The Oscar race is heating up. The potential nominees in the animated feature film category have been narrowed down to 19 entries. Here they are in alphabetical order. Which ones would you nominate for an Oscar and which one would win it?
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Sony's foodie-flick sequel got clever with food-imals (food/animal hybrids) on its way to banking $177 million worldwide to date. The first film managed to grab a Golden Globe nomination, but was shut out of the Oscar race. Will lab monkey Steve get to press the "celebrate" button this year?
Dreamworks Animation's breakout spring hit spent five weeks in the top three of the box office. Featuring the voice work of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds, the family film made $587 million worldwide during its 26-week run.
Despicable Me 2
Universal's highly anticipated sequel is approaching $1 billion worldwide as a Minions spin-off movie is currently in development. Add in the seemingly endless merchandising opportunities and we likely haven't seen the last of this Despicable crew.
Though Fox's Honey, I Shrunk the Kids meets Ferngully feature got off to a slow start, it managed to scrape even at the worldwide box office. Chances are we won't be seeing a sequel, despite generally positive reviews and director Chris Wedge's pedigree of animated features (Ice Age, Robots).
Ernest and Celestine
This French film centers on the unlikely friendship between a bear named Ernest and a young mouse named Celestine. The film will get a limited run beginning December 6 and you can watch the trailer here, courtesy of Studio Canal U.K.
This South Korean entry saw a limited run back in mid-September and is the latest work from rising filmmaking talent Sang-ho Yeon. When the film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, it was described as a blistering critique of organized religion. Watch the somber trailer here.
The Thanksgiving-themed film got off to a decent start, but with a limited reach (theme-wise), the chances of Relativity's movie breaking even seem slimmer than sliced turkey. Still, the budget ($55 million) is within reach and domestic audiences might seek the film out as we approach Turkey Day.
Disney Animation's 53rd animated feature seems like a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination with its pedigree, familiar storytelling and, in this case, sweeping musical numbers. The film arrives in theaters on November 27.
Liam Neeson, Steve Buscemi and Jake T. Austin headline this feature film from Millenium Entertainment. The film centers on a half-striped zebra who is rejected by his superstitious herd and sets off on a quest to "earn his stripes." If you can stomach that pun, watch the trailer here.
The Legend of Sarila
This Canadian film tells the story of three young Inuits who set off on a search for food to save their clan from starvation. Currently, there's no domestic release planned, though if the film earns a nomination, it could get a limited run. Meanwhile, you can watch the trailer here and yes, the lemming is freaking cute!
A Letter to Momo
With Hayao Miyazaki retiring, someone is going to have to take up the mantle of annual Japanese Oscar nominee. Perhaps it's veteran animator Hiroyuki Okiura who directed the classic Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade and has been a contributing force on other anime classics like Ghost in the Shell, Paprika and Blood: The Last Vampire. Here, a young girl clings to an unfinished letter from her deceased father and moves from bustling Tokyo to the countryside when weird things begin to occur. Watch the trailer here.
Pixar has claimed seven of the 12 Oscars in this category since the calendar flipped its digits to 2000. There's a lot of tough competition this year and Monsters is by no means the favorite to win. It should be among the list of nominees, but will this latest story centered on best bud Mike and Sully take home an Oscar?
This dark, Spanish stop-motion feature centers on a convict who has escaped from jail and sets off to a remote village to recover an old stash that was hidden years ago. Instead, he finds sinister old people, spirits and a strange priest. The film has been making film festival appearances and, if nominated, could get a limited run stateside.
It's quite a testament to the Disney brand that a film that was once tagged for direct to video is now being considered for an Oscar nomination. Not only that, but the trailer for a sequel was recently released and will fly into theaters July 18, 2014. Meanwhile, this first tale centered on crop-dusting plane Dusty Crophopper soared at the box office to the tune of $213 million worldwide.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie – Rebellion
The third and final movie in the Madoka Magica movie trilogy centers on the character Homura Akemi, a young woman who cannot let her memories of Madoka Kaname die. Kaname was a normal girl living a happy life who ended up sacrificing herself to save other magical girls from a cruel fate that awaited them. The likelihood that this film gets nominated isn't high, especially since it would require Academy voters to have to watch the two previous films to get a full grasp of the story. The third film functions as its own original story. Watch the trailer here.
Rio: 2096 A Story of Love and Fury
Brazil gets into the animation mix this year with this historical drama set in the 16th Century. The film revolves around the love between an immortal hero and a woman he has been in love with for 600 years. Check out the trailer here.
The Smurfs 2
You may be wondering how this critically derided entry from Sony even made the cut. Despite a lackluster domestic box office, The Smurfs 2 was huge in foreign markets, almost quadrupling the domestic take. Plus, someone animated all those little blue guys and Smurfette.
Speaking of critically derided films that managed to capitalize on the foreign movie market, this Ryan Reynolds feature about a high-speed snail who dreams of being a racing champ made the cut. This is also the second film featuring Reynolds as a voice talent to be up for a potential nomination.
The Wind Rises
The sentimental favorite has to be this film, Hayao Miyazaki's final feature film. The legendary director behind such Studio Ghibli hits like My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle announced his retirement earlier this year, bringing to close a career of beautiful and beloved feature films.
Who do you think will be nominated? Who would you like to see nominated and who will win the best animated feature film Oscar?
I'll take Frozen, Monsters University, The Croods and Ernest and Celestine with The Wind Rises for the win.
The Oscar nominations will be announced on January 16, 2014 with the actual awards show taking place on March 2 in Hollywood, California.
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