Animated features are often so much more than kiddie fare. Even the annual Disney-Pixar films, which are largely targeted as “fun for the whole family,” often touch beautifully on sensitive subjects that live action films rarely approach. The best animated movies tell universal stories that you love when you’re little and fully appreciate when you’re older. I still remember taking my younger brother to see Spirited Away, lugging a 6-year-old to what looked like a whimsical tale only to be in awe of the visuals and completely lost in Hayao Miyazaki’s world.
This year’s nominees for the Best Animated Feature Oscar utilize imagery and storytelling techniques we just don’t see in live action movies.
It should come as no surprise to find Inside Out as a 2016 nominee. The film movingly imagines the volatile world inside our minds, portraying sadness as an acceptable and even necessary emotion. (And I still don’t think I’ve recovered from that Bing Bong scene.)
Charlie Kauffman’s second directorial effort, Anomalisa, is also among the nominations. It tells the story of a man trapped in a sea of identical faces and the one face that stands out from the rest. It’s a tragicomedy about the insanity of desire.
When Marnie Was There, another Studio Ghibli picture, is next on the list. A bittersweet fantasy that sweeps over the viewer, Marnie will renew your sense of childlike wonder (and hopefully keep Ghibli going into the future). The abstract Brazilian epic, Boy and the World, brings geometric imagery to life to paint an engaging, delicate world that stuns audiences. And finally, Shaun The Sheep Movie is a hilarious claymation adventure with charmingly realized characters, although it could use some more Wallace and Gromit. (But then again, what movie couldn’t?)
As long as there will be filmmakers willing to push the form, there will be distinctive, stand-out animated movies every year. Who’s going to win this year’s Oscar?