In some ways, 2019 wasn’t a particularly enchanting year for animation. The Walt Disney Company’s apparent near-monopoly over the film industry struck again, as the company took some of its most beloved past films — such as “The Lion King,” “Dumbo,” “Lady and the Tramp” and “Aladdin” — and created live-action versions. The CGI animation in these adaptations replaced the illustrious beauty of the original, magical animated films that Disney’s reputation was previously founded upon. Also last year, Illumination continued the incredibly original concept of dogs that can talk in “The Secret Life of Pets 2,” and it’s hard to remember what the story of “Toy Story 4” even was.
Aside from Disney’s poorly inspired live-action films, its only hope for nominations at this year’s Oscars were “Toy Story 4” and “Frozen 2,” the latter of which had Oscar award potential based on its predecessor’s win in 2013. “Frozen 2” even surpassed “Frozen” at the box office, earning more than $1.2 billion worldwide. But to the astonishment of many, “Frozen 2” wasn’t nominated for best animated feature film at the 2020 Oscars. This is something to be grateful for. It would be dull to endlessly praise Disney every year, especially because “Frozen 2” is noticeably lackluster in comparison to this year’s other animated feature film nominees.
“Frozen 2” is perhaps one of the most unimaginative Disney films in years. Of course, it could definitely be recognized for visual effects or musicality, but as an animation that is meant to tell a story, the film is underwhelming. At least “Toy Story 4” has a mildly acceptable plot, whereas the storytelling choices in “Frozen 2” leave much to be desired. Nominating “Frozen 2” would exemplify a disregard for animation’s exquisite ability to pull viewers into a story they didn’t know they needed to see. Fortunately, the nominees this year are astonishments because of how they explore new landscapes within feature film animation with originality and vivacity.
Two nominees in particular, “Klaus” and “I Lost My Body,” continue to alter the boundaries of the medium, pushing audiences to see what animation can be. Each of these films has peculiar sensibilities and textures in their storytelling that is refreshing to see after countless years of Disney’s domination. “I Lost My Body,” from French company Xilam, demonstrates how animation lends itself to mature content, while Sergio Pablos Animation Studios’ “Klaus” reinvents the Santa Claus origin story and gives life to some classic moral lessons. In addition, the final installment of DreamWorks Animation’s “How to Train Your Dragon” series is deservedly nominated. “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” once again shows viewers what it feels like to fly through its subliminal “Test Drive” theme.
For a category of film that relies so heavily on a visually artistic style interweaving well with the framework of a story, it is incredibly refreshing to experience this synergy in full form. No animation studio achieves this in the same fashion, and seeing these idiosyncratic styles recognized at this year’s Oscars is special. It isn’t simply profuseness of difference that garners a deserved nomination — it’s quality. DreamWorks Animation calibrates humor like no other, Laika Studios builds a sublime gothic aesthetic through stop-motion animation and Sergio Pablos Animation Studios’ character designs are charming and original.
This is why we appreciate the motley crews of artists that bring so much of their characters and identities into their work, creating a distinctive brand of elegance. Here’s to hoping that, like last year with “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” the Oscars don’t award one of the obvious popular picks, such as “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” or “Toy Story 4.” Instead, the Academy Awards should embrace the lovely underrated films which deserve the honor even more, such as “Klaus.” So, please end the Twitter rage declaring that “Frozen 2” was snubbed and recognize the legion of animated films that have still yet to be admired to their fullest.
The world loves the Walt Disney Company for its decades of breathing life into animation to remind kids and adults alike to dream. But the Oscars shouldn’t allow one studio to reign over the animated film category, denying the other dreamers a gateway onto the stage. In not nominating “Frozen 2” this year, the academy has taken a step in the right direction.