Oscar for Best Animated Feature: Which tea leaves should you read to predict the winner?

While the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature has often been one of the easiest to predict, there have been a few years since the category’s introduction in 2001 that have sent pundits scrambling. So while the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Directors Guild Awards have been very accurate at predicting the outcomes of their corresponding Oscar races, which precursor has lined up most often with the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature?

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I have collected data from the Best Animated Feature categories for the following major precursors: the Annie Awards (awarded Best Animated Feature since 1992), the Critics’ Choice Awards (awarded since 1998), the National Board of Review (awarded since 2000), the Producers Guild Awards (awarded since 2005), BAFTA Awards (awarded since 2006) and the Golden Globe Awards (awarded since 2006).

In 2001, all of the precursors at the time agreed with the Academy Awards’ choice for “Shrek.” For the next three years the same awards all came to the same consensus, unanimously awarding “Spirited Away” (2002), “Finding Nemo” (2003) and “The Incredibles” (2004). Other films that swept the precursors before claiming its final prize at the Oscar were “Ratatouille” (2007), “Up” (2009), and “Inside Out” (2015).

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In 2005 eventual Oscar champ “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” won all major awards except NBR, which opted for “Corpse Bride” instead.

In 2006 BAFTA was the only major precursor to correctly project an Oscar win for “Happy Feet” instead of “Cars,” which all other precursors had sided with.

In 2008 the Oscars and all precursors went with “WALL-E” save for the Annie Awards, which went with “Kung Fu Panda” instead.

The year 2010 saw a similar result with the Oscars and all but one precursor awarding “Toy Story 3,” leaving the Annies as the only award to side with “How to Train Your Dragon.”

In 2011 most precursors foresaw the Oscar victory for “Rango” save for PGA and the Golden Globes, both of which went with “The Adventures of Tintin,” which did not appear on the Oscar ballot at all.

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In 2012 only BAFTA and the Golden Globes sided with the Oscars’ choice of “Brave.” The other four precursors went with “Wreck-It Ralph” instead.

In 2013 “Frozen” dominated the Animated Feature awards that season save for the NBR, which went with Hayao Miyazaki‘s “The Wind Rises.”

None of the major precursors foresaw the victory of “Big Hero 6” in 2014. The Annies, Golden Globes and NBR sided with “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” while Critics’ Choice, PGA and BAFTA awarded “The Lego Movie,” which was unexpectedly snubbed by the Oscars. BAFTA did at least nominate “Big Hero 6,” however, omitting “Dragon 2” from their list.

So who can we best rely upon? Here is a breakdown of the accuracy of each precursor:

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Producers Guild Awards

Accuracy: 63.6% (7/11)

Did not line up with the Oscars:
2006 – “Cars” (Oscars: “Happy Feet”)
2011 – “The Adventures of Tintin” (Oscars: “Rango”)
2012 – “Wreck-It Ralph” (Oscars: “Brave”)
2014 – “The Lego Movie” (Oscars: “Big Hero 6”)

Even though they have been correct the majority of times, the PGA Awards still have the lowest accuracy.

2016 PGA winner: “Zootopia

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Annie Awards

Accuracy: 66.7% (10/15)

Did not line up with the Oscars:
2006 – “Cars” (Oscars: “Happy Feet”)
2008 – “Kung Fu Panda” (Oscars: “WALL-E”)
2010 – “How to Train Your Dragon” (Oscars: “Toy Story 3”)
2012 – “Wreck-It Ralph” (Oscars: “Brave”)
2014 – “How to Train Your Dragon 2” (Oscars: “Big Hero 6”)

While the International Animated Film Association (ASIFA-Hollywood) seems like it would be the most accurate, the Annie Award has been wrong one-third of the time. Part of this could be attributed to the free membership to ASIFA-Hollywood that DreamWorks gives to all of its employees, which might account for Annie victories for “Kung Fu Panda” (over “WALL-E”) and “How to Train Your Dragon” (over “Toy Story 3”). Annie also awarded DreamWorks’ “How to Train Your Dragon 2” in 2014 over eventual Oscar winner “Big Hero 6.”

2016 Annie Award winner: “Zootopia”

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National Board of Review

Accuracy: 10/15 (66.7%)

Did not line up with the Oscars:
2005 – “Corpse Bride” (Oscars: “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit”)
2006 – “Cars” (Oscars: “Happy Feet”)
2012 – “Wreck-It Ralph” (Oscars: “Brave”)
2013 – “The Wind Rises” (Oscars: “Frozen”)
2014 – “How to Train Your Dragon 2” (Oscars: “Big Hero 6”)

While most of the time the NBR goes along with the consensus, when it does buck the trend (“Corpse Bride,” “The Wind Rises”), it has been wrong. Since they are an outlier again this year, that could bode well for frontrunner “Zootopia.”

2016 NBR winner: “Kubo and the Two Strings

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Golden Globe Awards

Accuracy: 70% (7/10)

Did not line up with the Oscars:
2006 – “Cars” (Oscars: “Happy Feet”)
2011 – “The Adventures of Tintin” (Oscars: “Rango”)
2014 – “How to Train Your Dragon 2” (Oscars: “Big Hero 6”)

The Globes are in the top half of predictors for Animated Feature and do get bragging rights for being one of the few to award “Brave” instead of “Wreck-It Ralph.” They can, however, be very misleading, leading many to believe that “Cars” and “How to Train Your Dragon 2” would be taking home Oscars.

2016 Golden Globe winner: “Zootopia”

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Critics’ Choice Awards

Accuracy: 80% (12/15)

Did not line up with the Oscars:
2006 – “Cars” (Oscars: “Happy Feet”)
2012 – “Wreck-It Ralph” (Oscars: “Brave”)
2014 – “The Lego Movie” (Oscars: “Big Hero 6”)

While Critics’ Choice does have a better batting average than most of the guilds, it is largely because it has sided with the majority each time, failing to predict the surprise wins of “Happy Feet,” “Brave” or “Big Hero 6.”

2016 Critics Choice winner: “Zootopia”

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BAFTA Awards

Accuracy: 90% (9/10)

Did not line up with the Oscars:
2014 – “The Lego Movie” (Oscars: “Big Hero 6”)

With a whopping 90% accuracy, BAFTA has lined up all but one time with the Oscars. It was the only precursor to correctly presage the surprise victory of “Happy Feet” over “Cars,” and was only one of two to foretell “Brave’s” victory over “Wreck-It Ralph.” The only year BAFTA got it wrong was in 2014, when its winner “The Lego Movie” was left off the Oscar ballot. It did, however, choose to nominate the eventual Oscar winner “Big Hero 6,” while omitting “How to Train Your Dragon 2” from its ballot, which had won the remainder of the precursors that “The Lego Movie” did not. If it had been more widely known at the time that BAFTA was the most accurate predictor of Best Animated Feature, I’m sure more people would have predicted “Big Hero 6” over “How to Train Your Dragon 2.”

This year, BAFTA awarded “Kubo and the Two Strings,” which could result in a major upset over frontrunner “Zootopia” when the Oscars are handed out. If “Kubo” is victorious, BAFTA should be the standard by which we predict all future winners of Best Animated Feature. But even if BAFTA is wrong this year, its percentage will still remain high enough for it to remain the most accurate precursor for the category.

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