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Animation is an art form that appeals to children and adults alike, and in a lot of ways, it’s more difficult to execute than live action. An animated feature requires a huge staff of the best artists, with everyone working cohesively to build characters from scratch that think, feel, and act like us (even when the characters aren’t human).

This month, we’ve broken down one of Oscar’s more visual categories before the ceremony on March 27th. So far, we’ve highlighted the nominees for Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, and Best Visual Effects. Our final guide: Best Animated Feature. 

2021 Winner: Soul (Pete Docter and Dana Murray)
2022 Nominees:
The Mitchells vs. the Machines
Raya and the Last Dragon


Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Yvett Merino & Clark Spencer

You may be tired of talking about Bruno, but that doesn’t make Disney’s Encanto any less of a classic. This computer-animated musical about a magical family from Colombia has its own series of Peloton classes, and its most popular song will apparently open up the Oscars telecast

According to Encanto’s heads of animation, the film was among the most difficult Disney ever created, due in part to the number of main characters. And because of the importance of music and dance to Colombian culture (not to mention, well, a musical), the crew behind Encanto took the rare step of involving choreographers at the beginning of the development process.

Encanto is the first Oscar nomination for director Jared Bush, while co-director Byron Howard has three noms in the category. Howard won the Oscar in 2017 for Zootopia (on which Bush was a co-director, but not part of the group named in the nomination).  


Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Monica Hellström, Signe Byrge Sørensen & Charlotte De La Gournerie

This Danish indie, directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen and executive produced by actor Riz Ahmed, is a documentary, following the story of a real person who fled Afghanistan. The subdued animation style of Flee serves a dual purpose: it protects the identity of the pseudonymous protagonist, but, as Carlos Aguilar writes in IndieWire, it “provides a narrative language with distinct aesthetic dialects that allows for the factual past, his sensorial memory, and the present to converge.”

Flee, now available to stream on Hulu, is notable for the trio of Oscar categories for which it was nominated—Best Animated Feature, Best International Feature, and Best Documentary Feature. It’s the first to earn noms in those three categories simultaneously. Earlier this month, It was honored as the best independent animated movie at the Annie Awards, which recognize excellence in animation in movies and TV.


Enrico Casarosa & Andrea Warren

Since this category’s creation in 2001, Pixar has had it in a headlock, winning 11 of 17 total years (including the past two). It’ll look to three-peat with Luca, a story of a young sea monster in the Italian riviera who assumes the form of a human boy on land. The computer-animated film, released directly to Disney+ in the summer of 2021, was the most-viewed streaming movie of the year.

Director Enrico Casarosa is a first-time nominee who has worked for Pixar since 2002, mostly contributing as a story artist or as part of the senior creative team. Luca, a story partly inspired by his childhood in Genoa, marks his directorial debut for a feature. He previously directed a Pixar short called La Luna, which played in theaters before the feature film Brave and was nominated for Best Animated Short in 2012. 

The Mitchells vs. the Machines

Mike Rianda, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller & Kurt Albrecht

Road-trip comedy meets saving-the-world sci-fi action in The Mitchells vs. the Machines. Katie Mitchell, an aspiring filmmaker, gets a bit more than she bargains for as her family travels to drop her off at college. 

This film, produced by Sony Pictures Animation and Netflix, is already something of a frontrunner on the awards circuit; it won Best Animated Feature at the Annies (and won seven other categories, too). 

The Mitchells vs. the Machines is the feature directorial debut for Mike Rianda, who also co-wrote the story and voiced one of the lead characters. The flick is seeking to become the second Sony production to win in this category, after Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Raya and the Last Dragon

Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada, Osnat Shurer & Peter Del Vecho

The fantasy world of Kumandra was once protected by peaceful dragons, many of whom sacrificed themselves to save humanity from sinister monsters. When the threat re-emerges in the modern day, a warrior princess sets out in search of the last living dragon to save the day once more.Raya and the Last Dragon led all movies at the Annies with 10 total nominations, though it didn’t win any.

The computer-animated flick is director Don Hall’s second Oscar nomination, having previously won for Big Hero 6 in 2015. His next project is directing Strange World, another Disney animated film, slated for release this year. Estrada, Hall’s fellow director, is being honored for the first time. The two also worked together as part of the creative leadership team for Encanto

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