The PixarPixar animated film “Soul” debuts on Disney+ instead of in theaters on Christmas Day, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But even though this is an unprecedented awards season, there is precedent for animated films breaking through in top categories at the Oscars. And as of this writing this film is looking good to continue that tradition; our current odds say it will become the fourth animated film to be nominated for Best Picture.
The Oscars are back to nominating exactly 10 films for Best Picture, instead of the sliding scale from 5 to 10 in recent years. And based on the combined predictions of all of Gold Derby’s users, “Soul” ranks ninth with 20/1 odds. Nine of the Expert journalists we’ve surveyed thus far agree that it will break through: Eric Deggans (NPR), Joyce Eng (Gold Derby), Tim Gray (Variety), Matthew Jacobs (Huffington Post), Susan King (Gold Derby), Kevin Polowy (Yahoo), Christopher Rosen (Vanity Fair), Anne Thompson (IndieWire) and Peter Travers (Rolling Stone).
“Soul” already has the reviews to make it a strong awards contender, scoring 88 on MetaCritic and 98% freshness on Rotten Tomatoes thus far. It tells the story of a middle-school band teacher and musician who lands in the Great Before, where new souls get their personalities, and it’s groundbreaking for being Pixar’s first film with a Black character as its lead. And it would continue the tradition of heartfelt animation getting the Oscars’ seal of approval.
The first animated film to earn a Best Picture nom was “Beauty and the Beast” (1991), which was the only toon to break through in that category with only five available nomination slots. It’s also the only traditionally animated film to get in. The next two animated nominees were both Pixar computer-animated productions in years with 10 nominees: “Up” (2009) and “Toy Story 3” (2010).
So it has been a decade since animation has been welcomed by voters in the top category, but in a pandemic year “Soul” stands out even more since so many other ambitious, high-profile films were pushed out of this eligibility period like “Dune,” “West Side Story” and “In the Heights,” to name a few. And though “Soul” won’t have the benefit of traditional box office receipts, where Pixar usually cleans up, it could be a streaming behemoth for families on Christmas. Then a belated Christmas gift could be delivered to it in March when Oscar nominations are announced.
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