Oscars mystery solved: How ‘Big Hero 6’ beat ‘Dragon 2’ for Best Animated Feature

That Best Animated Feature win by “Big Hero 6” over “How to Train Your Dragon 2” was the single biggest upset of Oscar night per Gold Derby’s racetrack odds but it should not have been. The snub by the academy of “The Lego Movie,” which still went on to win the Producers Guild and Critics’ Choice Movie Awards for Best Animated Feature, certainly threw a wrench into things. However, the subsequent congregation around “How to Train Your Dragon 2” was statistically unsound.

The vast majority of experts, editors and users predicted “How to Train Your Dragon 2” on the basis of two precursors with spotty track records while ignoring a different pair with staggering accuracy. I knew — as did three Expertsone Editor, three of the Top 24 Users and 20% of all Users — to focus on the BAFTAs and American Cinema Editors nominees, not the winners of the Annie and Golden Globe Awards.

“How to Train Your Dragon 2” held frontrunner status because it swept the Annies and won the Golden Globes. The terrible track record of the Annie Awards was well demonstrated in 2010 when “How to Train Your Dragon” won 10 while “Toy Story 3” was shut out. Not only did “Toy Story 3” go on to win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, but it was the rare animated film also to be nominated for Best Picture and for its screenplay. And the Golden Globes are decided by fewer than 90 people, none of whom also vote for the Oscars.

However, the academy membership does overlap with those of BAFTA and the industry guilds. BAFTA introduced an animated category in 2006. Like the Oscars, they awarded “Happy Feet” that year (the Annies and Globes went for “Cars”) and have shared winners every year until this one, when BAFTA feted the Oscar-snubbed “The Lego Movie.”

But BAFTA did nominate “Big Hero 6” and maintains a perfect record of nominating the Oscar winner. Despite having nominated the first “How to Train Your Dragon,” the British academy snubbed the sequel in favor of “The Boxtrolls.” That nomination came despite weaker reviews (61 versus 76 on Metacritic) and box office ($14 million versus $42 million in the UK and $108 million versus $619 million worldwide).

No guild has a better track record of predicting the Oscar animated winner than the American Cinema Editors, unsurprising given the historical correlation between the academy’s editing branch and Best Picture. After nominating “Ratatouille” (2007) and awarding “WALL·E” (2008) in the comedy/musical category, ACE introduced an animated category and it has always included the Oscar winner among its nominees. Like at BAFTA, “The Lego Movie” prevailed this year, while “Big Hero 6” and “The Boxtrolls” rounded out the nominees. 

See all my Oscar predictions here: I missed just Original Screenplay and Film Editing going with the frontrunners “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Boyhood” over the winners “Birdman” and “Whiplash” respectively.) 

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