Follow the link to read the first part of our article Academy Award Nominations 2011: Best Animated Feature Oscar Nominees Criticism, Part I.
In recent years the category for Best Animated Feature has been dominated by Pixar productions. Which is perfectly understandable. Pixar have been at the forefront in the field of 3D animation, both technically and storytelling-wise. And their rivals were constantly lagging behind. Pixar's superiority was just a fact of life. The norm. One of those things that's silly to question. And Toy Story 3 is no exception here. The mature themes and their handling were even acknowledged with an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. Second in a row for Pixar after Up. And also pretty much cementing Toy Story 3's win in the Best Animated Feature category, but this is another story.
How to Train Your Dragon is undoubtedly the best Dreamworks animation so far. Undoubtedly, it's also a worthy Oscar nominee. As all other Dreamworks productions it is a little bit uneven technically, mostly in the way it handles its realistic environments versus the stylized characters. But one can't help but notice the positive influence of visual consultant Roger Deakins in the way the movie is "shot": the fluid but restrained camera and the live-action-like lighting. In view of the forementioned Pixar excellence this little twist is commendable as an effort for differentiation. The end result is beautiful to behold, with night scenes and interiors being especially gorgeous.
What is the problem then, one might ask?
See, it is pretty obvious: that's the glaring absence of Tangled amongst the Oscar nominees. Tangled might be the most refreshing thing to happen to 3D animation since its advent. With the way it mimics the movements of the classic Disney animated figures. And with the way it boldly shuns away photorealistic rendering (which is Pixar's domain, anyway) in favor of hand-drawn simulation and then enhancing that with established modern techniques like global illumination (overemphasized for a richer look) and subsurface scattering. Tangled is really the missing link between photo-realistic 3D done the Pixar way and Disney from the old days. Surely, it deserves to be amongst 2011 Academy Award nominations for Best Animated Feature. Well, one could probably do with less singing, but, hey, it's Disney...
Now all this should be quite obvious to the Nomination Committee, or at least to a part of it. While Pixar and Dreamworks go evolutionary, Disney have gone radical. One possible reason for the omission of Tangled among the Oscar nominees in this category may be the fact Pixar and Disney are one company now. And with only three slots available the politically correct decision is probably to promote studio diversity in the Academy Award nominations. With the box-office success of Toy Story 3 and its apparent appeal (as pointed to by the Best Picture nod) favoring it over Tangled is understandable. Another possible explanation is philosophical and concerns the very foundations of the Best Animated Feature category and how the submissions for Oscar nominees are judged: Toy Story 3 and How to Train Your Dragon could just happen to be better films. But then again, this is not the Best Picture category, this is the category for Animated Features.
So maybe just bad luck for Tangled then. In a better year with five Oscar nominees the movie would most certainly get an Academy Award nomination. Yet, this is not a consolation or whatnot. The point is, the Academy has once again taken a wrong step. Unsurprisingly.
Read our opinion about 2011 Oscar winners. You might also find interesting to read about people who got multiple Oscar nominations but never received the Academy Award. If you like animated films, you may check our Top 5 3D Blu-ray movies article, where naturally you'll find some animations listed. Or just browse the Review Maze for more reviews.