The Walt Disney Animation Studios has never won the Academy Award® for Best Animated Feature. That’s pretty surprising, considering this category seems tailor-made for Disney, but since its addition to the Oscar® ballot in 2001, the winners have been mostly Pixar Animation Studios films, plus some from other animation studios.
When Frozen won the award this year, it made Disney history as its the first film to win the Best Animated Feature Oscar®, but it would also ends the 14-year freeze of no Academy Award® wins for a full-length feature from the Walt Disney Animation Studios. The win has crystalize Disney’s triumphant return to outstanding animated films in this second-wave Renaissance with The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, and Wreck-It Ralph.
While it’s easy to be cynical about awards shows, I argue they can be very meaningful to families, especially kids, for recognizing family entertainment as being among the best of the year. Even before I really understood the historical significance of this distinction, learning as a child that Beauty and the Beast earned a Best Picture nomination signified what animation could achieve, and how it could hold its own among live-action films for adults. This recognition from the film community is a strong critical affirmation of animation as a legitimate art form, and just a decade later the Best Animated Feature category was begun to recognize achievement in animated films.
In retrospect, it’s pretty amazing to think animated films didn’t receive such strong recognition sooner. A landmark like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is undoubtedly one of the most memorable films from 1937 (who can even name that year’s Best Picture winner without looking it up?) though it did receive a Special Achivement Oscar despite not being nominated in any of the major categories. Another interesting tidbit I learned recently is that, in 1967, Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences President Gregory Peck (!) was just floored by The Jungle Book and aggressively campaigned for that to receive a Best Picture nomination. This attempt was unsuccessful, but it’s heartening to learn that decades before Beauty and the Beast, even prominent Hollywood figures considered animated films to be among the year’s best.
The awards-season success of family films like Frozen can be a gateway for your family to watch awards shows together, and supporting the films you love. Who knows – this year, a Frozen win may make history just like Beauty and the Beast’s Best Picture nomination did over 20 years ago. The nominees are very often adult-leaning films, so it’s great to have a movie like Frozen that the whole family can root for together on Oscar® night.