‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ would break up Disney’s Oscar reign over Best Animated Feature category

Sunday’s Golden Globe winnerSpider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is quickly turning into the most awarded animated film of the year, with critics groups like NYFCC and LAFCA also honoring Sony’s innovative take on one of cinema’s most rebooted characters. It is the best reviewed mainstream animated film of the year, at 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, and has earned over $133 million at the box office in a crowded family-friendly market. All of this suggests it’s out in front to win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, but Spidey is facing down the behemoth that is Disney, which has won this category 10 of the last 11 years.

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Disney has utterly dominated Best Animated Feature since its inception in 2001, winning nine times through Pixar and three times with its in-house animation studio. No other studio has won this category more than once, including: DreamWorks (2001’s “Shrek”), Studio Ghibli (2002’s “Spirited Away”), Aardman (2005’s “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit”) and Nickelodeon (2011’s “Rango”). A nomination for “Spider-Verse” would be Sony’s third nomination in Best Animated Feature, following 2007’s “Surf’s Up” and 2012’s “The Pirates! Band of Misfits.” Disney’s domination can be attributed to a number of factors, such as familiarity and comfortability to a wide swath of the academy, the sheer popularity of their films, and the quality of the films themselves.

So what could it take for the academy to break from just going with the Disney entry this year? “Spider-Verse,” directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman, is greatly helped by the fact that Disney has two films in the race this time around, and both of them are sequels: “Incredibles 2” and “Ralph Breaks the Internet.” Not only could this split the vote, but it is also evident that voters are noticeably hesitant to reward sequels, with “Toy Story 3” being the only one to win Best Animated Feature, and that film was also nominated for Best Picture. While they did receive strong reviews, neither the “Incredibles” nor “Ralph” sequel is being predicted to get into Best Picture. The other notable film that has a possibility of winning Animated Feature this year is “Isle of Dogs,” but Wes Anderson‘s stop-motion film wasn’t a big hit and was more adult in nature, which, when picking a winner, the Academy tends to stay away from even more than sequels.

It won’t be an easy road for “Spider-Verse” to claim victory here, even setting aside the Disney factor. It is also a superhero film, a genre with which the academy has an extremely fraught relationship. But with this being the year that “Black Panther” is predicted to make a big splash with the academy, including that elusive Best Picture nomination, maybe voters will be more open to the genre when the artists behind it have an interesting, fresh perspective. “Spider-Verse” certainly has an innovative take on the superhero, at least in the world of film, having an Afro-Latino teenager as the lead. The animation style is also fresh, mimicking the experience of reading a comic book in all its intricate linework.

Despite some possible biases within the academy, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” has already captured the imaginations of some notable members. Barry Jenkins tweeted, “Certified hype: SPIDER-MAN # is magnificent! In being the best SPIDER-MAN film ever, one of the best films this year period & best tentpole since EDGE OF TOMORROW!” Last year’s Best Director, Guillermo del Toro urged his fellow voters to, “PLEASE make the surprise count in this awards season,” adding: “There is amazing talent involved and it raises the age bar a bit and demonstrates things that are urgent to update in our perception of what the medium is or can do.” Only time will tell if Oscar voters can connect to the film as strongly as so many audiences have.

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