| Daniel Garcia Marco |
LOS ANGELES (dpa) – The battle for this year’s Oscar for best animated film is shaping up into a David-and-Goliath duel between hand-painted fables from Ireland and Japan, and American blockbusters, including a pair of computer-drawn adventures distributed by Disney.
DreamWorks-produced, Disney-distributed How to Train Your Dragon 2 is seen as the front-runner after twin wins at the Golden Globes and the Annies, the industry award for animated films.
Disney’s Big Hero 6 has been an international box-office smash, earning more than 520 million dollars worldwide to make it Disney’s third most successful film of all time after The Lion King and Frozen.
The Boxtrolls, an offbeat stop-motion monster adventure by indie animator Laika, rounds out the American side of the category.
The three have a lot in common – groan-inspiring jokes, a taste for slapstick and the mashup of irony and sentimentality that has defined the last generation of American animation.
But two quietly beautiful animated versions of traditional folk tales, Ireland’s Song of the Sea and Japan’s The Tale of Princess Kaguya, may give the Americans a run for their blockbuster money. The underdog challengers’ independent distributor, GKIDS, has garnered six nominations in the last years. It has yet to score an Oscar win – but this could be its year.
The Tale of Princess Kaguya is based on a ninth-century Japanese folk tale, The Bamboo Cutter. The hand-painted watercolor animation was produced by Studio Ghibli, the famed anime studio founded by Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki – who was recognised by the Academy last year with a lifetime achievement award.
The story begins when an old peasant couple find a tiny girl in a bamboo stalk and adopt her as their daughter. As a young woman, she is pursued by suitors, including the emperor, but rejects them because she is a child of the moon, to which she must return.
The hand-drawn, visually stunning Song of the Sea was nominated for seven Annie awards. Based on the stories of the Selkie seal people of Irish legend, it’s directed by Tomm Moore and his Cartoon Saloon, responsible for The Secret of Kells, which was nominated for the Oscar in 2010.
After the disappearance of their mother, young siblings Ben and Saoirse are sent to live with their grandmother in the city. When they decide to return to their home by the sea, their trip becomes a race against time to save a world that Ben knows only through his mother’s stories.
But to win the Oscar, GKIDS will have to beat How to Train Your Dragon 2. The sequel to 2010’s hit Viking-kids story has been polished to visual perfection by a DreamWorks dream team of more than 400 computer animators.
The film picks up five years after young Hiccup broke with Viking tradition to train dragons rather than hunt them. Now, as he and his dragon explore the island’s uncharted territories, they come across a mysterious ice cave housing hundreds of wild dragons and a secret. The film won six Annies including best animated feature and best director.
Disney’s Big Hero 6 is inspired by the Marvel Comics series of the same name. Set in the futuristic city of San Fransokyo – a cross between San Francisco and Tokyo – the film is the computer-animated story of boy genius Hiro and his robot friend Baymax, and the group of nerdy friends transformed by technology into heroes, as they try to save the world from disaster. While it’s been an international hit, it’s not seen as a top contender for the prize.
Lastly, The Boxtrolls pits man against monster in a stop-motion animation that tells the story of the elegant post-Victorian city of Cheesebridge, and the comically uncouth creatures that live beneath its cobbled streets.
Villain Archibald Snatcher, voiced by British Oscar-winner Ben Kingsley, goes to war against the Boxtrolls, but the trolls may yet get the last laugh.