Ranking Best Animated Feature Winners of The Decade


When it comes to the Oscars, most people look to Best Picture as one of the big ones of the night. But in all honesty, one of the categories that I really look to is Best Animated Feature. It’s no surprise that I’m a big advocate for animated films, I really do enjoy animation to an extreme degree. So to see which films do well in this category really is invigorating for me, or at least it would be if most of the films I wanted got nominated. Yeah, this is a category where I really wish the academy would be much more stringent and not just pick films their kids watched. I’ve seen so many great animated films that got passed up for complete crap that someone’s kids enjoyed – Cars got a nomination for Best Animated Feature for crying out loud. The Boss Baby got a nomination for Best Animated Feature.

So, since I’m ranking a lot of decades list, I’ve decided to look at all ten films that won Best Animated Feature at the Oscars. And if you’re expecting to see a lot of Anime at the top because you’re aware of my tastes, don’t. Despite the fact that four animated productions from Japan got nominations, those being The Wind Rises, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, When Marnie Was There and Mirai, none of them won. In fact, there hasn’t been an animated film from Japan to win this category since 2003. But obviously expect a lot of Disney and Pixar in this one, particularly Pixar. The category has jokingly been called The Pixar Awards since they won it more times than any other studio, and that’s no exception for this list. In fact, half the winners from films that came out in the decade were animated films from Pixar, and three of the others were Disney. Only two films in the last decade that won the award were not made by either Disney or Pixar, and it’s pretty much an incredible indictment on the method of voting and nominations that the academy gives. Yes, I grant you, Pixar and Disney are two of the biggest animation studios on the planet and they do make amazing films, however it does seem rather excessive how much they’ve dominated this category, and it was at the expense of several studios. But, without complaining, let’s get on with the list.

Now, to make sure this represents the decade, this will not include the 2010 winner of Best Animated Feature since that award ceremony covered films from 2009. To ensure this represents the last decade, this will cover the winners from the award ceremonies from 2011 to 2020, though I will state them as the winner of the film from the year it came out. Now we’ve avoided that confusion, let’s get on with the list. And remember, these are ranked by both how much I enjoyed the film and what I thought of the film on a technical level, and trust me, picking the no.1 was really hard. Picking the no.10, on the other hand, was not.


10. Brave

came out in 2012 and won the Oscar in 2013

I still don’t know why Brave won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature because it really is a disjointed film. I really thought this was a Disney film before I discovered Pixar actually made it, and it’s a bit of a mess all round. It’s a rather bizarre film; it’s almost like Pixar looked at Brother Bear and said, “Let’s do that but set it in Scotland,” and it’s a rather soulless film all round. It tries to do a very headstrong and independent lead female character but she doesn’t feel organic in the role, she feels more manufactured. And I honestly think that of all the films that Pixar made that have not been sequels, this one is one of their weakest, and it wasn’t as if it was coming out in a year where there were not a lot of nominations to pick from. Okay, Frankenweenie wasn’t that great of a film but it was nominated in the same year as ParaNorman, The Pirates in an Adventure with Scientists and Wreck It-Ralph. All three of those films vastly deserved that nomination; the academy picked the absolute wrong answer. Brave’s legacy has really been a rather bland, rather boring film that has kind of proven the point of the stranglehold Pixar has on the award ceremony.


9. Frozen

Yeah, you all saw this one coming. I’m not a big fan of this film and I don’t think it should have won the Oscar, but I’ll get more into what should have won. But really, I knew going into the ceremony that Frozen was going to absolutely dominate that year in both Best Original Song and Best Animated Feature. What sets Frozen above Brave is the fact that, firstly, it has a more coherent and a just generally better-written script, and I actually think the animation is well-done, and I admit the film is obviously not aimed at me but I ultimately just don’t find myself enjoying it. It feels like the film is constantly winking at the audience with how much it’s trying to subvert expectations, though I do admit that the world design is well put together, even if it would be the worst part of Kingdom Hearts 3. But seriously, while it was nominated against a lot of not-too-extraordinary films, it was also up against The Wind Rises of all things, which was probably my favourite film to come out that year and was meant to be a send off to the legendary Hayao Miyazaki. Granted, he has since unretired… Again. But that’s aside from the point. At the time, it genuinely felt like this would be his last film, and if that had been the case, it would have seemed criminal for him not to go out with a bang for everything he’s done. And it seems a bit weird to me the academy did not take that into account considering that they give out Oscars a ton of times for actors that probably deserve them but not necessarily for the film they’re nominated for, something I’m hoping happens for Miriam Margolyes sometime soon. Seriously, if you haven’t checked it out yet, see The Wind Rises. It’s a rather interesting look into the minds of people who end up building weapons for war, told from the perspective of a pacifist; it’s a genuinely fascinating film.


8. Rango

Yeah, I forgot this film existed too until I did this countdown. I actually was kind of on board with Rango at one point, but it’s hard to deny the fact that, rather like Brave, it’s a rather unremarkable film. It is however a beautifully animated film. Rango has been an excellent film in several regards. Gore Verbinski, the director of Pirates of The Caribbean, produced the film and he also stayed on as director. And you can really tell that he brought a lot of what had worked in Pirates of The Caribbean, including very similar cinematography. Let’s just hope that this film didn’t give him the idea to make The Lone Ranger. I think the reason it won was because it was a really well-animated film in a year where the other films that were nominated had a lot of very standard animation. I also find it surprising that it’s the year DreamWorks had two nominations and they still didn’t win. Personally, out of the five nominees I wouldn’t have given it to Rango. I personally would have given it to Kung Fu Panda 2, and that’s purely because I really, really like Kung Fu Panda 2, I think it’s the best film of the trilogy. And seriously, the animation in those films is brilliant. If you missed out the Kung Fu Panda films, you’re doing yourself a disservice; they’re much better than you think they’d be.


7. Toy Story 4

Toy Story 4 really is, in my opinion, the weakest of the Toy Story films. I reviewed it last year and I kind of was of the opinion that it didn’t really hold up, all things considered. It just kind of existed for the sake of existence. I personally felt Toy Story 3 – more on that later – was a better cap-off to the series. Now I did think Toy Story 4 had some good points – the acting is really good in it and it feels like an end to a few character arcs, but that being said I thought it was the end to character arcs that already ended in the previous film, but it definitely felt like a film series that was now being pushed to an audience that was no longer including adults. Considering I grew up with the Toy Story films throughout the various stages of my life, I kind of just felt upset that they weren’t there anymore for me. Toy Story 4 was probably always going to win this category since it was up against the arthouse films, I Lost My Body and Klaus. DreamWorks had How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World which is an alright film but I wouldn’t have been happy if it had won, and Missing Link which, again, because Laika produced it I kind of wish it had won considering that film bombed at the box office and it’s actually really good; it was probably the one I enjoyed the most out of all those films. Though granted I haven’t actually seen I Lost My Body and Klaus, so my opinion might have changed; I’ve only heard good things about Klaus. And trust me, Laika’s probably going to be a studio that, with the current economic crisis, will more than likely go out of business; they did not need Missing Link to be that big of a bomb.


6. Big Hero 6

Honestly, that’s not me trying to be cute, it genuinely just happened to be no.6 on this countdown. Big Hero 6 won in the year that no one expected it to win – it was the year when the biggest controversies of the Oscars was the fact The Lego Movie hadn’t received a nomination for Best Animated Feature in spite of the fact it did receive a nomination for Best Original Song for Everything Is Awesome, and I am so sorry that I put that song back in your head, I can only apologise so much. Honestly, Big Hero 6 was the winner in what was, if you took one of the nominations out, probably the strongest year for that category. In fact, if you took out The Boxtrolls and replaced it with The Lego Movie, you would have had one of the toughest decisions. I was probably not going to be happy with the winner but Big Hero 6 is a really good movie; it’s a nice celebration of Disney’s acquisition of Marvel, since this film was based on a now defunct Marvel comic team, but also has some interesting takes on Anime. It’s no coincidence that both the series and the movie it’s set in is a combination of Tokyo and San Francisco. But it also has some interesting themes of loss and grief that I was surprised were handled so well. It’s kind of proof that you can use a superhero story to tell these kinds of subjects. Big Hero 6 is not the greatest film, however – it’s got way too obvious a villain for a start. I don’t know why they thought that reveal was going to be surprising, and in spite of Baymax’s infectious personalities, the other characters range from passably enjoyable to downright annoying. Big Hero 6 is a good film but man, I wish the award had gone to either The Tale of Princess Kaguya or especially Song of The Sea. Seriously, both of those are excellent but if you haven’t seen Song of The Sea, it’s an amazing Irish animated film that uses Irish mythology to a wondrous degree. Tom Moore really has become the Hayao Miyazaki of Ireland on the back of it. And I really would have liked it as well if Isao Takahata’s final film The Tale of Princess Kaguya won, though I suspect that got the nomination for its animation on the fact that it was Ghibli. I think the voters might have been put off by the bittersweet ending of that one, that and the fact it was the year we found out that the academy voters really don’t pay much attention with the Best Animated Feature category considering that one voter’s ballot was leaked where they said that their kids didn’t like the two “Chinese” cartoons that were on display, in spite of the fact that those films came out in Japan and Ireland. Academy voters are dumb.


5. Zootopia

Zooptopia’s really an excellent film; I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It’s actually a film that’s kind of more relevant now than it was when it came out. It uses its structure of a city full of anthropomorphic animals and uses it to tell a story that tackles issues of sexism and racism, and while it ultimately does pin the blame for a large portion on one person, it also acknowledges that both are societal issues that require a coming together of people to acknowledge their own faults. This is probably one of the boldest Disney put out in the decade. It’s really the film that, out of all the Disney films that came out this decade, I possibly enjoyed the most. They really put a ton of effort in to this one and it genuinely surprised me how much I enjoyed it. The world design is very well thought out and the character dynamics also felt well-executed. Plus, the voice cast is made up of very talented people for this one. I will say though that Zootopia really was the obvious winner in spite the fact it was a very strong year – Kubo and The Two Strings, which is another excellent Laika production, got the nomination, and Moana also was the second Disney nomination, and I’m actually kind of surprised it didn’t win considering how academy voters like it. I still haven’t seen My Life as a Zucchini so I can’t really comment on that one, and in spite of the fact The Red Turtle was partly produced by Studio Ghibli, it’s not one of the films that they’ve made that I had much affection for. It’s a good film but it’s one of those films that feels a bit too self-congratulatory, and it’s also kind of messed up when you really think about it.


4. Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3 was a phenomenal choice to win that Oscar. Yeah, it was up against How To Train Your Dragon and The Illusionist, but really Toy Story 3 should have got this one. If it had been the end, it would have been an excellent end to the franchise. It’s a great send-off film – it’s putting these characters in some brilliant situations, it has an excellent villain, the animation is top-notch once again, and it has some excellent character arcs. Seriously, I really love the end portion of that film. It also was a wise decision to not have Andy still be a young boy this time considering that the first film had come out in 1995 – we’d all grown up with these films. I can actually distinctly remember going to see the first two in cinemas, so probably the nostalgic edge to it is why I probably find the film so enjoyable. I also very regretfully can say this is the one Toy Story film I did not see in cinemas, much to my eternal regret. If you haven’t seen all the Toy Story films, I really would recommend it as a good movie marathon, but obviously out of the Pixar films that got the wins, it wasn’t my favourite, not even my second favourite. That would go to…


3. Inside Out

Inside Out is probably Pixar’s most inventive film of the decade. It was really just an excellent production from start to finish – you’ve got everyone being brilliantly well-cast, and an interesting story that’s directly about emotions in a very literal sense, and it has an excellent message about coming to terms with oneself. Seriously, there are so many moments in this film that will give you ‘the feels’. And despite the fact of how much I really adore this movie, it still wasn’t my pick for Best Animated Feature by the end of the year. Note: If you looked at my Oscar choices which actually did make for that year, I did pick it but it was under the proviso that I was able to change my mind later because one of the films hadn’t come out, and I did see that film. When Marnie Was There is fantastic and, in my mind, it probably should have won. Again, I kind of think it probably should have won not only because it was my favourite but the fact that this was the last time Ghibli was going to get a chance to win that outward. If you haven’t seen Inside Out really go and see it, but really try to watch When Marnie Was There – it’s an excellent film with a brilliant central performance from Hailee Steinfeld which tells the story of love, loss, and has similar themes to Inside Out of coming to terms with oneself. Although, I think it’s a film that also was a bit harsher with how it confronts its main character. I just personally though it was an excellent film and would have been a great way for Ghibli to go out. See both films.


2. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

Choosing between numbers 1 and 2 was the hard decision I had to make. These two are unabashedly the best films in my mind out of the 10. Spidey just missed out, but man is Into The Spider-Verse an excellent film. It’s a brilliant introduction for people that haven’t yet seen anything of Miles Morales’ Spider-Man, and it’s a really excellent take on the Spider-Verse storyline. I think my review was a bit harsh on it because I was just off the high of the Spider-Man videogame that came out on PlayStation 4, but this one really in my mind now is the best Spider-Man film to date. It’s another brilliant film from Lord and Miller, and I’m glad to see they finally got their Oscar nomination and win after they failed to get nominated for The Lego Movie. The only other option would have been Mirai which, as much as I love Mamoru Hosoda, when he finally got the Oscar nomination it was for the wrong film; he should have easily been nominated for either The Wolf Children or The Boy and the Beast, both films which I think are superior in my opinion. I don’t think that you even need to be a massive Spider-Man fan to get into this film; it’s just an excellent film about growing up and finding your place in the world and doing it on your terms. I actually agree with a lot of commentators – it could have easily been up for Best Picture.


1. Coco

I really adored Coco and it was the one time I was really glad Pixar had won it. It also really put me in a better mood considering the fact that it was one of my least favourites years for nominations considering that the two films I really wanted to get a nomination, Your Name and A Silent Voice, both failed to receive nominations, but the abysmal The Boss Baby did. I’m glad Coco did get the win because it is a brilliant take on Spanish myths and legends, and Pixar did a brilliant job in contextualising The Day of the Dead celebrations to tell a significantly brilliant story of both passion for one’s craft as well as family being one of the most important things in your life. Plus, this is a beautifully animated film, it looks amazing and I think it still will in ten years’ time. It really put The Book of Life to shame which this now does a much better job at of visualising that world, and it actually managed to add some peril to dead characters. I am amazed they pulled that off. And do I need to even say the music is phenomenal? It’s no surprise that ‘Remember Me’ also got nominated for Best Original Song. If you like good music in films, you really need to see it. Though personally if I was picking a song to get nominated For Best Original Song, I would have picked the song ‘La Llorona’.
While it was a weak year, two of the nominations being Ferdinand and The Boss Baby, there were actually two excellent other films nominated: I really enjoyed The Bread Winner, even if it did seem like a really brutal film overall but that was a good tone choice because it really suited the subject matter, and Loving Vincent is one of the best animated films of the decade, animating watercolour painting to tell the story of the life of Vincent Van Gogh.

So, there you go, a whole bunch of animated films that I got to talk about, and I probably queued up the recommendations for you for at least the next few weeks. I can only apologise to the parents whose queues have now been filled up with all these films.
 
Calvin – Nerd Consultant

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