18. Frozen (2013)
A princess develops destructive ice powers as she comes of age and ascends her kingdom’s throne, leading her to flee into the wilderness and for her meek younger sister to mount a perilous quest to find her.
Disney’s megahit might be slightly overrated but the pristine quality of its animation, ear-worm music and compelling story of self-actualisation and sisterly love justifies its success. The bane of many parents’ lives thanks to the soundtrack playing on repeat, Frozen is a beautifully sung and animated fairy tale adaptation that takes the unconventional route in telling a story about unconditional love by making it all about siblings’ unquestioning acceptance.
Hayao Miyazaki’s third Oscar nomination for Studio Ghibli’s The Wind Rises came to naught just over a decade after his win for Spirited Away, perhaps because it was just too mature and self-reflective for kids.
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17. Finding Nemo (2003)
A neurotic single dad clown fish searches the hazard-filled ocean for his lost son with the help/hindrance of a forgetful companion.
Pixar might have refined their art since, but still affecting is the parent’s worst nightmare of a lost child re-told as a magical underwater adventure with a compelling double act at its centre. The expressiveness of the animation is still impressive, especially considering most characters are fish (not the most emotive of creatures), and Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres have such a wonderful chemistry throughout.
Sylvian Chomet’s The Triplets of Belleville would have made for a much more distinctive, hand-drawn winner this year, but Nemo was a solid choice.
16. Up (2009)
An elderly widower ties hundreds of balloons to his house and takes off on an adventure to South America in the company of a cheery Boy Scout and an easily distracted talking dog.
Pete Docter’s Up might run out of buoyancy in its final act which spirals into generic action, but its warmth, humour and heartbreaking silent “Married Life” montage makes it one of the most memorable Pixar films to see out the studio’s second decade of feature filmmaking.
Nominees Coraline (from Laika) and The Secret of Kells (Cartoon Saloon), doing a lot to keep stop-motion and hand-drawn animation alive, not to mention Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox were beaten to the prize by yet another CG serving from Pixar. Adam Elliot’s dark comic claymation Mary and Max wasn’t even nominated because of the requirement that nominees need to receive a US theatrical release.
15. Encanto (2021)
Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz), the only member of the magical Madrigal family without her own gifts to serve her remote Columbian community, goes on a journey of self-discovery to save her home from losing its otherworldly power.
The pleasing vocal performances, the mould-breaking character designs and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s typically ear-wormy songs all make an impact, but one of the most refreshing things about Encanto (in addition to giving an under-represented culture a voice in Disney animation) is that the story plays out without the need of a physical antagonist. Self-doubt, historical trauma and family secrets are the enemy here.
At the Oscars Encanto beat the less interesting fellow Disney project Raya and the Last Dragon as well as films arguably more revolutionary to the medium, Sony’s The Mitchells vs the Machines and animated documentary Flee.
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14. Ratatouille (2007)
A rat with a passion for food aspires to be a chef and helps a talentless French cook to turn his disastrous professional kitchen career around.
Never, at least not outside a Studio Ghibli film, has animated food looked so appetising, and Remi the rat’s story of pursuing his foodie instincts by an unconventional route is a winning one. The ludicrous but pleasing conceit of a chef being “operated” by a rat pulling on his hair never gets old and Peter O’Toole’s stuck-up food critic Ego having a moment of humbling tranquillity as he tastes the dish of the title lives on in hearts and memes.
Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel adaptation Persepolis just missed out this year, perhaps for being too challenging for a lot of audiences.