Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Next Year's Animation Oscar Race: Dory vs. Judy and Nick

Next year's Academy Awards may be more than seven months away, but there's one category where the race is well underway:  best animated movie.

This picture shows the two front-runners, Finding Dory and Zootopia. One takes a look at a fish's search for her family, while the other takes an unusual look at judging a book..or an its cover.

This reminds me of 2013 when Brave took on Wreck-It Ralph for the big prize. Brave won because it had two things:  a new type of Disney princess and Pixar's reputation. Wreck-It Ralph could have won because it's about a big lug who doesn't want to be the bad guy in a video game even if he's the most important part.

Several other films may wind up in the running including The Secret Lives of Pets, Moana and Kubo and the Two Strings. Still, it seems these Disney movies will wind up as the front-runners, and not just because they're smash hits.

Finding Dory is the long-awaited sequel to Finding Nemo. This time, the blue tang fish who has a memory problem suddenly remembers she has a mom and dad, and has to find them. Marlin, who's still a bit shell-shocked from the last movie, tries to stop her, but there's no stopping her or Nemo. They head to the Marine Life Center thousands of miles away to find them, if they are there. It has a very impressive supporting cast including an octopus who's a master of disguise, a nearsighted whale and another whale who's having problems with his sonar. For most of the picture, it seems like the original, with Marlin and Nemo trying to find Dory because they're worried about her being alone. It still  has some extra touches that makes it very special. One of them is showing baby Dory learning some very important lessons from her parents that helped her deal with her short-term memory problem. There are a couple of others, but we'll get to that later.

Zootopia would have the edge over Finding Dory mainly because of its unique lesson on prejudice. When we meet Judy Hopps, she's a young girl who dreams of being a police officer for Zootopia. Thing is, in a world where predators and prey live together in harmony, certain animals can only do certain jobs. Sloths are with the DMV, gazelles are pop stars, and bunnies are farmers, Judy won't hear of that, though, She becomes a meter maid, but is also determined to find out what's behind the disappearance of several animals. She crosses paths with a sly fox named Nick Wilde, who eventually helps her out. The interesting thing about him is that society has decided he can't be trusted, and he decides to agree because he can't prove otherwise. Judy gives him a reason to show he can be trusted even with the slyness. What's also interesting is that while she tries to make the city a better place by solving the disappearances, she inadvertently makes things worse. While fear does play a role in the main crime, especially who's really responsible, Judy finds a way to get justice and change things for the better. Some slyness from Nick especially helps out. There's also a sly comment about Disney's most popular animated feature in the past ten years.

Still, I can't help but think Finding Dory will wind up winning Best Animated Feature because of its Pixar edge. There are two other reasons, though. There's a scene in the third act where Dory is reunited with her fellow blue tang fish. She's told about her parents' efforts to find her, then something bad happens that we see through her eyes. That's a scene that would make anyone shed a tear. It's followed by another scene that is guaranteed to make people cry. Oh, and there's a post-credit scene that tops similar scenes from Frozen and Brave. That could be enough to get an Oscar next February.

So, when the Oscars roll around, it turns out Pixar's reputation will once again edge out a story about someone who wants to defy stereotypes.  Then again, maybe pets or a guy with two strings may surprise us.

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