In honor of the 95th Academy Awards, I decided to check out some of the nominees that I had missed from the year prior. One I was excited to check out was “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.” The film garnered an insane amount of critical praise, currently sitting at a 95% critic score and 94% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. While it didn’t win Best Animated Feature, it still was one of my favorite films of last year.
The movie was so good that it trumped most of the movies nominated for Best Picture. So why wasn’t it nominated when it widely regarded as one of the best films of 2022? Well, it’s part of a much larger issue with the medium of animation in general — not enough people take it seriously.
To give you an idea of this, in the 95 years of the Academy Awards, only three animated films have ever been nominated for Best Picture. The films were “Beauty and the Beast,” “Up” and “Toy Story 3.” The latter was in 2010, so it has been over a decade since an animated film was even considered for the highest honor in Hollywood.
Keep in mind that the Best Animated Feature category wasn’t introduced until 2001. So, films like “Aladdin,” “The Iron Giant” and “The Prince of Egypt” got little to no recognition in their respective years. However, the notion of having a Best Animated Feature is part of the problem.
Grading and categorizing movies and animated movies as two separate mediums means audiences are likely to view animated films as lesser or not as “real” movies. Animation is a medium, but with how vast and diverse animated films have become, it should be looked at as a genre no different than horror or action.
This isn’t me saying that animation isn’t made for kids, and most of the audience for animated films will be on the younger side. However, simply saying it is “only” for kids and there is nothing for adults is the problem. To use “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” again, the film has plenty of cute moments and characters for younger viewers. At the same time though, the film explores a lot of mature ideas: living life to fullest, the fear of death and anxiety. Many mental health experts have praised the film’s accurate depiction of a panic attack.
If we want to explore television animation, think about “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” It’s one of the few shows that has broken past the “kids’ stuff stigma” and has earned its well-deserved praise from audiences of all ages. The show not only explores some mature topics like war and genocide, but the characters are equally complex. Prince Zuko’s journey from antagonist to protagonist is deeper and more powerful than most modern TV dramas.
What about something like “Gravity Falls”? It was a show that aired on the Disney Channel but was able to tell a far more interesting mystery than shows like “Riverdale” or “The Undoing” ever could.
Animation isn’t something that should be looked down upon by audiences. If anything, animation should be looked at with more respect given the amount of work that goes into each frame. There is animation directed strictly at children, but to group all animated works into the same category is disrespectful to some genuine works of art. Admit it, when “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” hits theaters in June, the majority of the audience checking it out opening weekend are going to be on the older side, and there’s nothing wrong with that.