10 Runners Up That Could Have Won Academy Award for Best Animated Feature

Since the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, animation has grown into a diverse medium of storytelling. There are now dozens of animated films coming out each year, ranging from adaptations of fairy-tales from Disney to raunchy adult-oriented stories like Sausage Party. In 1991, Beauty and the Beast would become the first animated movie in history, and the only traditionally animated film, to be nominated for best picture.

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Ten years later, a new category was added to the Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature. Twenty-one films have received the Oscar, but some years saw fierce competition among the runners-up.


Monsters Inc vs Shrek (2001)

To nobody’s surprise, Shrek won the very first Oscar for Best Animated Feature. It took the world by storm for its satirical take on Disney’s formula and its memorable characters. However, among its competition, Monsters Inc. had the best chance of giving it a run for its money.

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It’s about two monsters who harvest the screams of children for energy and find a human girl who has wandered into their world. They try to get her home without alerting authorities and uncover a conspiracy within their company. Thanks to its story about overcoming preconceptions and the creativity put into the monster world, the film has become one of Pixar’s most heartfelt and would receive a prequel film in 2013 and a Disney+ show in 2021.

Shrek 2 vs The Incredibles (2004)

Brad Bird‘s film about a family of superheroes adapting to civilian life struck a chord with audiences of all ages. Thanks to its nuanced story and groundbreaking effects for animating human characters, the film was almost universally beloved and won many awards, including best animated feature. This is more impressive because it was up against the sequel to Shrek.

Shrek 2 is one of those rare sequels that both continue the story from the original and in some ways surpass it. It continues the spoof of fairy tales by taking the characters to the kingdom of Far Far Away, done to spoof Beverly Hills, and includes a Fairy Godmother as the villain. It also introduced the character of Puss in Boots, who got a spin-off movie in 2011, and a sequel this December.

Corpse Bride vs Wallace & Grommet: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)

The feature film debut of Wallace and Grommet saw the classic duo in pursuit of a monstrous were-rabbit that is eating all the vegetables in town leading up to a vegetable competition. Its on-point stop-motion animation, combined with throwbacks to classic horror films, resulted in a fun movie that never took itself too seriously. To date, it is the only stop-motion film to win the award.

Yet Tim Burton‘s own stop-motion story about a young man accidentally becoming engaged to a zombie was a good contender for the position. It has Burton’s macabre charm and creative character designs, as well as a stellar cast including Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, and Richard E. Grant. Even composer Danny Elfman voices a lounge-singer skeleton, and gets to sing his own jazz number, “Remains of the Day.”

Kung Fu Panda vs WALL-E (2008)

WALL-E is perhaps the best example of Pixar’s talent during their height. Using minimalist dialogue and only eyes for facial expression, they told a convincing love story that also served as a cautionary tale about the environment. It even beat out the highest-grossing film of the year at the Academy Awards: DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda.

The film revitalized the hero’s journey with its unique blend of comedy and insightful philosophy, held together with strong character-writing and impressively choreographed fight scenes. At its core is Po, a lovable protagonist voiced to perfection by Jack Black. The movie’s popularity would also spawn a massive franchise to rival Shrek, with the most recent addition being a Netflix series.

Coraline vs Up (2009)

Based on the story by Neil Gaiman, a young girl and her family move into a new house filled with strange tenants. She finds a hidden room that leads to another world, where everything is a perfect mirror that tempts Coraline to stay. When she refuses, her other mother kidnaps her real parents to force her.

While Pixar’s Up took the win for its emotional complexity, Coraline found many fans thanks to its dark atmosphere that wasn’t afraid to scare and delight children in equal amounts. It was a strong first movie from production company Laika, which would result in a new wave of stop-motion films in the next decade.

How to Train Your Dragon vs Toy Story 3 (2010)

Released thirteen years after the second film, Toy Story 3 was, at the time, a bittersweet sendoff to the franchise that launched Pixar’s filmography and paved the way for CGI movies. Meanwhile, at DreamWorks, another franchise was beginning. This time it would focus on the conflict between a clan of Vikings and dragon raiders, and how the son of the chief would change that by befriending an injured dragon.

How to Train Your Dragon was not the first movie to tackle this kind of overcoming prejudice plot. What set it apart was its character work and the detail that it put into the different dragon species to make them feel like living, breathing creatures. The film’s flying scenes are also fantastically choreographed, especially when seen in the film’s 3D release.

Kung Fu Panda 2 vs Rango (2011)

One of the most bizarrely entertaining winners of the award has to be Rango, where Johnny Depp plays a chameleon actor who fools a western town of desert animals that he is a living legend. It won audiences with some stellar performances, its wacky premise, and for being a love letter to classic western tropes. That same year, DreamWorks released the first sequel to Kung Fu Panda.

Related:Why ‘Kung Fu Panda 2’ Is An Animated Sequel Done Right

The second film sees Po on a new quest to stop the evil peacock, Shen, from unleashing a new weapon that will allow him to conquer all of China. What’s more, Shen has a connection to Po’s past that opens old scars. This results in a wonderful hero-villain dynamic, which pushes a very mature message about finding balance and moving on from trauma.

Wreck it Ralph vs Brave (2012)

In hindsight, Brave is not one of Pixar’s best films. It has beautiful animation and a gripping atmosphere that promises Scottish mythology but falls short thanks to too many ideas fighting for attention. Meanwhile, at Disney, there was a candidate that took a look at the world inside video games.

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Wreck it Ralph explores what it’s like to work a thankless job by following the villain of a popular arcade game who wants to be a hero for once. As he jumps to various games to achieve this goal, the other characters, and Ralph himself, learn the importance of his role. It’s a wonderful story that tells its audience that your actions and personality are what define you, not your societal role.

The Box Trolls vs Big Hero 6 (2014)

Laika’s third production was a charming story about an orphaned boy named Egg raised among box trolls, named because they love to collect discarded boxes. Despite being friendly, they’re seen as a dangerous pest by the people of Cheesebridge, who have hired an exterminator to get rid of them. His quest to save his family leads him to discover his own past, all told through detailed and articulated stop-motion animation.

Related: LAIKA’s Display at Licensing Expo Features Stop-Motion Puppets of ‘Coraline’, ‘Kubo’, and More

Unfortunately, Disney released Big Hero 6the same year. While the Box Trolls are cute, they can’t compete with Baymax, who was popular enough to get his own Disney+ series. However, Box Trolls has a much better villain in Archibald Snatcher, voiced by Ben Kingsly.

Klaus vs Toy Story 4 (2019)

2019 was a big year for animated movies, but the most ambitious film for nomination was Netflix’s Klaus. This unique telling of the Santa Claus myth sees the spoiled son of the postmaster general sent to the island village of Smeerensburg, whose inhabitants are caught in a blood feud. He befriends a local woodsman who makes toys, and together they bring happiness to the children and inspire change.

Although Klaus came strong with its fun writing and beautiful hand-drawn animation accentuated by computers, it ultimately lost to Toy Story 4. At the time this was a controversial pick, as Toy Story 4 is seen as an unnecessary sequel to a beloved trilogy. Regardless, Klaus’ success might spark a new era for hand-drawn animation.

Next:10 Of The Greatest Best Animated Feature Winners

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