The Oscars devalue animation

Every year since 2002, the Academy Awards have recognized animation in a separate category, beginning with “Shrek” in 2002, all the way to this year’s ceremony where Guillermo Del Toro’s “Pinocchio” took home the little gold statuette. In his acceptance speech, Del Toro said something the academy seems to disagree with; “Animation is cinema. Animation is not a genre.”

When a film is decided to be potentially one of the best of its year, it is inherently exceptional in one or more of the categories the academy recognizes, often having an excellent screenplay, the best directing, amazing acting and great cinematography. However, animated films rarely, if ever, get nominated for anything other than “Best Original Song” and “Best Animated Feature.”

Hayao Miyazaki is widely regarded as one of the greatest filmmakers alive and has never received a nomination for “Best Director.”The academy looks down on animation and has effectively removed all animated features from the “Best Picture” conversation by sticking it in its own category. The academy is so blind to the pure passion and limitless potential of animation that in 2004 they nominated “Shark Tale.”

In the 95 years the Oscars have been venerating films, a few moments stand out in regard to animation. During the 1939 Oscars ceremony, Walt Disney was presented with a special award for “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” in 1992 “Beauty and the Beast” was nominated for best picture, then “Up” in 2009 and “Toy Story 3” in 2010. Now, a few (mostly Disney) movies won “Best Original Song” in the 90s up to today,- but the fact remains that in nearly one hundred years of awards ceremonies not a single animated film has ever received “Best Picture.” This is partially due to the creation of the “Best Animated Feature” category introduced in 2002 with “Shrek” as the first winner.

In a world where bland movies reign supreme and streaming services rush to churn out repetitive takes on the same four or five intellectual properties, the inherent inventiveness of stop motion or the meticulous care visible in hand drawn images has the power to remind audiences that cinema should say something about life. Animation is not a genre. It is a medium, powerful and limitless. It is cinema.