Animation has evolved from a simple, straightforward storymaking medium like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to spooky adult stories like Sausage Party in 1991.
Ten years later, the Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature have added a new category. Twenty-one films have won the Oscar, but some years saw fierce competition among the winners.
Monsters Inc vs Shrek (2001)
Shrek won the very first Oscar for Best Animated Feature, sweeping the world by storm for its satirical take on Disney's formula and its iconic characters. However, Monsters Inc. had the best chance of giving it a run for its money.
Two monsters who hunt down children's screams for energy and find a human girl who has wandered into their world, before attempting to flee the scene without alerting the authorities, and uncover a conspiracy within their company. The film has become one of Pixar's most heartfelt films, which would be released in 2013 and a Disney+ show in 2021.
Shrek 2 vs The Incredibles (2004)
Brad Bird's film about a family of superheroes adjusting to civilian life touched hearts of all ages. The film was almost universally loved and won many awards, including best animated feature. This is even more impressive because it was competing with Shrek's sequel.
Shrek 2 is one of those rare sequels that both continue the story from the original and in some ways surpass it. It continues the fairy tale's spoof by taking the characters to the faraway land, done to spoof Beverly Hills, and includes a Fairy Godmother as the villain. It also introduced the character of Puss in Boots, who got a spin-off film in 2011.
The Cure of the Were-Rabbit in Corpse Bride vs Wallace & Grommet (2005)
Wallace and Grommet's feature film debut saw the two actors pursue a monstrous were-rabbit who is raving over all the vegetables in town leading up to a vegetable competition. Its on-point stop-motion animation, combined with throwbacks to classic horror films, resulted in a fun film that never took itself too seriously.
Tim Burton's stop-motion tale about a youngster accidentally falling in love with a zombie was a good candidate for the position. It features Burton's macabre charm and imaginative character designs, as well as a stellar cast including Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, and Richard E. Grant. Even musician Danny Elfman voices a lounge skeleton, and sings his own jazz number, "Remains of the Day."
Kung Fu Panda vs WALL-E (2008)
WALL-E is perhaps the finest example of Pixar's talent at their height. They told a convincing love story that also served as a cautionary tale about the environment. It even beat out DreamWorks' Kung Fu Panda, the highest-grossing film of the year at the Academy Awards.
With its unique blend of humor and insightful philosophy, the film revived Po, a lovable protagonist voiced to perfection by Jack Black, and a Netflix series as the most recent addition.
Coraline vs Up (2009)
A youngster and her family move into a new house populated with strange tenants, inspired by Neil Gaiman's tale. She discovers a hidden room that leads to a different world, where everything is a perfect mirror that enthuses Coraline to stay. When she refuses, her other mother kidnaps her real parents to enslave her.
Coraline was praised by many for its emotional depth, while Pixar's Up was awarded for its psychological depth. It was a powerful first film from Laika, which would lead to a new wave of stop-motion films in the next decade.
Toy Story 3 vs How to Train Your Dragon (2009)
Toy Story 3 was released thirteen years after the second film, and was a bittersweet departure from the previous franchise that paved the way for CGI films. At the same time, another franchise was forming at DreamWorks. This time it would focus on the conflict between a clan of Vikings and dragon raiders, and how the son of the chief would change that by befriending an injured dragon.
How to Train Your Dragon was not the first film to tackle this sort of overcoming prejudice issue. What set it apart was its character development and the attention it paid to the different dragon species in order to make them feel like living, breathing creatures, especially when seen in the film's 3D release.
Kung Fu Panda 2 vs Rango (2011)
Johnny Depp plays a chameleon aficionado who fools a western town of desert animals that he is a living legend. It won fans with its funny premise and for being a love letter to classic western tropes in the same year.
Po is on a new quest to depose Shen, a nasty peacock, who has a connection to Po's past that opens old wounds. This results in a wonderful hero-villain connection, which conveys a very mature message about finding equilibrium and moving on from trauma.
Wreck it Ralph vs Brave (2012)
Brave isn't one of Pixar's finest films in hindsight. It's a beautiful animation and a enthralling atmosphere that promises Scottish mythology, but it falls short due to too many ideas competing for attention. At Disney, there was a candidate who took a look at the world outside video games.
Wreck it Ralph reveals what it's like to work a thankless job by following the villain of a popular arcade game who wishes to be a hero for the first time. The other characters, as well as Ralph, learn the importance of his role.
The Box Trolls vs Big Hero 6 (2014)
Laika's third production was a funny story about an orphaned boy named Egg who was raised among box trolls because they loved collecting trashed papers. They are considered as a dangerous pest by the people of Cheesebridge, who have hired an exterminator to remove them. His quest to save his family leads him to uncover his own past, all told through detailed and articulated stop-motion animation.
Unfortunately, Disney released Big Hero 6the same year. Although the Box Trolls are adorable, they can't compete with Baymax, who was popular enough to get his own Disney+ series. However, Box Trolls has a much better villain in Archibald Snatcher, voiced by Ben Kingsly.
Klaus vs Toy Story 4 (2019)
The most ambitious film for the Oscar was Netflix's Klaus. In this unique tale of the Santa Claus myth, the spoiled son of the postmaster general is sent to the island village of Smeerensburg, whose residents are caught in a blood conflict, and together they bring joy to the children and inspire change.
Although Klaus excelled at its entertaining writing and crisp hand-drawn animation, it ultimately fell to Toy Story 4, which was initially a controversial choice as Toy Story 4 is seen as an unnecessary sequel to a beloved trilogy. Regardless, Klaus's accomplishment might spark a fresh era for hand-drawn animation.