The 94th Academy Awards had multiple issues. Will Smith slapped a host, and actors were left out of the In Memoriam tribute. But one of the most shocking aspects of the night was how the category for Best Animated Feature Film was described as simply movies to distract kids. In their article for Variety, famed animated filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller, called out the Academy for its disrespect of the massive and impressive cinematic genre.
During the 2022 Oscars, Lily James, Naomi Scott, and Halle Bailey presented the award for Best Animated Feature Film. While introducing the category, the trio read off a speech card, saying, “Animated films make up some of our most formative movie experiences as kids. So many kids watch these movies over and over… and over and over and over and over… I think some parents out there know exactly what we’re talking about.”
Considering Flee – a heart-breaking story about a gay immigrant – was one of the nominees, you can see how the kid-oriented generalising of animation wasn’t appreciated by fans and filmmakers alike. Especially Lord and Miller, who produced another one of the nominees in that category, The Mitchells vs the Machines.
In their article, the two detail how animation is an art form that demands an immense amount of work and is also a genre that every year helps the industry thrive by bringing in huge figures at the box office. In short, the movies and the creatives behind them are a cornerstone for film, and deserve to be respected as such.
“If in 2022 we marked the 28th anniversary of Pulp Fiction, in 2023 we can celebrate the 31st anniversary of the historic best picture nomination for Beauty and the Beast,” they wrote, explaining the Academy’s strained relationship with animation.
“That nomination caused such a stir that some worried an animated movie might win Best Picture every year, a sentiment that, in part, led to the creation of the Best Animated Feature award,” they continue. “Both to acknowledge the contributions of animation to the current cinema, and, for some, to keep animated films from winning the ‘real’ prize.”
The pair also pointed out how these ‘kids movies‘ are typically packed with complex storylines that touch the human soul – so much so, in fact, that acclaimed filmmaker Bong Joon Ho cited Flee and The Mitchells vs the Machines among his top ten favourite movies of 2022. If all of us can see animation’s worth, isn’t it high time the Academy do as well?