In 2022, one of five animated films will join the likes of Shrek, Spirited Away, Toy Story 3 and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ choice as the very best of feature animation in their given year. Walt Disney Animation, Sony Pictures Animation, Pixar and an independent European film company by the name of Final Cut for Real are each represented in a line-up that includes three straight-to-streaming releases; but which of the five nominees for Animated Feature at the Oscars in 2022 is the best? And first, which is the worst?
In this edition of Ranked, we here at The Film Magazine are comparing the house of mouse to upcoming animation giants, independent documentary-animations to record-setting studio darlings, to judge each of 2022’s Oscars Animated Feature nominees from worst to best in terms of overall quality, artistic achievement, social relevance, critical reception and audience perception in this: the 2022 Animated Feature Oscar Nominees Ranked.
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5. Raya and the Last Dragon
Raya and the Last Dragon is no doubt the product of a mountain of ideas, but forty minutes of direct exposition and the subsequent spoon-feeding of information makes for a difficult to stomach two hours that is likely best enjoyed by the youngest members of the family.
Quite why Walt Disney Animation saw a need to have characters name the locations they were entering multiple times even after egregious title cards is beyond anyone, but the biggest faux pas of this particular Animated Feature nominee at the Oscars 2022 is that it is… boring. So much thought has gone into the lore, so much attention paid to the dynamics, that very little creativity was added to a by-the-numbers script that does everything every other Disney-owned property has done over the past few decades only less good.
There’s always a space for Walt Disney Animation movies, and even ones fundamentally floored across several important aspects can be a worthwhile watch, but a genuine Animated Feature contender this is not, and questions should probably be raised as to why this film was even nominated at all.
A significant step up from Raya and the Last Dragon, Walt Disney Animation’s 2nd animated feature of 2021 has proven to be a zeitgeist-piercing phenomenon in the ilk of Frozen (remember “Let it Go”?).
The animation is as high quality as you’d expect, though less unique than Raya and the Last Dragon and less detailed than the Pixar offering on this list, but it’s through music that Encanto best… enchants.
Chart-topping hit “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” is of course the talk of just about everywhere right now, but Encanto features a number of emotional and exciting numbers, each designed to enhance the narrative in a manner akin to the classic Hollywood musicals of the past.
Like those musicals, Encanto is filled with colours and colourful characters, the film earning praise for its representation but remaining interesting due to its class of different personalities and the bond that ties them. There’s little in this manner to separate Encanto from the successes of the Disney Renaissance, but when it isn’t broke don’t fix it, and anytime you can evoke the best period in Western animation history you’re onto a winner.
It’s not quite a blow-away force of emotion, as perspective-shifting, or as unique and energetic as the nominees to come on this list, but it’s a lot of innocent fun with enough to say about generational trauma and familial responsibility to ensure a good time for anyone willing to jump in.
Recommended for you: 10 Things You Might Have Missed in ‘Encanto’