The 2017 Academy Award nominees are in, and the discussion has begun: which movies will go home with awards, and which will leave with nothing? From the snubs to the surprises, there is a lot to talk about, especially in the animation category.
Five fantastic movies are up for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film: Kubo and the Two Strings, Moana, My Life as a Zucchini, The Red Turtle and Zootopia. While Zootopia appears to have the edge, there is an excellent argument to be made for the visually stunning and highly moving film Kubo and the Two Strings.
Mature And Complex Storytelling
Kubo and the Two Strings is set in mythical Japan and tells the tale of a boy who, after accidentally summoning evil spirits, goes on a quest to find his father's samurai armor, which will enable him to defeat his enemies. Armed with a musical instrument that allows him to create origami magic, and accompanied by Monkey and Beetle, Kubo must defeat dangerous enemies to complete his quest and uncover the truth about his family.
Dark, thoughtful and mature, Kubo appeals to adults and children alike. With its themes of grief, loneliness, death, family and fate, Kubo takes a close look at what it means to be a hero, and where our stories end and begin. It's at turns sad, funny and meditative, but never ceases to be heartfelt with a strong emotional punch.
In addition, Kubo features excellent, lyrical storytelling that doesn't waste a word, making the movie a true masterpiece. It's a movie that requires you to pay close attention, as from the dialogue to the visual imagery, all details are important. As Kubo himself tells you:
"If you must blink, do it now. Pay careful attention to everything you see and hear, no matter how unusual it may seem. And please be warned, if you fidget, if you look away, if you forget any part of what I tell you, even for an instant, then our hero will surely perish."
Cutting Edge Stop-Motion Animation
The first thing you notice about Kubo is the incredibly detailed and extremely beautiful stop-motion animation. Combining 3D printing, life-size sets and small amounts of CG, Kubo pushes the boundaries of stop-frame animation. Kubo's puppet alone has a mind-blowing 48 million possible facial expressions — and the giant skeleton puppet, believed to be the largest ever animated, stands at 16 feet tall and weighs 400 pounds!
Their innovation earned the studio a scientific and engineering award from the Academy last year and a nomination in the VFX category this year — only the second animated film to earn this distinction since The Nightmare Before Chirstmas in 1994! Kubo also made history as the first animated film to receive a nomination from the Costume Designers Guild.
How Likely Is It To Win?
While Disney/Pixar tends to dominate the category, it's not a given that they will win this year. Laika, the animation studio that designed Kubo and the Two Strings, has had a strong presence at the Oscars with their last three films, Coraline, ParaNorman and The Box Trolls, all receiving nominations.
Kubo is widely considered the studio's best offering yet and earned excellent critical reviews, including a 97 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This might finally be the year that Laika receives recognition for their brilliant stop-motion animation.
In addition, Kubo and the Two Strings' recent win at the BAFTAs puts the film in an excellent position for the upcoming Oscars. Since the inclusion of an animation category at the BAFTAs, winners have gone on to win Academy Awards 9 out of 10 times! Kubo also managed to beat Disney's 5 year winning streak at the VES awards, claiming the top prize for outstanding visual effects in an animated feature.
The Bottom Line
If the movies in the animation category were graded purely on technical achievements, Kubo and the Two Strings would undeniably emerge victorious. But, even setting technical achievements aside, Kubo is packed with serious subject matter, features an epic quest and contains exceptional storytelling, making it immensely deserving of the win on all counts.
It will certainly be no surprise if Kubo and the Two Strings wins this year's Academy Award for Best Animated Feature!
Which movie do you think deserves the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!