Can Toy Story 3 topple Facebook, Cowboys, a King, and a Boxer?

The Oscar nominees have been announced and there is no surprise animated juggernaut Toy Story 3 is amongst the films up for Best Picture.  It joins Up and Beauty and the Beast as the only animated films to be nominated for Best Picture, although both Toy Story 3 and Up got their nomination in the expanded 10 nominee pool brought back by the Oscars. In no means does it take away the honor for Up and Toy Story 3, because the nomination was more than deserved, but just a fact to be noted.  Now some people argue that the already existing category of Best Animated Feature should exclude films like Toy Story 3 from the Best Picture category.  Others argue not as much cinematic value is involved with animated films which are essentially just CGI and voices.  But do either arguments hold validity, and can Toy Story 3 be the film to stun the awards ceremony this Oscar season?

Let’s start with the straight forward facts.  Toy Story 3 was one of the best reviewed films of the year, if not THE best.  Here’s a rundown of all the nominees and their ratings. IMDB ratings are comprised by viewer voting while Rotten Tomatoes’ percentage is based on actual critics rating films “fresh” or “rotten.”

Toy Story 3:                           RT 99% IMDB 8.7/10
True Grit:                               RT 95% IMDB 8.2/10
The Social Network:             RT 97% IMDB 8.2/10
Inception:                               RT 86% IMDB 9/10
The Fighter:                           RT 89% IMDB 8.3/10
127 Hours:                              RT 93% IMDB 8.2/10
Winter’s Bone:                       RT 94% IMDB 7.5/10
Black Swan:                            RT 88% IMDB 8.6/10
The Kids Are All Right:        RT 94% IMDB 7.4/10
The King’s Speech:                RT 95% IMDB 8.5/10

As you can see, Toy Story 3 received the highest Rotten Tomatoes rating, showing 99% of critics gave the movie a positive review, while having the second best IMDB rating behind Inception’s 9/10.  But are the fans voting in the Oscars?  ‘Fraid not.  Let’s just look back on last year to compare.  The Hurt Locker won best picture, but Up was in a similar scenario as Toy Story 3 as you’ll see.

The Hurt Locker:                  RT 97% IMDB 7.8/10
Avatar:                                    RT 83% IMDB 8.2/10
Precious:                                 RT 91% IMDB 7.5/10
An Education:                         RT 94% IMDB 7.5/10
Up:                                           RT 98% IMDB 8.4/10
District 9:                                RT 91% IMDB 8.2/10
A Serious Man:                       RT 89% IMDB 7.2/10
Up In The Air:                        RT 90% IMDB 7.8/10
The Blind Side:                       RT 66% IMDB 7.7/10
Inglourious Basterds:            RT 88% IMDB 8.4/10

So, even though The Hurt Locker won Best Picture, it technically wasn’t the best reviewed film of the year.  Yes, it was only by 1% and .6 on the IMDB scale, but still not the best.  It was the second best critically and the fifth best amongst all viewers.  By the numbers, Up was the best film voiced by critics and audiences alike.  Sure, there are plenty of variables to take in like how many critics/voters per category, but when it comes to Best Picture nominees, they tend to be the most viewed by the time the award is given.  So, most are on an even playing field.   No one’s stacked with votes or has a 100% with only 2 reviews.    Up won Best Animated feature hands down obviously, because it was the only from that category to also be in the Best Picture of the Year running.  So, the debate is, why didn’t Up win Best Picture when it had the best reviews, and will Toy Story 3 suffer the same fate?

Animated films are often written off for not being as complicated as a live-action film which deals with real life elements like actors and costumes, but in fact it takes much more time to create animation.  It took Pixar just about 3 years to complete Toy Story 3, and that didn’t even include script writing.  A live-action film can be shot and edited in about a year, depending on how rushed production is.  What people tend to forget is that in an animated film, everything is created from scratch.  Live-action films get to pick a location and go “oh, this is pretty.”  Animators not only have to create the characters, but also the entire world of the film down to the tiniest detail.  How many windows on the arbitrary house in the background?  How many trees will be in the yard?  What color shutters?  The creativity factor is unfathomable and the depth of work goes tenfold deeper than just location shopping.  The technicalities of coding go far deeper than any of my knowledge, and is also so much more time-consuming than just pointing a camera.  There is a tradeoff though; the animator gets exactly what he wants every time.

One the other side of the coin, one can say there is more “cinematic value” in a live-action film because of the numerous aspects an animated film lacks.  In a live-action film, so much more stress is put on the actors and their performances, along with the director and his efficiency at conveying exactly what he wants on-screen.  Scenes may require multiple takes because the actor my not be delivering the exact performance a director is looking for, and much more physical talent from the actor himself is required.  Take Colin Firth’s role as King George VI in The King’s Speech for instance.  Firth had to embody the role and study how a stutter can effect the rest of the body physically and make us believe the stutter was real.   An animator merely programs a character to do exactly what he wants, controlling him as a puppeteer would. Actors must immerse themselves in the scene, must practice their screen presence, and most of all must be relatable and believable.  Plus you have to add in lighting, cinematography, costumes, settings, and casting to create the perfect experience.  Live-action directors don’t have the luxury of creating their perfect world from scratch.  They have to work diligently with every aspect of the film and piece it all together like a puzzle.

In no way am I taking credit away from the work that goes into an animated film.  What gets created is some of them most inventive, original, creative, and mind-blowing spectacles of all time.  Be it the awe-inspiring island of Birk from How To Train Your Dragon, the cute and cuddly characters of Toy Story, the touching love story between robots in Wall-E, or Remy the cooking rat in Ratatouille; none of those films would have succeeded on any format except animation.  The work that goes into these films is just as tedious as live-action films and requires precise execution from extremely talented creators.  Making an animated film in no way is a cop-out, which is why they have their own category at the Oscars.  But with that said, I can’t see this as the year an animated film takes down a live-action for Best Picture.  I just don’t think the film community is ready.  Toy Story 3 will win Best Animated Feature hands down (although I loved How To Train Your Dragon), but watch Best Picture go to The Social Network (if voting follows the same pattern as last year) or a film like True Grit/The King’s Speech.  I, myself, can live with this, because I tend to back the argument that animated films have their own category, but who knows what the future will bring come Oscar season.  This could be the year for animation.  More importantly…what do you think?


Check out the awesome Best Picture campaign Toy Story 3 ran to garner interest….

About Matt Donato

I love all things film. I'll watch any genre, any actor, at any time. This whole film critic thing is a passionate hobby for now which I'm balancing with working in the business world, but hey, someday, who knows?
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