We’re living in a golden age of animation.
Disney is making crowd-pleasing, critically acclaimed work from Pixar and the Disney Animation studio, independent studios are making gems like “Kubo and the Two Strings,” and “The Boss Baby” was nominated for an Oscar.
But acclaim isn’t always easy to get. Animated movies take years to make, and that effort is often under-recognised by institutions like critics groups and the Oscars. It wasn’t until the creation of the best animated feature category in 2002 that the recognition first became regular. Before then, Disney just had to hope one of the songs in their musicals was nominated, or settle for a best animated short award. In other years, the Oscars totally ignored animated movies, so you’ll see some gaps on this list.
To honour the animated movies that deserve acclaim, we looked back at the most Oscar-worthy animated films stretching back to 1990, when “The Little Mermaid” won a pair of Oscars and marked a renaissance period in Disney’s animation studio. The history of the award is, in some ways, a history of Disney Animation during that time, from its rebirth in the 1990s, to its relationship with Pixar, to the CGI era we’re living in now.
Here are the Oscar-winning movies from the last 29 years.
1990: “The Little Mermaid” brought prestige back to Disney, which went on to dominate Oscars for animated movies. It won Oscars for best score and song.
After around two decades of mostly forgettable movies, Walt Disney Animation Studios produced “The Little Mermaid” to critical acclaim. It won the Oscar for best original score, and “Under the Sea” won for best original song.
1992: “Beauty and the Beast” broke Oscar records.
The movie was nominated for six Oscars, winning for best score and best original song, for the song “Beauty and the Beast.” “Be Our Guest” and “Belle” were also nominated in the best song category.
The movie also received a best picture nomination, the first animated movie in history to do so, as well as one for best sound. It retains the title of the animated movie with the most Oscar nominations, tied with 2008’s “Wall-E.”
1993: “Aladdin” kept up Disney’s streak.
The movie received the same awards as its predecessor, for best score and best song, honouring “A Whole New World.”
“Friend Like Me” was also nominated in the song category, and the movie received nominations in the best sound and best sound effects editing categories.
1995: “The Lion King” followed in their footsteps.
Continuing Disney’s hot streak, “The Lion King” also won Oscars for best score and best original song (the latter for “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”). The songs “Circle of Life” and “Hakuna Matata” were also nominated in the song category.
1996: “Pocahontas” won two Oscars even though “Toy Story” had more nominations.
1995 was a milestone year for animated features. Pixar studios, founded by a class of ex-Disney animators, released its first feature, “Toy Story,” which was instantly hailed as a masterpiece. The movie received three nominations, plus a special achievement award for director John Lasseter.
But the traditional Disney movie remained dominant in the end. “Pocahantas” won both of its nominations: in the score category- now renamed “Original Musical or Comedy Score” – and in the song category for “Colours of the Wind.”
1999: A new studio broke through as “The Prince of Egypt” wins an Oscar.
For the 1998 Oscars, both Disney’s “Hercules” and 20th Century Fox’s “Anastasia” received nominations, but they were shut out by the dominance of “Titanic.”
But in 1999, “The Prince of Egypt” won an award, for “When You Believe” in the original song category. “The Prayer” from “Quest for Camelot” was also nominated in that category. It was also nominated alongside “A Bug’s Life” and “Mulan” in the “Best Original Musical or Comedy Score,” which existed in the mid-1990s, but lost them all to “Shakespeare in Love.”
2000: “Tarzan” scored a victory with “You’ll Be in My Heart.”
Disney notched up another victory as Phil Collins’s “You’ll Be in My Heart” won the best original song award. “Toy Story 2” was nominated in the category as well, for Randy Newman’s song “When She Loved Me.”
2002: “Shrek” won the first best animated feature Oscar.
Winning over “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius” and Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.,” the Dreamworks movie “Shrek” won the first Oscar for best animated feature. It was also nominated in the best adapted screenplay award.
“Monsters, Inc.,” though, won the the original song award for “If I Didn’t Have You” and received nominations for original score and sound editing.
2003: The Japanese film “Spirited Away” claimed victory.
Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece “Spirited Away,” from Studio Ghibli, received the award.
The movie’s English-language dub and release were supervised by Disney. However, it won over two Disney features nominated in the category: “Lilo & Stitch” and “Treasure Planet,” while “Ice Age” and “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron” were also nominated.
2004: “Finding Nemo” gave Pixar its first win.
The movie won in the best animated film category over “Brother Bear” and “The Triplets of Belleville.” It also received original screenplay, score, and sound editing nominations.
2005: Pixar won again with “The Incredibles.”
Disney’s “Home on the Range” is completely ignored by the Academy while “The Incredibles” nabs the animated feature and sound editing categories and racks up nominations for original screenplay and sound mixing. The other animated feature nominees are “Shrek 2” and “Shark Tale.”
2006: Disney loses again while British claymation movie “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.”
Disney Animation’s 2005 offering, “Chicken Little,” was shut out of the Oscars. The Miyazaki movie “Howl’s Moving Castle” and Tim Burton’s “Corpse Bride” that lost to the “Wallace & Gromit” movie.
2007: Disney buys Pixar — but still loses, to “Happy Feet.”
After years of negotiations and tangled business relationships, Disney bought Pixar outright in 2006 for $US7.4 billion. It followed a years-long fallow period for Disney’s in-house animated films.
It was just a month before the release of “Cars.” But though “Cars” got a nomination for the best animated feature, along with “Monster House,” they both lost to “Happy Feet” from Warner Bros.
2008: Pixar’s “Ratatouille” won.
Aside from a best animated feature win, the movie was also nominated in the original screenplay, score, sound editing, and sound mixing categories. “Persepolis” and “Surf’s Up” were also nominated in the animated feature category.
2009: “Wall-E,” another Pixar movie, grabbed the Oscar.
Andrew Stanton’s follow-up to “Finding Nemo” won the animated feature Oscar over Disney stablemate “Bolt” and Dreamworks’s “Kung Fu Panda.” It also received an original screenplay nomination, despite having almost no dialogue, as well as nominations in the sound editing, sound mixing, and song categories.
The lack of best picture nominations for “Wall-E” and “The Dark Knight” that year, however, rankled the movie industry and led the Academy to expand the category to ten nominees. It was later changed so that somewhere between five and ten nominees would be admitted depending on an algorithm.
2010: “Up” kept up Disney’s streak.
Because the best picture category was expanded to ten nominees, “Up” became the first Pixar movie – and the first animated movie since “Beauty and the Beast” – to be nominated in that category. It lost to “The Hurt Locker.”
“Up” won two Oscars, for animated feature and score, and was also nominated in the original screenplay and sound editing categories. The other animated feature nominees that year were strong: “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “Coraline,” “The Princess and the Frog,” and “The Secret of Kells.”
2011: “Toy Story 3” once again gets a best picture nomination for Pixar.
A follow-up to the first two “Toy Story” movies that made Pixar a formidable force in the 1990s, “Toy Story 3” became one of Pixar’s most acclaimed movies, and received a best picture Oscar nomination along with a win in the animated feature category (it lost to “The King’s Speech”).
The movie also won an original song Oscar, for “We Belong Together,” and nominations for adapted screenplay and sound editing.
The other nominees in the animated feature category were “How to Train Your Dragon” and “The Illusionist.” “Tangled,” Disney’s first princess movie animated in the style of Pixar’s films, was snubbed.
2012: Paramount came out of nowhere with “Rango.”
“Rango,” a neo-Western movie where Johnny Depp voices a lizard with a Hawaiian shirt, won the best animated feature Oscar even though the studio, Paramount, didn’t even have an official animation division.
Dreamworks also did well, nominated for both “Puss in Boots” and “Kung Fu Panda 2” in the category, alongside independent features “A Cat in Paris” and “Chico & Rita.”
Pixar, however, was completely shut out with their panned offering “Cars 2,” and Disney’s “Winnie the Pooh” wasn’t nominated for anything.
2013: “Brave” brought Pixar back.
Pixar was victorious again with “Brave,” which didn’t receive any other nominations. The other nominees in the animated feature category were “Frankenweenie,” “ParaNorman,” “The Pirates! Band of Misfits,” and Disney’s “Wreck-It Ralph.”
2014: A non-Pixar Disney film finally won again, with “Frozen.”
“Frozen” became Disney Animation Studios’s first movie to win the animated feature Oscar since “Tarzan.” It also won the only other category it was nominated in, original song, for “Let It Go.”
Pixar’s “Monsters University,” on the other hand, was ignored at the Oscars. The other animated feature nominees were “The Croods,” “Despicable Me 2,” “Ernest & Celestine,” and Hayao Miyazaki’s “The Wind Rises.”
2015: Disney won again with “Big Hero 6.”
“Big Hero 6” won the animated feature award, the only category it was nominated in. The other nominees were “The Boxtrolls,” “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” “Song of the Sea,” and “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.”
Pixar, on the other hand, didn’t release any movies in 2014.
2016: Pixar reclaimed the crown with “Inside Out.”
For the first time, Pixar released two movies in a single year. “The Good Dinosaur” was ignored while “Inside Out” won the animated feature Oscar and received an original screenplay nomination. It wasn’t nominated for best picture, though.
Disney Animation didn’t release anything in 2015, and the other nominees in the animated feature category were “Anomalisa,” “Boy and the World,” “Shaun the Sheep Movie,” and “When Marnie Was There.”
2017: “Zootopia” won as “Finding Dory” got snubbed.
Pixar’s long-awaited sequel to “Finding Nemo,” “Finding Dory,” was ignored at the Oscars while Disney’s “Zootopia” won the animated feature Oscar. It was nominated alongside Disney’s “Moana,” “Kubo and the Two Strings,” “My Life as a Zucchini,” and “The Red Turtle.”
2018: “Coco” seized another win for Pixar.
Pixar’s entry won once again in 2018. “Coco” won the best animated feature category as well as best song, for “Remember Me.”
In its victory, it won over “The Boss Baby,” “Loving Vincent,” “Ferdinand,” and “The Breadwinner.”
2019: “Spider-Man” sticks it to Disney.
Though Pixar released its long-awaited “Incredibles” sequel in 2018, it wasn’t the ultimate Oscar winner. Instead, the award went to “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”An inter-dimensional Spider-Man origin story, it added a new layer of diversity to the franchise by focusing on Miles Morales instead of Peter Parker, and pioneered a new animation style inspired by hand-drawn comic books.
The movie was produced by Sony, even though they allowed Disney to make a series of Peter Parker-starring live-action movies as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What had to hurt Disney even more, though, is that “Spider-Verse” was co-produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller – the same people Disney fired from “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”
The other nominees in the category included another Disney production, “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” along with “Mirai” and “Isle of Dogs.”
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