Can ‘Big Hero 6’ pull off an upset at the Oscars?

Three of our 24 Oscars Experts predict an upset in the race for Best Animated Feature: Michael Musto (Out), Kevin Polowy (Yahoo) and Mike Cidoni (Associated Press). Could they be right that “Big Hero 6” will pull off a jaw-dropper over “How to Train Your Dragon 2“?

“This has been an awards season full of surprises and I think they’ll keep coming,” Musto says. “As for ‘Big Hero 6,’ there are a few categories where there’s a supposed clear frontrunner, and I like to buck the trend and go with something else. You can’t win the pool if you agree with everyone on everything! Besides, I don’t think it’s a slam dunk that a sequel will win. And ‘Big Hero 6‘ is well regarded and made a lot of money.”

Polowy pipes in, too: “The first ‘How to Train Your Dragon” had the misfortune of going up against ‘Toy Story 3’ in 2011, so I could see the Academy awarding its sequel, even if it’s not quite as charming as the original. But I’m sticking with ‘Big Hero 6,’ which has the Disney/Marvel machine maneuvering behind it, and should score more points for originality; ‘Toy Story 3’ is the first and only sequel to win in this category. ‘Big’ is also one of the first animated superhero movies to click with both critics and audiences, despite the fact that we could’ve all so easily mistaken the movie’s poster for a Michelin ad.”

That giant, Michelin-type, marshmallow robot is one of the reasons the film has a real shot at the Oscar. He’s not only in charge of the orphan boy’s health, but of his aching heart, too – making the young rascal feel loved in a bully world. Remember: movies with the most heart often win Oscars and “Big Hero Six,” arguably, has the biggest heart of all. That’s why it must be regarded as a serious threat in the race for Best Animated Feature.

There have been only 13 winners in that Oscar category since its inception in 2001, but quite a few have dealt with the same theme we find in “Hero” – a child lost and drifting alone in a scary world. Sometimes the protagonist is seen on screen as an emperor penguin (“Happy Feet”) or a rat (“Ratatouille”), but they’re really lonely children, too, just like the girl we see abandoned among monsters in “Spirited Away” when her parents are turned into pigs.

When “Spirited Away” won the Oscar in 2002, some pundits considered it to be a shocking victory over “Ice Age” and “Lilo and Stitch” because they’d mistakenly pooh-poohed “Spirited Away” as “too Japanese.” Could they be making the same goof with “Big Hero 6,” which is set in “San Fransokyo” – a future mash-up of east-west cultures? That means it’s anime lite – it’s cool and accessible to the geezer academy crowd.

“Big Hero 6” is different from rival nominees “Dragon” and “The Boxtrolls” in other ways, too – its plot and characters are more complex and dimensional. The story has many more twists and turns. It may get extra points for all that from voters.

And, oh, yes, it has exhilarating flying scenes, too – just like “Dragon” – but with its hero (or rather “Hiro”) riding on the back of that giant, lovable marshmallow instead of a fire-spitting, lovable lizard.

“Hero” lost the Annie Award to “Dragon,” but it demonstrated strong industry support by winning three key prizes from the Visual Effects Society.

Bottom line: “Hero” poses a serious challenge at the Oscars. You’ve been warned.

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