In what feels like a two-horse race, and has for a while, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Sony Pictures) and The Boy and the Heron (GKIDS) are pretty clearly the top two contenders for Animated Feature, but Netflix, Disney and Pixar should be able to provide them with a little bit of chase this season.
Pixar’s Elemental had a rocky start at Cannes, with mixed to good reviews and one of the lowest opening box office weekends in the animated studios’ history. But time, a rare commodity in the realm of summer box office, favored the film and its grosses grew. While its domestic gross fell short of the film’s $200-250M production budget, overseas it blew up with France, Mexico, the UK and South Korea helping fuel the flame significantly to nearly $500M. South Korea alone accounts for nearly $50M of the film’s robust grosses. Why is Elemental‘s box office so important for its Oscar chances? We saw last year with Lightyear that the perception of Pixar as a monster box office studio, whose films routinely hit or pass the billion mark, falters when it misses the mark. But reviews matter too; Lightyear topped out on Rotten Tomatoes with a fresh 74% (still low by Pixar standards), so did Elemental. Metacritic was much more severe, where each film earned a low 60 and 58, respectively. Pixar has been such a powerful force in the animated feature Oscar race, with the most nominations (17) and wins (11) but it does feel like that golden age might be tarnishing a bit and I think Elemental will be a real test of that.
Walt Disney will have internal competition with Wish, coming this November. The blueprint animation studio has won three of its 13 nominations in this category, most recently with 2021’s Encanto taking the prize. Netflix won their first animated feature Oscar last season with Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio and will likely return this season with Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget. The first Chicken Run (2000) came out the year before the creation of the animated feature category and would have been a sure fire nominee and maybe even a winner. Aardman Animation has four nominations here (most recently with 2019’s Shaun of the Sheep: Farmageddon) and one win.
I do wonder how the box office behemoth that was The Super Mario Bros. Movie this spring will fare. Its $1.3B gross worldwide is obviously substantial but so has been the multi-billion dollar Despicable Me/Minion franchise from Universal and Illumination, which to date have only been able to wrangle up a single nomination, for Despicable Me 2. Their exclusion makes me think that Super Mario might be finding itself on the outside.
Oscar nominations will be announced on January 23, 2024 and the 96th Academy Awards will be held on March 10.
Here are my 2024 Oscar predictions in Animated Feature for October 2023.
- Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Sony Pictures)
- The Boy and the Heron (GKIDS)
- Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget (Netflix)
- Wish (Walt Disney)
- The Peasants (Sony Pictures Classics)
- Elemental (Pixar)
- The Super Mario Bros. Movie (Universal Pictures)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (Paramount Pictures)
- Nimona (Netflix)
- Robot Dreams (NEON)
Next up/Other contenders: The Canterville Ghost (Shout! Studios), Ernest & Celestine: A Trip to Gibbertia (GKIDS), Migration (Universal Pictures), The Inventor (Blue Fox), The Monkey King (Netflix), PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie (Paramount Pictures), Suzume (Crunchyroll), They Shot the Piano Player (Sony Pictures Classics), Trolls Band Together (DreamWorks)