The 2011 Academy Awards Shortlist and Why There Should be Five Nominees

By now you should have seen the shortlist for the contenders for the 3 nomination slots for this year’s Best Animated Film category of the Academy Awards. Just in case you haven’t, here it is:

  • Toy Story 3
  • How to Train Your Dragon
  • Shrek Forever After
  • Despicable Me
  • Alpha and Omega
  • Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore
  • The Dreams of Jinsha
  • Idiots and Angels
  • The Illusionist
  • Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole
  • Megamind
  • My Dog Tulip
  • Summer Wars
  • Tangled
  • Tinker Bell
  • Great Fairy Rescue

Academy Rules state that if there are more than 15 entries on the shortlist, then the number of nominations go up to 5. The logic behind this is that the rather artbitrary number of 15 is used as a yardstick to measure how popular animated films are in this country. In a year like this one, enough were not released to warrant the wider number of nominations.

Perhaps there is some underlying explanation that we are not privy to, but come on man, I could easily pick 5 films, nay, 5 universally acclaimed films from that list and still be left with plenty to spare. Maybe in years gone past the quality of films has meant that only three good films could be chosen. I don’t exactly know, although I would doubt it, seeing as the category has only existed since 2001.

Think of the debate that would be generated! Look at last year! There were 5 nominees and the quality of the nominees was very fine indeed. Included were Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Princess and the Frog, Up and The Secret of Kells, a film that hadn’t even been on general release when that ceremony was held!

With just three films in the race this year, it will most likely come down to Toy Story 3, How to Train Your Dragon and either Despicable Me or a take-your-pick from the indies; the general attitude to which can be summarised in the quote below from the Washington Post’s, Celebritology blog:

All the usual animated suspects made the first round of cuts…..”The Illusionist,” the requisite annual animated entry that’s critically lauded but that no one’s kids will ever see? Total check.

In such a circumstance, I’m relying on HTTYD to upset the Pixar apple cart. It’s just a shame that genuine contenders for the award are dismissed before they even get the chance to line up for the race.

Now imagine if there were 5 nominees. You can add in an extra two films to the mix and with a strong indie presence, you can be assured that they stand a better chance. Both The Illusionist and Idiots and Angels would garner a lot of extra exposure from even a simple nomination and that would only increase interest in the artform (surely something we can all agree on).

Like I said above, more contenders might not lower the odds for Toy Story 3 (at least not at your bookie) but it would reinforce the idea in the general public’s mind that animation is a wonderfully varied medium that exists outside the major Hollywood players. Having said that, I do realise that the Academy Awards are a back-slapping ceremony for Hollywood, so if you’re not in the club, your chances of winning are slim. But seriously, how much extra does it actually cost the Academy to add two more films to the list? Not much, but they could stand to gain a lot more if they did.