2024 Oscars: Best Animated Feature Predictions

Nominations voting is from January 11–16, 2024, with official Oscar nominations announced on January 23, 2024. Final voting is February 22–27, 2024. And finally, the 96th Oscars telecast will be broadcast on Sunday, March 10, and air live on ABC at 8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT. We update predictions throughout awards season, so keep checking IndieWire for all our 2024 Oscar picks.

The State of the Race

“Nimona,” the underdog Oscar contender from Annapurna Animation/Netflix, was the surprise leader for ASIFA-Hollywood’s 51st Annie Awards (to be held February 17 at UCLA’s Royce Hall) with nine nominations (including best feature). This should help boost its chances for an Oscar nomination.

“Nimona,” which was rescued by Annapurna and Netflix after Disney shuttered Blue Sky, following the Fox acquisition, is a queer breakthrough about conquering xenophobia in a futuristic medieval world. Directed by Nick Bruno and Troy Quane (“Spies in Disguise”) and adapted from ND Stevenson’s best-selling LGBTQ graphic novel, it features a knight (Riz Ahmed) framed for murder, who teams up with the eponymous shape-shifter and also contains a same-sex love story involving the knight and his bestie-turned rival (Eugene Lee Yang). The animation from DNEG (capturing the spirit of the Blue Sky design) has a quirky 2D aesthetic that’s perfect for the tone and setting.

Meanwhile, the leading Oscar frontrunners, Sony’s “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” and Studio Ghibli/GKids’ “The Boy and the Heron” each scored seven noms (including best feature). Also competing for best feature are Crunchyroll’s “Suzume,” the acclaimed 2D fantasy/adventure from anime master Makoto Shinkai, which also collected seven noms, and Nickelodeon/Paramount’s well-received “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem,” which grabbed six noms.

Pixar’s “Elemental” also earned six noms, while Neon’s “Robot Dreams,” an indie Oscar hopeful from Spain/France, earned five nominations (including best indie feature).

Disney’s musical fantasy, “Wish,” though, was shut out of the Annies, which doesn’t bode well for its Oscar chances. The wishing star origin story, made in honor of the studio’s 100th anniversary, had a disastrous domestic box office performance (though it has recovered globally) and mixed reviews. Scripted by chief creative officer Jennifer Lee (“Frozen”), produced by Peter Del Vecho (“Frozen”), and directed by Chris Buck (“Frozen”) and Fawn Veerasunthorn (head of story for “Raya and the Last Dragon“), it certainly impressed with dazzling 2D-looking watercolor backgrounds, and the most delicious Disney villain in ages from Chris Pine’s King Magnifico.

In terms of the Oscars, it’s become a two-way race between the blockbuster “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” and Hayao Miyazaki’s summary film “The Boy and the Heron” (GKids), which has gained late-season momentum thanks to its Golden Globe win and a slew of critics awards (including NYFCC, LA, and National Board of Review). The other frontrunners are “Elemental,” which has rebounded thanks to its global box office and Disney+ popularity, “Nimona,” and the engaging and funny “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. However, “Suzume” could easily slip in there for its emotional power. Other possibilities are “Robot Dreams,” Aardman/Netflix’s “Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget,” and Netflix’s “Leo,” the most viewed animated feature on the streamer.

There’s also a dark horse to consider: “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” the Nintendo video game adaptation from Illumination/Universal. It was a nostalgia-filled blockbuster hit ($1.36 billion globally, $574.9 million domestically) thanks to its popular re-invention of Brooklyn plumbers Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) teaming up with badass Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) to stop fire-breaking, egotistical Koopa Bowser (Jack Black).

Here’s a more detailed rundown:

“Across the Spider-Verse” surpassed its Oscar-winning predecessor at the box office ($381 million domestically and $689 million globally) and upped its game with a more expansive story and greater animated tech innovations. Producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller and new directors Joaquim Dos Santos (“The Legend of Korra”), Kemp Powers (“Soul” co-director), and Justin K. Thompson (“Into the Spider-Verse” production designer) hurled Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) and Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld) into several new dimensions to battle Spot (Jason Schwartzman), including Gwen’s watercolor world and the India-inspired Mumbattan. For that, Sony Pictures Imageworks created innovative tools for translating more elaborate 2D stylization into 3D with new systems for using pencil, pen and ink, markers, and paintbrushes.

With “The Boy and the Heron,” Miyazaki came out of retirement for the second time after “The Wind Rises” (2013) to make his 12th feature — the semi-autobiographical, hand-drawn fantasy for his grandchildren. It’s about destruction, loss, and rebuilding a better future through imagination, inspired by the novel he adored as a child (“How Do You Live?”). Eleven-year-old Mahito loses his mother in the firebombing of Japan during World War II and relocates to the countryside, where his father marries his sister-in-law. During this troubled state, the boy encounters a talking gray heron that leads him into a parallel universe and a life-altering adventure. The English-language version includes the voice work of Luca Padovan as Mahito, Robert Pattinson and the heron, Christian Bale as the father, Gemma Chan as the stepmother, Willem Dafoe as the Noble Pelican, Mark Hamill as Granduncle, Florence Pugh as Kiriko, Karen Fukuara as Lady Himi, and Dave Bautista as The Parakeet King.

“Elemental,” Pixar’s first rom-com, is technically innovative and continues the trend of telling semi-autobiographical stories. Director Peter Sohn (“The Good Dinosaur”) was inspired to tell the love story of his parents, who emigrated from Korea in the ’70s and ran a grocery store in the Bronx. Pixar created new tech for the effects-heavy film to make fire and water look and behave convincingly as CG characters and how they overlap. It’s set in Elemental City, where people made of the four elements — earth, air, water, and fire — coexist in a community rife with division. Tough, sharp-witted, fiery Ember (Leah Lewis) develops a friendship with her polar opposite, the laidback, sentimental, and watery Wade (Mamoudou Athie).

The punkish reboot of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” was a surprise summer hit ($191 million domestically and $485 million worldwide). It benefited from producer Seth Rogen’s passion and wit and director Jeff Rowe’s aesthetic (which carried over from his co-direction of “The Mitchells vs. The Machines”). He utilized a rough sketchbook look through CG to depict the teenage passions and imperfections of the Turtles. It’s about the heroic aspirations of Leonardo (Nicolas Cantu), Michelangelo (Shamon Brown Jr.), Donatello (Micah Abbey), and Raphael (Brady Noon) and wanting to be accepted by humans.

Makoto Shinkai’s “Suzume” marks his most ambitious and personal film yet, in which a small-town teen anxiously travels throughout Japan with a mysterious companion trapped inside a magical chair to save her country from a cataclysmic disaster. The massive 2011 earthquake in Japan inspired Shinkai to make this coming-of-age drama. It’s exquisitely animated and suffused with surprising humor.

Pablo Berger’s (“Blancanieves”) “Robot Dreams,” is a critically acclaimed long-shot contender, winning the Annecy Contrecham Award along with The Animation Is Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize. The 2D film, adapted from the wordless graphic novel by Sara Varon, is a bittersweet buddy comedy that follows the friendship between a lonely dog and a robot companion in ’80s Manhattan inhabited by animals and what happens when they’re suddenly separated. It’s funny, poignant, and magnificently designed and animated, and transforms Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “September” into a joyous anthem.

“Dawn of the Nugget,” the sequel to the top-grossing stop-motion film in history, picks up a few years later, where the happy-ever-after for Rocky (Zachary Levi, replacing Mel Gibson), Ginger (Thandiwe Newton, taking over from Julia Sawalha), and daughter Molly (Bella Ramsey) gets interrupted, and they’re forced to break back into the farm to save their chicken pals. Sam Fell (“ParaNorman”) directs from a script by Karey Kirkpatrick, John O’Farrell, and Rachel Tunnard, with Steve Pegram (“Arthur Christmas”) and Leyla Hobart producing.

With “Leo,” directed by former “SNL” writers Robert Marianetti, Robert Smigel, and David Wachtenheim, Sandler returns to his indie roots of “Eight Crazy Nights.” It’s a sweet and slightly subversive story about a 74-year-old lizard suffering an existential crisis, who dispenses advice to Florida fifth graders.

Potential nominees are listed in alphabetical order; no film will be deemed a frontrunner until we have seen it.

Frontrunners

“Elemental”
“Nimona”
“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem”
“The Boy and the Heron”

Contenders

“Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget”
“Leo”
“Robot Dreams”
“Suzume”
“The Super Mario Bros. Movie”

SOURCE: PopSugar

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