The Oscars in general are struggling with relevance in an age of streaming and a population that has better things to do yet the animation community, year after year, finds plenty to alternately celebrate and complain about the animated awards. Why even bother getting worked up over something that is no longer relevant?
There was a time when the animated Oscars could be considered relevant but those days are over. In case you missed it, this year’s ceremony dispensed with the Best Animated Short category from the live broadcast (relegating it to a prerecorded segment), and the Best Animated Feature went to Disney’s Encanto; the studio’s ninth win in ten years, and 13th win in 15 years (including Pixar films).
Which, if you’re the director of a Disney animated film, almost has to feel like a participation trophy, right? You received it because of what you did not how well you did it. The award may be worth something personally, but to everyone else, it’s like the New England Patriots winning another Superbowl; exciting for them, boring (and skippable) for the rest of us, and a concern for the NFL that needs high viewership. Disney is going to release a film every year, so what’s the point? That’s strike one.
It’s not a perfect system, but at least the Annie’s acknowledge that award ceremonies are capable of becoming dominated by the films intertwined with the voting membership. Hence their ‘Best Indie Feature’ category. The Oscars skates long and hard on its reputation as the pinnacle award in movie-making yet repeatedly baulks at recognising the downright refusal of its membership to consider animation as an equal to live-action. Why even bother participating in something that shows no sign of treating you any better? That’s strike two.
Do you know anyone who watches an animated film because it won an Oscar? Of course not, everyone watches them when they are released and instantly move on to the next new film. Let’s be honest here, the Oscars are as much a promotional/marketing machine as they are a recognition of the best. There is, however, no longer an ‘Oscar bump’ to boost winning films and in any case, films on streaming networks don’t obtain the same financial benefit. Recognising the best film from the previous year is also a laughable exercise in 2022. We’ve moved on to this year’s films which are so often in practice, simply better. Everything from 2021 is so far in the rearview mirror, we can’t even see it. So you watch a film and nine months later it wins an award? Do you care? Do you feel validated that you spent the time wisely? I wouldn’t and I suspect I’m not alone in that regard. That’s strike three.
Studios may continue to see value in gunning for an Academy Award but perhaps its time the industry as a whole just moves on. Consumers certainly have.