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Animation Award Categories Continue To Make No Sense

Animation is still dealt a bad hand. Adult animation is frequently viewed as existing only in the realm of comedy, while excellent shows like Blue Eye Samurai and Scavengers Reign fail to attract worthwhile audiences despite telling original stories with compelling characters. Aside from that, prime examples of the medium in both film and television are ignored because animation is, for some reason, still viewed as being primarily infantile. Like it deserves to wait in the shadow of live action without any hope of standing alongside it.



This ignorance extends to accolades too, with award ceremonies like the Oscars, Emmys, and Golden Globes picking from a continually slim selection of nominees when goodness knows how many other spectacular films, shows, and shorts are left out to dry with no recognition. It has become a running joke that the Academy will nominate and vote for a Pixar film because it is the easy option when masterful pictures like Kubo and the Two Strings or Mirai miss out. It points to a decades-long habit of predictable laziness, and when you take a step back to look at how the awards body has talked about animation in the past, it’s easy to see why such behaviour has persisted.

Since the ‘Best Animated Feature’ Oscar was introduced in 2001, only seven films have won the award that weren’t produced by Disney and/or Pixar.

Hollywood Reporter spoke to members of the Academy’s producer branch in 2021, promptly giving a brutally honest response detailing that they didn’t even watch some of the animation nominees on the ballot that year. A decision was made on the winner before everything was considered, something I can’t imagine would take place in other, more prestigious awards:

“I didn’t see Over the Moon. I skipped [A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon]. Even though I thought Wolfwalkers was seriously great, I went with Soul. What great values worth voting for! It’s beautifully done. It deserved it on many levels.”


If those 9,500 members responsible for voting in the Oscars don’t care about who wins Best Animated Feature, why on earth should we? I’m not saying films like Coco, Soul, or Up didn’t deserve to win, but quotes like this only serve to suggest that the members asked to decide either weren’t invested, or didn’t bother doing their job properly. Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away deservedly picked up the gong in 2002, but there has been a distinct lack of films from other Japanese directors like Makoto Shinkai, Mamoru Hosoda, or Masaaki Yuasa. Only in recent years has international animation also been given a chance to shine, like those compiling all the nominees were finally bothered to glimpse outside the Hollywood machine.

We’ve seen plenty of variety this year however, with Suzume, Nimona, Boy and the Heron, Across The Spider-Verse, and TMNT: Mutant Mayhem being just a few of the gems worthy of highlighting in Best Animated Feature, not to mention other major ceremonies set to kick off in the coming months. It feels like Spider-Verse helped break a monotonous curse on the category, but the only ones capable of keeping it at bay are the Academy themselves. All we can do is ensure films are achieving their rightful success and being talked about not in hushed tones and with relative indifference, but obvious excitement that proves animation isn’t a toy for children and nothing more.

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off Sex Bob-omb

The nominations that sent me down this familiar rabbit hole in the first place came from the Critics Choice Awards, where the following shows were named for Best Animated Series:

  • Bluey
  • Bob’s Burgers
  • Harley Quinn
  • Scott Pilgrim Takes Off
  • Star Trek Lower Decks
  • Young Love

All of these shows are great in their own right and deserving of awards, but they’re also very different and appeal to entirely separate audiences. Bluey might be watched by thousands of depressed millennials and preschoolers, but it is primarily aiming for the latter. Scott Pilgrim or Harley Quinn are developed for teenage or adult audiences, and the same can be said for Bob’s Burgers and Lower Decks. While Young Love stands alone, telling compelling stories about a Black family that touches on realistic life situations far more than other nominees.

It is weird to see them all clumped together with no rhyme or reason, with no explanation or attempt made to split animated shows in different genres and specialties when there’s more than enough of them to go around. We have just preemptively decided they aren’t worthy of this respect. We see similar derision in the Oscar’s treatment of foreign films or consistent refusal to let animated films slip into Best Picture when there have been multiple moments in history where such a move was more than justified. But it’d rather not muddy waters.

Harley Quinn Show Key Art

Animation is a medium, and one capable of telling stories and exploring characters for all ages and demographics. Yet there remains a stigma in the mainstream that it is primarily made for children, and venturing outside of that or handing accolades to the more diverse work across the industry is seen as a risk, or somehow not up to snuff compared to movies and shows brought to life in live action. Lumping everything together in award categories or voting for the usual suspects each and every year only serves to reinforce that stereotype when it feels like we’re drawing so close to a revelation. I sure hope it’s coming, because I’m getting so tired of having the exact same conversation while making almost no progress.

Next: Mamoru Hosoda On Belle, Grief, Female Heroes, And Finding Hope In The Online World

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