Best Animated Feature is one of my favorite categories at the Oscars. It’s usually one of the most wide open and inclusive awards. Because of the extra passion and attention to detail that go into an animated film, the format doesn’t suffer from the release of “Oscar bait” like live-action often does. The movies that are nominated for Best Animated Feature tend to actually be the most complex and awe-inspiring achievements of their kind in the year. Disney’s Zootopia cemented itself as the front-runner in the category on Sunday when it took home the Golden Globe. I wrote a rave review for it when it was released, and while I believe it deserves an Oscar nomination, I actually don’t want it to win the award.
There’s a very good chance that Zootopia will win. Its themes of diversity and race relations are timely, and the clever script is expertly animated. As the year has gone on, though, a couple of other animated features have appealed to me more than Zootopia, and they’ve left it feeling a little too corporate. It’s fun to create a world where animals live like humans, but it’s basically a variation on what Pixar has done in several films. It’s hardly original when compared with the ancient demigod tales of Disney’s own Moana or the desolate, surreal landscape that Kubo, Monkey, and Beetle traverse in Laika’s Kubo and the Two Strings.
This is represented by each film’s theme song as well. Zootopia‘s “Try Everything” is fairly generic sugar-pop that probably didn’t take too long to write and record. Moana‘s “How Far I’ll Go” may not stray too far from the new-age Disney princess empowerment anthem formula, but it has the added challenge of fitting into the movie’s score and themes as a part of a fully-formed musical as well. Kubo‘s theme is a cover, but Regina Spektor’s take on The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” drips with creativity, and is a perfect encapsulation of the film’s combination of whimsy and raw emotion.
I don’t want this to devolve into a Zootopia bashing session. I would still say that I love that film, and I absolutely appreciate that it’s infinitely better the majority of computer-animated projects. I just don’t want it to be crowned as the very best of this year in animation. It will surely be nominated for the Oscar, just as I imagine Moana and Kubo will. All of them deserve the recognition, but I can’t seem to stop myself from actively rooting for Zootopia to not receive the title. I’d be pleased with a win for Moana, or even more-so for Kubo (which I actually believe should break into the main Best Picture category). I’m just afraid that Zootopia is becoming the obvious choice for voters, and I hope they’ll pay more attention to other animated films that have broken the mold even more this year.