ByTom Cox, writer at
Staff writer for Moviepilot. Tweet me @thomascox500
Tom Cox

Hold the phone — there's no animal Oscar? Despite them being seen throughout many films? Despite them being key plot devices and going through as much hell as the actors? Madness!

Granted, perhaps the talents of individual creatures aren't quite as unique as those of DiCaprio in The Revenant, the costume designer for Cinderella, or the cinematographer in Mad Max.

But in this age where selfie-taking monkeys take people to court and New Zealand recognizes animals as sentient beings, animals have a special place that should give them the right to at least one little Academy Award.

Selfie-snapping monkey: Cheese!
Selfie-snapping monkey: Cheese!

It's not easy for animal actors: it took years of animal schooling to get Toto fit for the journey to Oz or the pig to round up sheep in Babe. In animation, it takes just as long to labor over the hairs of creations like Sully in Monsters Inc.

There used to be a prize for animals. From 1939 to 1986 skilled beasts were awarded the Picture Animal Top Star of the Year Award, presented by the American Humane Association, for their talents on the silver screen.

To remedy the situation, here is a list of the best animal performances from the list of Oscar-nominated movies this year.

Some aren't your traditional kind of animal, some are purely CGI-rendered beings, but all are part of the lively gaggle of animals in contemporary films that will tragically go unmentioned at the 88th Academy Awards on February 28.

Here are my six nominees for Best Animal Actor:

6. The horses in 'Hateful Eight'

Have you seen how much snow is in this film? It's freezing out there! Those poor babies.

Hateful Eight was nominated for best supporting actress, best score, and best cinematography — but no mention of these equine heroes.

The location, a 900-acre ranch in Southwest Colorado, was in the depths of winter when Tarantino shot the film.

Being one of the dozens required to pull the coaches while out-galloping an approaching snow storm is no mean feat.

On top of the five wranglers there are also two cat trainers credited — did you spot the feline?

5. The mice in 'Cinderella'

The critters moseying around the cheese here really save the day for Cinderella, and the special effects team should definitely receive some attention for their incredibly cute and lifelike rodents.

The mice were so important there was even a mice script, as director Kenneth Branagh told the Radio Times:

"We created a whole mouse drama – there is a mouse script.
We found ourselves creating things for them to say, which we had actors say and which we then slowed down or sped up and turned into invisible mouse lingo."

Apparently, if you slow the mouse noises down, sentences become discernible.

Cindy would never have made it to the ball without the trusty mice having turned into noble white steeds to pull her ex-pumpkin carriage:

4. Chewbacca in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'

Though Wookiees are technically humanoid, similar in form to humans, Chewie definitely has some lovable animalistic characteristics that could qualify him for the Animal Oscar.

Not in the least of these is his distinctive voice, constructed from fragments of bear speech:

The return performance by giant actor Peter Mayhew in The Force Awakens was exemplary. Mayhew was first discovered by George Lucas while he was working as an orderly at a hospital in London.

Chosen for his towering height of seven feet, he was initially told all he had to was stand up.

Chewie should also, DiCaprio-style, be credited for his brilliant performances throughout his career.

In the movies he started out as a Wookiee military commander but was captured. After escaping, he fought in the Resistance in the Clone Wars, the Galactic Civil War and against the First Order. What a champion!

The film itself pulled in nominations for its sounds and visual effects.

3. The manta ray in "Manta Ray"

Ok, this isn't a real animal by any stretch, but it still deserves a mention for the sheer beauty of this song, 'Manta Ray' by J. Ralph and Antony Hegarty.

If you give the ethereal chords a listen, it does sound a lot like what must go through the fins of graceful rays. The delicate tune was nominated for Best Original Song this year. It lent its gently haunting tones to Racing Extinction.

This documentary explores the ongoing mass extinction of species across the globe, and the sense of transience is reflected in the song's fragile piano harmonies.

Listen to "Manta Ray":

2. Bear in 'Bear Story'

The bear in Bear Story, which has been nominated for Best Animated Short Film, is an ingenious thing.

In the movie, having been separated from his family, Bear painstakingly constructs a mechanical family in an attempt to recall what has happened to his kin.

The film is a cleverly executed metaphor for the barbaric separation of families by the Pinochet regime in Chile.

The bear stands for the physically imposing grandfather of director Gabriel Osorio, who was exiled from Chile in the '70s.

It took animation company Punkrobot five years of stop-start work to put together this heroic creature.

Watch the trailer here:

1. Anger in 'Inside Out'

Not your regular animal, this nasty little emotion is more than capable of rousing the beast within humans.

Inside Out, nominated for Best Animated Feature, depicts five core feelings of a child's mind as characters directing a girl called Riley from inside her head: Anger, Disgust, Sadness, Fear, and Joy.

Anger feeds an idea into Riley's head — making her run away. Voiced by comedian Lewis Black, Anger is a masterly stroke in the film and fully deserving of an Oscar.

Meet Anger in this teaser:

It's unlikely the eight-and-a-half pound gold-plated statuette will be recast as a horse or manta ray, rather than a knight, anytime soon. But we can dream!

What is your favorite animal among the Oscar-nominees?

Source: The Wrap


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