2018 Oscar Predictions: Best Animated Feature (Updated January 14, 2018)

This marks the first year that the entire membership of the academy can take part in the nomination stage of the Animated Feature Oscar race. Previously, only select members of the Short Films and Feature Animation Branch and invited members from the other branches could serve on the committee that decided the nominees. Collectively, they tended to favor traditional and stop-motion films over CG fare. (Scroll down for the most up-to-date predictions for this year’s Best Animated Feature race.)

Mandatory attendance at screenings has been dropped and voters who want to be on the nominations committee need only attest to having seen all the contenders at theaters or screenings or by way of the the academy’s streaming site or mailers.

And the method of determining the nominees has been changed. Gone is the system where voters scored a film from 6 (poor) to 10 (excellent) with only those movies meriting an average mark of at least 7.5 eligible for a nomination. That method has been replaced by the same preferential ballot used to determine the contenders in acting, directing, writing and the craft categories (except makeup/hairstyling and visual effects) for decades. This system requires members to rank their top five choices and a multi-step system of counting winnows the various contenders down to the final nominees.

The academy is keeping the requirement that at least 16 films be submitted for consideration before there are five nominees. There must still be at least eight entries for this award to be given, with up to 12 meaning there will be three nominees and between 13 and 15 resulting in four. Last year, there were 27 entries and five nominees.

Please note: Only those films with confirmed release dates are listed below. Check back often as new contenders are scheduled while other are dropped due to delays or critical reaction.

UPDATED: January 14, 2018

Leading Contenders
“Birdboy: The Forgotten Children” (GKIDS)
“The Breadwinner” (GKIDS)
“Coco” (Pixar)
“Despicable Me 3” (Universal Pictures)
“Ferdinand” (Blue Sky/20th Century Fox)
“The Girl Without Hands” (GKIDS)
“The LEGO Batman Movie” (Warner Bros.)

Strong Contenders
“Animal Crackers” (Entertainment One)
“Blazing Samural” (Open Road)
“The Boss Baby” (Dreamworks Animation)
“Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” (Dreamworks Animation)
“Cars 3” (Pixar)
“Leap!” (The Weinstein Company)
“Mary and the Witch’s Flower,” (GKIDS)
“The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature” (Open Road)

Possible Contenders
“The Ark and the Aardvark” (Unified Pictures)
“In This Corner of the World” (Shout!/Funimation Films)
“The LEGO Ninjago” (Warner Bros.)
“My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea” (GKIDS)
“My Little Pony: The Movie” (Lionsgate)
“Rock Dog” (Summit Premiere)
“Smurfs: The Lost Village” (Sony Pictures)
“Spark” (Open Road Films)
“The Star” (Sony Pictures)

UPDATED: January 14, 2018

With upwards of 16 films submitted for consideration, we will have five nominees again this year. Leading the pack is Pixar, which has won this race a record eight times from 10 nominations. This year, it contends with two films: “Cars 3” and “Coco.” The former was a summer hit but stalled with the critics. While the original “Cars” reaped an Oscar bid in 2006, the 2011 sequel was snubbed.

“Coco” tells the story of Miguel, a young boy forbidden to play music who turns to the late Mexican guitarist Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt) for inspiration. Touching Ernesto’s guitar takes him to the Land of the Dead where he meets Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal), a charmer who just happens to be a skeleton. The film is directed by Lee Unkrich, who helmed the 2010 Oscar-winning “Toy Story 3.”

GKIDS has racked up nine nominations in less than a decade but is still looking for its first win. It has a slew of imports this year and could well earn two slots as it has done three times already: “A Cat in Paris” and “Chico & Rita” in 2012; “The Tale of The Princess Kaguya” and “Song of the Sea” in 2015; and “Boy and the World” and “When Marnie Was There” in 2016. It has also contended for: “The Secret of Kells” in 2010,  in 2012, “Ernest & Celestine” in 2014, “The Tale of The Princess Kaguya” and “Song of the Sea” in 2015, “Boy and the World” and “When Marnie Was There” in 2016 and “My Life as a Zucchini” in 2017.

Leading the GKIDS slate this year is “The Breadwinner,” by “The Secret of Kells” co-director Nora Twomey. Her new film is a provocative tale of an Afghan girl who masquerades as a boy to feed her family. GKIDS also has the Spanish language “Birdboy: The Forgotten Children,” from first-time filmmaking brothers Vazquez and Pedro Rivero. The pair won the Goya for this full-length version of their 2011 short adapted from Vaquez’s graphic novel about a teenage bird.

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were snubbed three years ago for the critically acclaimed blockbuster “The LEGO Movie.” That film spawned a franchise for Warner Bros. Animation with two sequels being released this year. Lord and Miller are credited as producers on both last winter’s hit “The LEGO Batman Movie” and the fall release “The LEGO Ninjago Movie.”

Blue Sky scored a bid 15 years ago for “Ice Age” and could be back in contention with “Ferdinand,” based on the 1936 children’s classic “The Story of Ferdinand” by Munro Leaf.  Conversely, Dreamworks, which has won two of its 11 bids, is in the hunt with the film version of a modern day book franchise, Dav Pilkey‘s “Captain Underpants.” And the studio also has “The Boss Baby,” a surprise sensation that featured Alec Baldwin as the voice of a tough-talking toddler.

Universal had a huge hit this summer with “Despicable Me 3.” While critics were indifferent, audiences flocked to see the minions in action. While the 2010 original was snubbed, the 2013 sequel did contend but fell to “Frozen.”

We are predicting all 24 of the competitive categories at the Oscars.

e | Best Director | Best Original Screenplay | Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Actor | Best Actress | Best Supporting Actor | Best Supporting Actress
Best Cinematography | Best Costume Design | Best Film Editing | Best Production Design
Best Makeup & Hairstyling | Best Sound Editing | Best Sound Mixing | Best Visual Effects
Best Original Score | Best Original Song
Best Animated Feature | Best Documentary Feature | Best Foreign Language Film
Best Animated Short | Best Documentary Short | Best Live-Action Short

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