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2018 Oscars: Animated Feature – Analyzing GKIDS’ The Breadwinner, The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales and The Girl Without Hands

Previously, we took a look at this year’s Animated Feature Oscar race and especially the indie contenders. In a first of a series of articles, we’ll be analyzing the Oscar chances of some of the year’s most prominent indie animated contenders, all from one this category’s favorite distributors, GKIDS. You can also check out our Foreign Language Film analysis series here and here.

From GKIDS: The Breadwinner

1) The Story: In Afghanistan, a family struggles to get by when the father is taken by the Taliban. The family’s youngest girl decides to disguise as a boy and attempt to bring her father back home.

(2) Quick Review: We will be posting a detailed review of the film later on, but this is a beautiful, emotional if imperfect animated film. Its ending is somewhat abrupt and the film ends up at a point where the viewer needed more, but it’s a great animated achievement for the most part and that’s thanks to a great animated style and the heavy, dark themes it includes.

(3) Will it appeal to AMPAS voters? This is the first year where all AMPAS branches will be able to vote on the Animated Feature nominees. This means studio fare theoretically stand better chances than less known, indie films. However, GKIDS is kind of a big deal in the Oscar race and their campaigning efforts – taken up a notch this year with the AMPAS-targeting Animation Is Film Festival – are usually very solid. The film is also very thematic, heavy and carries the ‘importance’ tag. It has themes connected to female empowerment – and that’s a timely theme in Hollywood especially this year. The film was executive produced by Oscar-winner Angelina Jolie (whose own film First They Killed My Father is Cambodia’s Foreign Language Film Oscar submission this year) and she’s featured prominently in the film’s advertising.

(4) Historic precedents/stats GKIDS has amassed a staggering 9 Animated Feature Oscar nominations. And they’ll most likely be back this year with 5 ponies in the Oscar race. The Breadwinner also marks GKIDS’ first production – they were involved early on and did not act solely as a distributor on the film. Cartoon Saloon, the Irish animated studio whose two previous films, The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, both landed Oscar noms.

(5) Overall chance for a nomination. We believe this film has the best chance among all indie contenders and the second-best chance overall after Coco. With the strong campaigning power of GKIDS and the goodwill Cartoon Saloon created for itself plus a weak studio slate, voters won’t have any problem including this one in their final 5. We’ll give it a 85% chance over Coco’s 90% chance.

From GKIDS: The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales

1) The Story: Composed of three funny stories in one film, this is a comedy about a fox who lacks confidence and can’t scare off chicken, let alone eat them.

(2) Quick Review: This is a fantastic, if slightly uneven, comedy film – animated or not. It’s a comedy in animated form, and not vice versa. While many studios aim to create animated films that happen to be funny, for box office reasons, this film does the opposite. It’s based on a best-selling French graphic novel and has a very solid script that is full of laughs and doesn’t take itself too seriously. It never tries to pander to its audience or feel self-important by forcing any big themes – it just wants you to have fun and appreciate its subtle reflection on self-perception, self-confidence and accepting oneself. Composed of 3 stories, it loses a bit of its momentum in its third story – the least funny of the three – but is overall a very solid experience.

(3) Will it appeal to AMPAS voters? AMPAS voters typically prefer films with big themes, but this year we have to remember that the wider membership will be voting. If they end up watching this – and that’s a considerable if because this is still an indie movie – they’ll surely be amused by its perfect sense of comedy. If they nominated Despicable Me 2 – a physical animated comedy – they’ll have no problem nominating this.

(4) Historic precedents/stats This is also from GKIDS and directed by previous Oscar nominee Benjamin Renner who previously impressed voters with Ernest and Celestine. He’s also the author and artist of the graphic novel this film is based on.

(5) Overall chance for a nomination. We believe this film is underestimated among Oscar watchers. It’s entertaining, has wide appeal and the only thing working against it is that it’s a bit under the radar and faces internal competition from other GKIDS contenders. GKIDS is trying to change that with its recent film festival in LA, aimed at Oscar voters, so this may be seen. We’ll give it a 70% chance because of its entertaining nature, many laughs throughout and the campaign power of GKIDS.

From GKIDS: The Girl Without Hands

1) The Story: Inspired by the Brothers Grimm’s popular story, this is a dark story of a father who sells his daughter to the devil.

(2) Quick Review: This is probably the best film indie film in terms of quality. It is very minimalistic, and executed in simple 2D animated strokes, but it is a lovely story full of meaning. It makes you reflect on its themes and stays with you long afterwards. The animation style works very well in the film’s favor, as it draws your attention to the themes and symbolism.

(3) Will it appeal to AMPAS voters? The film is very much in the veins of old fairytale stories but it’s a much darker take and very unlike Disney stories where everything goes happily ever after. Voters may appreciate the film’s audacity and that it doesn’t pander to its audience – it does have nudity and some heavy scenes – but it’s not a film for mainstream voters. If the voting system hadn’t changed from last year, perhaps this film would have stood a stronger chance.

(4) Historic precedents/stats It’s also from GKIDS but they’re not campaigning it much. The film earned a Cesar nomination earlier this year and was raved in Cannes 2016 when GKIDS acquired it. They held it back for a year.

(5) Overall chance for a nomination. Despite the film’s superb quality, its chances aren’t as strong as the above contenders. It’s not as thematically important as The Breadwinner (which GKIDS is pushing heavily because they’re producers and not just distributors) nor as mainstream, entertaining or digestible as The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales. Plus, the voting system change hurts here and doesn’t help. Its buzz is very low and there isn’t much exposure for it, which is unfortunate. We’ll give it a 50% chance for now under the current system, whereas we would have given it 70% or possibly even more under the old voting system.

Stay tuned for more Animated Feature analysis pieces soon on AwardsWatch and find out where the Gold Rush Gang thinks these films rank right here.

Mina Takla

Mina Takla is a foreign correspondent for AwardsWatch and the co-founder of The Syndicate, an online news agency that offers original content services to several film brands including Empire Magazine’s Middle East edition and the Dubai Film Festival. Takla has attended, covered and written from over 10 film festivals online including the Dubai International Film Festival, Abu Dhabi Film Festival, Cannes, Venice and Annecy Film Festivals. He been following the Oscar race since 2000 with accurate, office-pool winning predictions year after year. He writes monthly in Empire Arabia, the Arabic version of the world’s top cinema magazine and conducts press junkets with Hollywood stars in the UK and the US. He holds a Master’s degree in Strategic Marketing from Australia’s Wollongong University and is currently based in Dubai, UAE.

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