was no small feat against the tempest of marketing and dollars you find at the big studios. That’s why we’ve had the beloved “Ernest & Celestine,” a touching watercolor adaptation that bowed at Cannes in 2012, firmly in our predictions since the word go. The distributor also has “A Letter to Momo” in the mix this year.
“Approved for Adoption” is, according to the press release, “the story of a boy stranded between two cultures. Sepia-toned animated vignettes – some humorous and some poetic – track Jung from the day he first meets his new blond siblings, through elementary school, and into his teenage years, when his emerging sense of identity begins to create fissures at home and ignite the latent biases of his adoptive parents…The result is a memoir like no other: clear-eyed and unflinching, humorous and wry, and above all, inspiring in the capacity of the human heart.”