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2018 Oscars: Animated Feature – Analyzing the Chances of Mary and the Witch’s Flower and Moomins and the Winter Wonderland

In our sixth piece on this year’s animated feature race, we look at one semi-high profile anime and another under-the-radar film no one was expecting to be eligible for consideration in the 2018 Best Animated Feature Oscar race – and we were lucky to catch it at the American Film Market.

Let’s take a look.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower

1) The Story: A girl finds a mysterious flower that helps turn her into a witch – but its impact lasts for just one day.

(2) Quick Review: This is a very enjoyable, cute film that looks and feels like a Studio Ghibli film. In fact, if you hadn’t seen the logo of its studio, Ponoc or missed the credits, you’ll probably be thinking it’s a new Ghibli. It’s unclear whether Ponoc intentionally wanted to make the film look somewhat similar to Ghibli’s work but regardless this is a pretty solid film if not a bit slight. What we’ve come to expect from Studio Ghibli’s works, and the reason why they have a large fanbase is that they’re mostly able to appeal to all ages and alternate between darker themes and accessible subjects. In this film, we see a story that’s more along the lines of Ponyo, My Neighbor Totoro or even bits of Spirited Away (when Mary is transported to a world of witches in the middle section of the film). But it lacks something more profound – but it’s a great watch nonetheless.

(3) Will it appeal to AMPAS voters? It’s a colorful, cute and charming film so possibly yes. Problem is: the film is a bit under the radar so many members may not watch it. It doesn’t have the buzz of The Breadwinner, Loving Vincent or even The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales.

(4) Historic precedents/stats Anime films, outside Studio Ghibli, haven’t done well here (most notably the famous snub of the highest grossing anime in recent years: Your Name.). The fact this looks and feels like a Ghibli film may help, but Studio Ponoc is new to the game. Luckily, they have GKIDS distributing their film in North America but it looks like it isn’t a top priority for them.

(5) Overall chance for a nomination. We will give this a 40% chance. It’s accessible, joyful, not too dark and would make for a good viewing experience on a screener. The film also has a lot of magical characters that keeps it away from being a boring watch. But this year, quality isn’t enough. Campaigns matter, as always, and how big a profile a film has is especially important. This doesn’t look to be as widely seen or as prioritized for GKIDS as their other indie fare (Breadwinner, Big Bad Fox or Birdboy) so it just may be lost in the shuffle.

Moomins and the Winter Wonderland

We were surprised to see this on the list of the industry screenings at the American Film Market as we were under the impression it’s not finished yet. But it was, and we saw it.

1) The Story: When winter arrives in Moomin Valley, Moomintroll discovers a new guest called Christmas and tries to discover what this occasion really means. (2) Quick Review: While reviews are embargoed for this (as it’s not going to be officially released until next year), we can say this is a very kid-centric film that does not take narrative risks and skews very young.

(3) Will it appeal to AMPAS voters? It probably won’t because of how generic it could be perceived. It’s cute and all – but doesn’t really offer something new. Also, some narrative decisions here made it seem like a pre-school version of what could have been a more interesting, four-quadrant movie.

(4) Historic precedents/stats It’s unclear at the moment if any Oscar campaign will be mounted for this.

(5) Overall chance for a nomination. We’ll give this a 15% chance – barely anyone is aware of this being eligible this year and the film had zero festival presence and no buzz.

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 has 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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