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March 15, 2024


In 2023, Guillermo del Toro (affectionately known as GdT) made a brilliant and much needed statement after Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (which, by the way…can we just acknowledge how legendary it is that none of us batted an eye when GdT put his name at the front of that title) won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. He vehemently went to bat for an often-overlooked cinematic medium, stating, “Animation is cinema.” He continued, “Animation is not a genre. Animation is ready to be taken to the next step. We are all ready for it. Keep animation in the conversation.”

If you know me, you know animation is always in the conversation when discussing my best movies of the year. I’ve been ready for animation to be taken much more seriously for decades now. Year after year, I feel there are animated features that are just as good, if not better, than many of the Oscars’ Best Picture nominees. Still, like GdT intimated, animation does not get the respect it rightfully deserves, with only three animated movies being nominated for the top prize in the Oscars’ 96 years, and the most recent being 2010’s Toy Story 3.

So, here I am, yet again, striving to keep the conversation going. Listed below are five* films from my lifetime that deserved much more appreciation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Quick note, though… There are, of course, plenty of animated films I haven’t seen, most notably those from Studio Ghibli. While I respect the few I have seen, including a current Best Animated Feature nominee that I don’t personally consider to be one of the top seven animated films of 2023, I have never been able to truly connect with them. Please don’t come at me for the lack of films outside the popular zeitgeist, but instead let me know what animated films you believe should have been nominated for Best Picture. Educate me.

Without further ado, and since I already mentioned it, let’s begin with…


Release Year: 2022


Best Picture Nominees: Everything Everywhere All at Once, All Quiet on the Western Front, Avatar: The Way of Water, The Banshees of Inisherin, Elvis, The Fabelmans, Tar, Top Gun: Maverick, Triangle of Sadness, Women Talking


Best Picture Nominee(s) that Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio should have replaced: Elvis, Tar


Yea, sure, both Austin Butler and Cate Blanchett went hard in their respective titular roles, but Elvis is overindulgent, and Tar is under…entertaining. Is that a thing? Look, it’s boring as hell. GdT’s Pinocchio, on the other hand, is a film that stays with you for hours, days, weeks, or much, much longer because of its incredibly harrowing and hopeful themes. Add in the impeccable detail that the animators put into the character and production design, the absolutely moving score, and the pitch-perfect voice cast, and you have one of the most deeply felt movies of 2022. Pinocchio, in general, is a horrifying and dreadful tale, but GdT somehow is able to diffuse that brutality with a piercingly bright light of charm and beauty. This final sentiment I could probably attach to every one of the following films, but I truly believe if this exact movie was presented in live action, it would have been a strong contender for Best Picture, Best Director, and Adapted Screenplay. 


Release Year: 2015


Best Picture Nominees: Spotlight, The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room


Best Picture Nominee(s) that Inside Out should have replaced: None, but they left two slots open.


I’ll apologize now for basically repeating this statement a little later on, but if the first ten minutes of Up convinced the Academy to use all ten of its Best Picture nominee slots to give it a nomination in 2009 (2010 ceremony), then how in the world do you leave two slots open in 2015 when Inside Out is miles better than Up’s remaining 90ish minutes? The creativity, humor, wonderful writing (it was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, dammit), and beautiful score from Michael Giacchino makes Inside Out more than deserving of a nomination. Phyllis Smith’s vocal performance as Sadness absolutely shines amongst a stacked cast, and I can’t imagine anyone in the world being unable to connect with the idea of trying to figure out how to human. It’s so hard to human! Especially as a child going through major changes in life (oh boy, I can’t wait for the hormones in Inside Out 2). No matter who you are or where you come from, there is something in this film that connects to you on a spiritual level, and if the Academy felt obliged to reward the well-deserved tears resulting from Ellie and Carl’s connection in Up, I have two words for you: Bing. Bong.


Release Year: 1994


Best Picture Nominees: Forrest Gump, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, The Shawshank Redemption


Best Picture Nominee(s) that The Lion King should have replaced: Four Weddings and a Funeral


Man, I admit, 1994 was pretty damn stacked. I almost decided not to include this absolute classic when I saw what was nominated, but then I remembered that I had, in fact, seen Four Weddings and a Funeral. Then, I subsequently remembered that I remember damn near nothing about it. The Lion King is the film of an entire generation’s childhood. It is supremely voice-acted, has an Oscar-winning score, Oscar- and Grammy-winning original songs, and simultaneously traumatized and put back together every millennial you’ve ever met with its moving story of learning, loss, love, and leadership. It’s much more than the catchy songs we all love. It has charming characters, a top-tier villain with top-tier henchman, an iconic father figure, protagonists you want to root for, and a compelling story. I’d bet everything I just mentioned is something that you pictured in your head immediately. You remember where you were when you first saw Scar toss Mufasa off that cliff. You can hear every meme of Rafiki lifting a young Simba in the air (think about it…yes, that does make sense). Beauty & the Beast may be the Disney Renaissance film that was nominated for Best Picture, but The Lion King is the one that deserved it. A true snub.


Release Year: 2017


Best Picture Nominees: The Shape of Water, Call Me by Your Name, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, The Post, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri


Best Picture Nominee(s) that Coco should have replaced: Honestly, probably about half of them, but yet again, THERE IS AN OPEN SLOT!


THE ACADEMY USED ALL TEN SLOTS TO GIVE THE FURNACE SCENE IN TOY STORY 3 A NOMINATION IN A YEAR AS STACKED AS 2010, BUT THEY COULDN’T GIVE THE FINAL SLOT IN 2017 TO COCO, A FILM WHOSE ENTIRE RUNTIME IS AS IMPORTANT, HEARTFELT, AND TEAR-JERKING AS THAT DAMN FURNACE??? Look, I’m not saying that the furnace is the only great scene in Toy Story 3 (it very much deserved that nomination), but I AM saying that Inception, The Social Network, True Grit, Black Swan, and The Fighter would have beaten eight of nine nominees listed above (two guesses which one I think stacks up). Coco is a banger of an emotional thrill ride. Banger music, banger characters, banger visual effects & production design, banger cast, and, my goodness, that last banger rendition of Academy Award-winning song “Remember Me.” How a movie that is comparably as amazing as Toy Story 3 can’t crack a list filled with Best Picture nominees that don’t hold a candle to most of the films Toy Story 3 went up against just doesn’t make sense to me. The math ain’t mathin’.


Release Years: 2018 & 2023


Best Picture Nominees, 2018Green Book, Black Panther, Blackkklansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Roma, A Star is Born, Vice


Best Picture Nominee(s) that Into the Spider-Verse should have replaced: The FILM THAT WON IT (Green Book since you, like everyone, most likely forgot), Bohemian Rhapsody


Best Picture Nominees, 2023: American Fiction, Anatomy of a Fall, Barbie, The Holdovers, Killers of the Flower Moon, Maestro, Oppenheimer, Past Lives, Poor Things, The Zone of Interest


Best Picture Nominee(s) that Across the Spider-Verse should have replaced: The Zone of Interest


Y’all might have been wondering why I had that asterisk in the intro when I said five films, and if you know me, then y’all also were wondering after Coco how there could only be one movie left. And if you REALLY know me, you already knew this was coming. The Miles Morales-centered Spider-Verse films have the potential to surpass The Lord of the Rings as the greatest cinematic trilogy of all time. They not only innovated what animation can look like, already setting a new trend that subsequent animated films have strived to emulate, but they also set themselves apart as the best Spider-Man films to grace the silver screen, delivering more heart, action, spectacle, and thrills than any of the live-action versions. Yet, amongst all the grandeur, this soon-to-be trilogy’s true heart comes in the films’ introspective themes of identity. Into the Spider-Verse’s intricate and entertaining story about growing into your own identity is far more moving and authentic than the two papier-mâché true stories nominated in 2018. Then, Across the Spider-Verse took that authenticity and expanded it to tell two equally compelling, parallel tales about the identities we want to share with loved ones but are too scared to reveal, all while naturally interweaving easter eggs, cameos, references, different animation styles, and an epically snubbed score from Daniel Pemberton with intimate detail. And I don’t want to hear anything along the lines of “it’s only half a movie” when The Two Towers is deservedly sitting right there in 2002’s Best Picture lineup. I mean, look, I just watched a whole-ass, two-hour Holocaust movie from 2023’s Best Picture lineup, and I didn’t give two shits about anything it presented to me. I couldn’t tell you one thing about that movie. Sure, MAYBE that’s on me. But you're telling me the Academy has felt that same way about EVERY animated movie released in the past almost 100 YEARS(!), save for THREE?! Only THREE were Best Picture-worthy?! If so, then GdT was right; the Academy needs to have some different conversations when it comes to animation.

Photo Credits: Photo 1 - Netflix; Photo 2, 3, 4 - Walt Disney Studios; Photo 5 - Sony Pictures Releasing

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