We can start with what isn’t here. A good year for Disney’s features is a bad one for its shorts: its one shortlisted film, Us Again, has been snubbed. This marks the first time since 2009 that the studio is omitted from the final five. That shows some restraint from the Mouse-mad Academy.
The Summit of the Gods, a French-led feature released by Netflix, was one of 2021’s best animated features. It is the kind of sober, polished animated film the Academy might have selected as one of its non-Hollywood nominees, but no dice. It has hardly caused a ripple at awards ceremonies.
Affairs of the Art (Canada/U.K.) also stands a chance. It is the only contender to be directed by a previous Oscar nominee, the U.K.’s Joanna Quinn (who was last here for 1996’s Famous Fred). The acclaimed short arrives with buzz, having earned awards at blue-chip festivals like Annecy and Clermont-Ferrand, as well as a BAFTA nomination. It is co-produced by the National Film Board of Canada, which is adept at award campaigns and has won in this category before.
The nominations are out for the 94th Academy Awards. You can see the lists in the animation and vfx categories here. Read on for our analysis of the animation nominees.
It’s rare for an animated feature to get three nominations across any categories, let alone these three. Strikingly, Flee isn’t the only one to have pulled this off in 2022: Encanto also has nominations in best original score and song (for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Dos Oruguitas”).
This is the first year since 2016 in which Walt Disney Animation Studios has two nominees — Encanto and Raya and the Last Dragon — and the first time since 2012 that Disney has three films in contention, Pixar’s Luca being the third. Encanto, a critical darling that won the Golden Globe, is surely the favorite to win.
The other three may have to content themselves with a nomination. Bestia is a macabre reflection on Chile’s recent fascist past, Boxballet a quirky portrait of a romance between a boxer and a ballerina, The Windshield Wiper a fragmentary meditation on the many meanings of love. The last is directed by Alberto Mielgo, who is known in Hollywood (as a director on Love, Death & Robots, among other things) — this will count in his favor.
Us Again aside, there was no major studio film on the shortlist that has been omitted. The Sundance-winning Algerian war documentary Souvenir Souvenir would have been a worthy nominee, as would the Toronto-playing Angakusajaujuq: The Shaman’s Apprentice, a stop-motion film based on Inuit folklore. Both have been well received at festivals. But then this category is always harder to predict than the features.
On the other hand, the holiday special has Netflix’s backing and famous actors in its cast. If Robin Robin wins, it would mark the second — and the second straight — victory for Netflix in this category. The streamer took the statuette last year with If Anything Happens I Love You.
Netflix has yet to win this award, despite having two nominees in both 2020 and 2021. Mitchells is its strongest contender yet, a lauded feature from a studio (Sony) and producers (Chris Miller and Phil Lord) who recently won in the category (for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse). It is the streamer’s bad luck that the film is up against a triumvirate of Disney big-hitters.
But most impressive is Flee, which has pulled off the historic feat of being nominated for this award, best documentary, and best international film (representing Denmark). This remarkable achievement is testament to the film’s quality and timeliness, centered as it is on the plight of an Afghan refugee. It is more likely to win one of the non-animation awards, which are less dominated by Hollywood studios. But there is also a danger the multiple nominations split its vote.
Aardman’s Robin Robin (U.K./U.S.) was always a likely nominee and is now surely the favorite to win. Voters love the British stop-motion studio, having given it four awards in the past, three of them in this category. But all those went to Nick Park productions, decades ago. This film, from studio newcomers Mikey Please and Dan Ojari, looks markedly different.
In all, the nominees make for an unusually eclectic, international bunch — there are no entirely North American productions among them. Three are small-scale indie productions: Bestia (Chile), Boxballet (Russia), and The Windshield Wiper (U.S./Spain).
This category has thrown up precisely zero surprises. Disney’s three big 2021 features are all in, as is Netflix’s The Mitchells vs. the Machines and the much-garlanded European documentary Flee (distributed by Neon and Participant). These films have been nominated and awarded time and again this season, leaving barely any room for others to make their mark.