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It was 2001 when the Academy Awards© first included a category for Best Animated Feature, and the Oscar© went to SHREK. It was acknowledgment that we were now officially living in a golden age of animation, and between the technical advancements and the new-found respect for animation as a cinematic genre, what followed since has been one dazzling film after another generated by computer, by stop-motion, and by the leave-taking and then re-embrace of hand-drawing. This new age of animation was now aimed at both kids and the adults who brung ’em. Or, as became increasingly common, the adults who showed up without kids, realizing that the new depth of character and plot often found in animation didn’t need the cover of a kid in order to be seen in a theater.
There are still rules, there have to be at least eight animated films released theatrically in Los Angeles for the category to be included, but since 2001, that has never been a problem. In fact, the problem has come down to picking which of the many worthy releases should be nominated. The minute I saw PARANORMAN, I knew it would be one of the nominees, and so it is. The San Francisco Film Critics Circle, of which I am a delighted member, picked it as the best of 2012, and I agree. Filmmakers Chris Butler and Sam Fell talk to me about bringing the stop-motion (with a soupcon of CGI) delight here.
It was no surprise to find FRANKENWEENIE, Tim Burton’s return to stop-motion also nominated, but, as much as I loved THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS, it wasn’t one of the titles I was expected to be announced. Still, it is stop-motion from the fine people at Aardman, whimsical and silly and a ripping action-adventure, plus a dodo and a chimpanzee who is never without a pithy flash-card quip for any situation. Co-founder of Aardman Studios and PIRATES! director Peter Lord talks to me about making the film here.
WRECK-IT RALPH a disgruntled video-game character doesn’t at first seem like Oscar© bait, but toss in a credible existential crises for Ralph, and this is a smart consideration of fate, every bit as well-developed as that in its fellow nominee, BRAVE). Plus there are sight-gags, clever dialogue, and beautifully realized animation that has a refined artistic sensibility as well as raucous, unfettered creativity. It’s also an animated film that begs the question, why aren’t there awards for voice work when said voice work is as good as that done here by John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman. Director and co-writer Rich Moore talks to me about that, and his own date with voice-work destiny here. In all fairness, I am compelled to finish by adding that after the film’s extended sojourn in the video game Sugar Rush, you will crave a cupcake. And resistance is futile.