Friday, February 5, 2016

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Animated Feature 2002

The Contenders:

Ice Age
Lilo and Stitch
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
Spirited Away (winner)
Treasure Planet

What’s Missing

I don’t have a great deal of knowledge of other animated films from 2002. In fact, the only one I know was a theatrical release that I have seen is Hey Arnold!: The Movie. I rather liked it, and while I liked the story a bit better than at least one of the films listed above, I don’t have a great deal positive to say about the animation. All things equal, I don’t take issue with the five listed films as our set of movies to rank. Oh, arm twisted I’ll give a nod to Millennium Actress as well, not for the story but exclusively for the art. Then again, it was technically released in 2001, so maybe it doesn't qualify.

Weeding through the Nominees

5: There are things I like about Lilo and Stitch, but I have real problems with it. For one thing, it requires far too much willing suspension of disbelief, and it does this for comedy moments that don’t really work for anyone older than eight. I also really don’t like the art. All of the people look like Muppets and it bothers me. That said, I’m putting this fifth in a pretty strong field. It’s not a bad film, but it’s the one I’m least likely to watch again.

4: The biggest issue I have with Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron is that it’s not long enough. It’s actually a pretty entertaining film, and it’s one that I enjoyed quite a bit. It’s an interesting choice to give us a character that only talks in voiceover, and while that might seem difficult for younger kids, it works pretty well. To take the top prize, though, there needs to be more substance here, and for something that runs about 75 minutes between opening and closing credits, there’s just not enough there.

3: With Treasure Planet, we’re getting to the difficult point in the order I put the films in. Treasure Planet is third not because of any inherent faults in the film but because I like the other two films better. I think this film is unfairly maligned—it was a huge box office failure for Disney and it didn’t deserve to be. It’s an inventive reimagining of the basic story, and while not everything works perfectly start to finish, it’s entertaining and has a good sense of adventure. It’s worth watching, and I’m a little sad it didn’t generate a series of sequels because I think it deserved that.

2: Ice Age gets a lot of things right, and in lesser years of this category, it would be a potential choice for the top position for me. It’s entertaining, and it’s smart enough to be entertaining for a younger audience and their parents, and it does this by making jokes that everyone can appreciate—there’s not a great deal of “adult” jokes here. It’s also a film that is very smart with the way it depicts violence. Ice Age comes in second not because of any of its failings, but because there’s a film that’s better.

My Choice

1: Spirited Away was the one and only right choice here, and it’s the choice that the Academy made. This is a film that creates an entirely new world, one filled with magic and wonder and danger, and it does it beautifully. I like the characters, I love the art, and the story is one of the best of its year, animated or not. Even my typical problem with anime—lack of exposition—is explained here, or at least makes sense. I could maybe see Ice Age garnering a lot of votes here, but there was really only one choice to make.

Final Analysis


  1. Completely agree. As much as I like Ice Age, Spirited Away blows it out the water. Great call.

    1. I had a lot more trouble ranking second and third here than I did with the top position. It was Spirited Away all the way.

  2. I haven't seen Spirit or Treasure Planet, so I can't comment on them. The other three I would put in the order you have them. And when it comes right down to it I wouldn't put Ice Age that much above Lilo and Stitch. It's really the opening with Scrat the sabertooth squirrel that I liked the best. I found John Leguizamo's character annoying as hell (which is the point of the character, but still). I don't think I'm alone because the sequels have used Scrat more and more, and extras on the DVDs have been about Scrat.

    Also, I remember watching the Oscar telecast and when they announced Spirited Away as the winner there seemed to be a collective "huh?" from the audience because they had no clue what it was. Ice Age was the one everyone knew.

    1. Spirit is one you can take or leave. I'm not sure how much effort it's worth. Treasure Planet, though, is pretty entertaining and a great riff on the classic story.

      I like Ice Age for what it is. It's entertaining, and it's entertaining in a way that is inclusive for the audience. That's rare, and I appreciate it.

  3. In 2002, Rachel was 8 and Ben was 4, so I actually saw every film on this list. Spirited Away is on another level of film than the rest of them. Still, none of them are bad films and I remember enjoying them.

    1. I tried with Lilo & Stitch. There's too much there that doesn't work for me.

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