Disney is the only major studio never to have won a Best Picture Oscar. (*)
But with Toy Story 3, they’re hoping to change that. Not only is it the most successful film of 2010, but it is the best reviewed film of the year (It currently has a “Certified Fresh” tag on Rotten Tomatoes, with 99% positive critic reviews) too. Moreover, it is a legitimate cultural phenomenon. In a way, Toy Story 3 would (should?) be an undisputed frontrunner in the Oscar race. But it’s not, and the reason behind that is simple – It’s an animated film.
I am not saying that an animated film isn’t a “true picture” or something to that effect. On the contrary, I firmly believe that it is ignorant (and plain wrong) to classify animation as a genre (as is done so often). Animation is a tool – a medium – that filmmakers use to convey the story they want to tell, and the end result is just as much as a film as is a traditional live-action film.
However, my belief is not shared by everyone. And this “everyone” includes a large portion of the voting block that decides the Oscars. Which is unfortunate. Simply put, a sizeable percentage of the members of the Academy believe that in an animation film… actors, cinematographers, costume designers etc. are “second-fiddle” to the animators. (**) It doesn’t help matters that quite a few voters also think that the “Best Animated Picture” category provides sufficient notice & reward for animated films, and that rewarding them in the “Best Picture” race too is unnecessary and would be tantamount to overkill. And as long as this philosophy continues, it will be very, very hard (maybe even impossible) for an animated film to win the ultimate prize.
This year has seen two extremely excellent animated films. One is, of course, Toy Story 3 while the other is Dreamworks’ How To Train Your Dragon. The latter is arguably Dreamworks’ finest feature – one that finally brings them to the level of Pixar, in my opinion – and one that they tried to push for a nomination in the Best Picture field. As far as I am concerned, a nomination for Dragon is a bit of a longshot, as Toy Story 3 pretty much stole all of its critical & commercial thunder and we just haven’t received that stage yet where two out of the ten Best Picture nominees could be animated.
Now, Toy Story 3, on the other hand, is absolutely guaranteed to get a nomination. And Disney seems determined to turn that nomination into a win. To that end, they have a launched a massive campaign, advertising Toy Story 3 and its critical love & commercial success. It started with this issue of Variety Magazine -
See that? If that isn’t a knock-on-the-door to remind all concerned parties that Toy Story 3 is more than deserving of a nomination win, then I don’t know what is. Also, “The Most Successful Animated Film in History” is just a classier (if unsubtle) way of saying that this film earned the most money out of any film this year. Disney chairman Dick Cook had this to say to Deadline:
“We’re going for the Best Picture win. We wanted to have the best movie and the reviews have clearly said that and it’s the number one box office hit of the year so I’m not sure why we would not go for it all.”
The above cover photo is just a continuation of that.
The campaign consists of a series of posters Disney has taken out, which draw similarities between iconic moments from former Best Picture winners and similar scenes in Toy Story 3. Some, if not all, of these films also have a certain sub-textual resemblance with the situation being faced by Toy Story 3. For example:
- Shakespeare in Love - The last “comedy” film to win the Best Picture prize, in 1998.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – The last fantasy film to do so, in 2003.
- The Godfather Part II – The first sequel to win the prize, in 1974.
- Slumdog Millionaire – The last film to win Best Picture without any acting nominations, 2008.
Says Dick Cook:
“The theory is pretty simple for us. It’s thrilling that there is a separate category for animation and that allows animated movies to be recognized but for some reason an animated film has never gotten Best Picture and I always wondered was there not an appetite? We decided this year we have the biggest and best reviewed film of the year. If not this year, and not this movie, when?”
Again, right on the mark. If an animated film is not going to win the prize when it is the highest-earning & most highly-praised film of the year, then when? Unfortunately for Dick Cook, Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks and a whole lot of other parties, that time hasn’t arrived yet. But maybe campaigns & movements like this can make that time arrive sooner.
(*) – I am not including Miramax in this discussion of course. Just Disney.
(**) – A kind of similar problem faces performance-capture. Last year, there was a lot of heat for Zoë Saldana to get awards recognition for her work in Avatar. But she didn’t.
Here are all the posters released in the campaign so far. If I have missed any, do let me know in the comments. You can enlarge the images if you wish so.
Which is your favorite poster? Tell me in the comments!
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Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures / Pixar