Disney has the potential to win five Academy Awards tonight, and it has eight nominees in the running. So what are they? Who are they up against? And what are the odds of them winning?
Let’s dig in!
Best Short Film (Animated): 1 Nominee
This adorable short film that preceded Zootopia told the story of a young sand piper who learns to not only overcome their fear of the ocean by literally leaping in. The graphics on this short film are stunningly beautiful, at times looking less like animation and more like reality. It is more than deserving of the nomination.
Chances of Winning: Good, but up against some stiff competition. The Disney Studios has been nominated 49 times in this category’s nearly 90 year history, winning 15, the most of any other animation studio. Any Disney submission has a certain level of established quality which gives it a heightened advantage.
However, all submissions this year (Blind Vaysha, Borrowed Time, Pear Cider and Cigarettes, and Pearl) were incredibly strong. Although I personally loved Piper, I am favoring Borrowed Time to win, a short that still has ties to Disney. It was made by PIXAR artists Andrew Coats and Lou Haou-Lhadj over a span of five years in their spare time.
I’m going to say that again. SPARE. TIME. This film is stunningly beautiful, incredibly tragic, and relies on next-to-no dialogue. Watch here at your own discretion, as it’s much darker than any other PIXAR project, and thus why it is not PIXAR produced.
Best Sound Mixing: 1 Nominee
Okay, every year, the same thing happens to me: I prove myself to be a horrible Film Studies student and utterly forget the difference between the categories, “Best Sound Mixing” and “Best Sound Editing.” So here’s a quick (and terribly generalized) refresher:
Sound editing is every sound that is heard in a film. It’s all of the dialogue, the score, the dialogue that had to be re-recorded in the studios by the actors, the sound effects (both recorded on set and replicated on a Foley Stage), all of it.
Sound mixing is the work that is put into making all of these elements sound realistic and acceptable to the human ear. Sound mixers adjust levels of sounds, insert and fade certain sounds so that they become more distinct at certain points, and the like.
Alright, Film 101 lesson over. Back to the nominee! Rogue One got a nomination for Best Sound Mixing, the latter of the two sound-related categories that I described. So we are only really looking at how all of the sounds were managed throughout the film. Light sabers, blasters, explosions, crashes, beeps and whooshes...these are all of the many challenging sounds that the sound mixing team on Rogue One had to manage and oversee.
Chances of Winning: Who Knows. I am certainly no expert on sound design (as evidenced by the above descriptions of what these categories even are), so to me, this is really anyone’s game. Rogue One is up against two other films that deal with a similar amount of explosions and gunfire sound effects, Hacksaw Ridge and 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. Arrival is another nominee that had to mix a brand new sound effect created for the alien characters. And finally, La La Land had to manage mixing the score and songs with other sounds of the surrounding Los Angeles landscape. I picked La La Land just in consideration of the challenge of the complexities of the score, but I would not be surprised at all if Rogue One walks away successful!
Best Music (Original Song): 1 Nominee
Lin-Manuel Miranda is about to be Disney’s poster child. Not even taking into account his massive Broadway successes with In the Heights and a tiny little production you probably never heard of called Hamilton, Miranda not only helped write the songs for Moana, but also is starring alongside Emily Blunt in Mary Poppins Returns (Marshall, 2018) AND is about to team up with Alan Menken to rewrite the music for the live action reboot of The Little Mermaid.
“How Far I’ll Go,” is Moana’s main theme, a song that has been likened to other classic Disney anthems like, “Go the Distance,” “Let It Go,” and “Part of Your World.” It states Moana’s deepest desires and main obstacles to achieving her goals all within two minutes of beautiful, sweeping music. Auli’i Cravalho does an amazing job with the vocals, and overall this song is all you need to put wind in your sails (no pun intended).
Chances of Winning: Please, all sentient beings, please make this happen. Okay. Once again, this is anyone’s game. Well...personally I don’t think “The Empty Chair” from Jim: The James Foley Story or, as catchy as it was, “Can’t Stop the Feeling” from Trolls has a chance of winning, but I think that this is a massive standoff between Miranda and Justin Hurwitz from La La Land. He’s got two horses in the race, “Audition” and “City of Stars.” “City of Stars” is the favorite to win, but it is my sincere hope that “Audition” and “City of Stars” split the Oscar voters’ votes, leaving “How Far I’ll Go” the winner.
At the end of the day, however, we get to hear Auli’i and Lin perform the song this evening live at the awards, so we’re all winning tonight!
Best Visual Effects: 3 Nominees Against Each Other
But like...The Jungle Book!! These animals looked so real at points, I forgot that they weren’t really interacting with Neel Sethi, the young actor who played Mowgli. A large majority of this film was entirely visual effects, and the animals all looked so natural and authentic despite having jaws capable of forming English words. Some of them even resemble their human voice counterparts, especially Bill Murray as Baloo and Christopher Walken as King Louie. Once again, all the praise.
ROGUE. ONE. The final third of this film was so beautiful, I was gasping aloud in the theater at certain points. And let’s not forget that this film may have revolutionized visual effects FOREVER in what it did to bring Grand Moff Tarkin and a young Princess Leia to the screen despite the incarnations of these characters being from almost forty years in the past. What a tough race.
Chances of Winning: Please let me go home. My head and heart hurts. I don’t KNOW, guys! These three are up against Deepwater Horizon and Kubo and the Two Strings, neither of which I saw, but I know how incredible and well-praised both of them were. This is by far the tightest race in the Oscars this year. Anyone who wins this category but...I don’t know. My heart is with Doctor Strange, but...yeesh. I don’t know, man.
And here we are! The big guns! Two Disney Animation Studios films have been pitted against each other. But who will emerge victorious?
Best Animated Feature Film: 2 Nominations Against Each Other
Moana. Female hero, authentic depiction of South Pacific Island culture, respectful depiction of Polynesian religion and mythology, awesome animal sidekicks, great music, visuals so beautiful, they sometimes look real. Classic Disney, classic family film.
Zootopia. Disney’s first attempt to spoof/replicate the “buddy cop” movie genre. Surprising twist, unexpected and poignant commentary about racial politics and prejudice, fantastic lead character chemistry, funny, clever, challenging, created a fantastic new world.
Chances of Winning: UGHGHGHGHGHGGHHGGHG. WHAT DO I DO!?!?!?! These two are up against Kubo and the Two Strings, My Life as a Zucchini, and The Red Turtle, and honestly, it would make my life SO much easier if one of them would just win so that I could live the rest of my life in peace. But no, we all know one of these two are winning. In all of the other previous major awards this season, Zootopia has emerged victorious, and is currently the favorite to win. For personal reasons and ties to Pacific culture, my heart is with Moana, but no matter what, I don’t think that Disney is in a losing position. They will win the category with one of these two films.
Thanks for joining me in this breakdown (both of these categories...and my own personal mental breakdown)! Now it’s time for YOU to cast your vote for these categories!