Because I grew up in what is considered to be the Disney Renaissance, I was exposed to a host of fantastic animated films at a young age. My childhood was characterized by fluid visuals, sweeping musical numbers, and a fervent love for all things hand-drawn. Having the childhood that I did, I was surprised to discover that not everyone valued animated films as much as I did. There were people who devalued this entire genre of films by broadly classifying them as “kiddie films.” I, however, would argue that well-done animated films can achieve soaring emotional heights and approach cinematic greatness with the best of live-action films.
Over the last few decades, animated movies have begun to gain some attention from the world of film criticism. A major development in the world of animated features occurred when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated Disney’s Beauty and the Beast for Best Picture in 1991. This was a major event, as Beauty and the Beast was the first animated film to ever receive a nomination for this most prestigious of Academy Awards. Unsurprisingly, the film did not win the award, but it was a step in the right direction. Animated films (particularly Disney films) during this period were growing in popularity and quality, and the cinematic world was taking note.
In 2001, a new category was added to the Academy Awards: the award for Best Animated Feature. The winner of the brand-new award was Dreamworks’ Shrek, a snarky-but-sweet take on the fractured fairy tale genre. The creation of the category was an important step for animators and fans of animation everywhere: it lent legitimacy to the craft and served as a nod in the genre’s direction.
In 2009, Up was nominated for Best Picture as well as Best Animated Feature. The expansion of the Best Picture category from five films to ten films spurred this event (Up was the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture since Beauty and the Beast). It is encouraging to see such portraits of human emotion recognized (or at least, obliquely acknowledged) for what they are.