Special Feature: Animated Oscar hopefuls

Next year's Academy Awards ceremony may not be until 26 February 2017 but there are already a host of speculative prediction pieces floating around the internet. Nate Parker's Birth of a Nation received major awards buzz from the Sundance Film Festival in January, Damien Chazelle's Whiplash follow-up La La Land is being talked up and Martin Scorsese is set to return with his adaptation of Shūsaku Endō's Silence. There's one major awards category that's often overlooked in these discussions, however, and that's Best Animated Feature. So, largely as an excuse to talk about some of the more exciting animated films due in 2016, here are a few films that might by vying for that Oscar.

The first of these contenders to arrive in UK cinemas before/during summer, Disney's Zootropolis - coming soon to Cineworld - is already doing a roaring trade at the top of the America box office. Directed by the man who helmed the hugely popular Tangled, Byron Howard, Zootropolis is described as a "buddy-comedy-meets-conspiracy-thriller set in a world entirely populated by animals". The film sees rabbit cop Lt. Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) trying to crack a big case with the help of cunning fox Nick Wild (Jason Bateman) and it's been receiving critical praise alongside its audience support. UK release: 25 March

The Secret Life of Pets
The build-up to Universal's The Secret Life of Pets has been quite a long one after an early trailer launched giving a cheeky insight into what our four-legged friends get up to when we're at work. The plot sees an odd couple - a Jack Russell named Max (Louis C.K.) and a mongrel named Duke (Eric Stonestreet) - cast out into the world and having to pull together to get back home. There are definite shades of Toy Story and the trailers have promised much mammalian humour. UK release: 24 June

Finding Dory
It's an obvious choice but a dead cert for a nomination. The award has only been in existence for fifteen years and Pixar have already won it eight times with a further two nominations. Their first film to pick up the trophy was a fish tale back in 2003 called Finding Nemo. Finding Dory follows on from the first film this time seeing the loveable Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) going on a grand adventure beneath the high seas. If the trailers are anything to go by, this is one of Pixar's better sequels and sees Albert Brooks returning as Marlon alongside Idris Elba, Michael Sheen, Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy. UK release: 29 July

Kubo and the Two Strings
From Laika, the studio that brought you Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls, comes a new stop motion adventure. Previous lead animator Travis Knight moves into the director's chair for this journey through ancient Japan in which a young boy, Kubo (Art Parkinson) must evade gods and monsters to find a magical suit of armour once worn by his father, a legendary Samurai. Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Rooney Mara and Ralph Fiennes round out the cast for what is sure to be another richly animated triumph. UK release: 9 September

Directing duo Ron Clements and John Musker have a pretty stellar record for Disney, helming The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Hercules amongst others. Their first foray into entirely computer-animated fare comes in the form of Moana, which they'll make from a screenplay by Taika Waititi. Incorporating the mythology of ancient Oceania in the South Pacific and follows the titular Moana (Auli'i Craavalho), a natural-born navigator as she sets off to find a fabled island accompanied by the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson). UK release: 2 December

The Little Prince
Things have been a bit rocky for Mark Osbourne's adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince. After being lauded for its charming blend of CGI and stop-motion when it premiered at Cannes last year, the film has very recently been dropped by Paramount. There is still hope however, that it will be picked up by someone else and receive a release in time to be considered for next year's Oscars. The two concurrent stories follow a girl escaping her overbearing mother in the tales of an elderly aviator, and the aviator when much younger as he encounters the eponymous prince. Featuring a fabulous voice cast, it sounds like an ode to childhood wonder. UK release: TBC

Ben Nicholson | @BRNicholson


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