Of all the Oscars awarded each year, this is the one that has been around for the shortest period of time. There was a time when there were very few animated features each year. Now, you cannot turn without bumping into one or ten. Partially inspired by the increasing number of animated films each year and partially by the 1991 nomination of Beauty and the Beast for Best Picture, the Best Animated Feature award was born for the 2001 ceremony. That first year saw three films nominated and Shrek walk away with the prize.
Since that year, we have seen a number of good films come and go through this category, both winners and losers. Most years seem to have gotten it right, although in retrospect there were occasions a different winner should have been chosen. Most notably in 2006 Happy Feet won, the winner should have been Monster House. Happy Feet just has not held up well in subsequent years, while Monster House is endlessly entertaining.
In any case, this is 2010, and we have a crop of five films vying for the prize. Looking at nominees I love the quality represented in them. At the same time the winner is pretty easy to predict. Here's a hint: it is also nominated for Best Picture. That hint represents something special as we did not know if the existence of the Animated Feature prize would preclude a worthy film from also being considered for Best Picture. Granted, this year's decision was likely aided by the expansion in the number of nominated films for Best Picture from five to 10.
Here are this year's nominees in alphabetical order: Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Princess and the Frog, The Secret of Kells, and Up. This is the first year to have five nominees since 2002 when Spirited Away took the award.
Now, let's try to order them in a logical fashion to determine this year's winner, despite everyone already knowing. Of course, this is all conjecture on my part and partially the way I would like it to play out.
The Secret of Kells:
The reason I have this coming last is the fact that it was an unlikely nominee. Frankly, I had never even heard of it until it got the nomination. Perhaps this is my fault, but I have to believe it is the dark horse nominee that does not really stand a chance. The trailer looks gorgeous, and I can understand the nomination based on that. It is also clearly not a Hollywood production; there is no way a big studio would shepherd a project that looks like this. I mean, it is much too different; how would they market it to a mass audience? Oh well, someday perhaps. In any case I am very interested in seeing it. It is the new film from those behind The Triplets of Belleville, which was also a stunning work and an Oscar nominee in 2003 (losing to Finding Nemo).