The Academy Awards are the biggest honor for a film, but it’s only in the last few decades that animated movies have begun to be recognized by the Academy. In fact, there wasn’t a Best Animated Film category until 2002 and only consisted of three nominations. Though the category has begun to nominate more and more movies each year, it still leaves several deserving movies out of the running. And of course, only one movie can win the coveted award, which leaves several deserving movies stuck with the title “Academy Award Nominated” instead of “Academy Award Winning.”
There’s also the problem of the academy voters regularly picking the same types of movies to be nominated and ultimately win. Animated fans have been vocal about this for years, with many having strong opinions about what movies deserved to win and which ones deserved to be nominated instead of snubbed. It’s a hot debate that happens year after year and shows no sign of stopping.
10 Deserved To Be Nominated: The Wild Thornberrys Movie (2002)
Released in 2002, The Wild Thornberrys Movie was snubbed during the second year the Academy Awards offered a Best Animated Film category. However, it did receive a nomination for Best Original Song.
The movie, which was based on the Nickelodeon animated series of the same name, followed Eliza Thornberry, who is determined to save a herd of elephants after learning that a group of poachers is hunting them. The film was praised by critics and fans alike, with many pointing out the story’s heartfelt emotional journey.
9 Didn’t Win: Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
In 2005, Hayao Miyazaki’s film Howl’s Moving Castle took one of three nomination spots at the 78th Academy Awa4rds. However, the movie lost the award to Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, which left many fans upset at the loss.
Howl’s Moving Castle tells the story of Sophie, a mourning child, who befriends a wizard named Howl, who makes her feel less alone. However, their friendship has dark consequences when an evil Witch casts a spell on Sophie, turning her into an elderly woman. The movie appealed to both young and adult audiences and featured beautiful anime-style animation and memorable quotes from the characters.
8 Deserved To Be Nominated: The Polar Express (2004)
Inspired by the children’s book of the same name, the movie centers on a young, skeptic boy who gets a chance to ride the legendary Polar Express on Christmas Eve to visit Santa Claus before he departs on his worldly travels. Along the way, he bonds with other young passengers as they learn the true magic of Christmas.
When it comes to Christmas classics, The Polar Express is at the top of many people’s lists. However, it was not at the top of the Academy’s list for the 2005 ceremony because it was snubbed. Though Christmas movies rarely get nominated, it was the first-ever all-digital capture film, which should have earned it a nomination for its technological advances.
7 Didn’t Win: How To Train Your Dragon (2010)
2010’s How To Train Your Dragon is arguably one of DreamWorks best original animated movies, and yet, the film franchise failed to win an Academy Award even though it had three chances to do so. The franchise lost first to Toy Story 3, then Big Hero 6, and finally to Toy Story 4, which frustrated many fans.
The franchise centers on the adventures of Hiccup, a young Viking who was the black sheep of his family, and Toothless, the rare dragon he befriends in the first film. The franchise has become one of DreamWork’s biggest, proving that one doesn’t need an Academy Award win to be beloved and successful.
6 Deserved To Be Nominated: Tangled (2010)
Disney’s Tangled follows Rapunzel, the lost Princess, on her journey to finally see the floating lanterns, which led her to uncover a dark secret about who she truly is. There’s no denying that the film featured beautiful animation, but the Academy wasn’t too keen on the animation style just yet and thus nominated more traditional;y animated films.
The movie made history when it was released in 2010, becoming the first animated film to blend computer-generated and traditional animation together. While this feat didn’t earn the creators an Academy Award nomination, it did earn them the title of being the most expensive animated film ever to be made — a title it held for over a decade.
5 Didn’t Win: The Boxtrolls (2014)
The Boxtrolls centers on Eggs, a young boy who was taken in by the boxtrolls and raised as one of them. When their world is threatened, Eggs must journey into the human world in the hopes of saving his family.
While the Academy regularly nominated stop motion films in the animation category, they rarely ever take home the golden statue. Many animation fans thought The Boxtrolls would finally break the drought, but that wasn’t the case since the film lost to Big Hero 6. Still, it remains one of the best Laika movies to date.
4 Deserved To Be Nominated: Hotel Transylvania (2012)
One of Adam Sandler’s highest-grossing films is none other than the animated 2012 flick Hotel Transylvania. The movie centered on Dracula’s hotel for monsters which unknowingly lets a human in who ends up falling for Dracula’s daughter Mavis.
The Acadamy snubbed Hotel Transylvania despite it being nominated for a Golden Globe. Many fans and critics found the story to be both humorous and heartfelt with gorgeous animation. Unfortunately, it was kept out of the running that year, and Frozen took home the Golden statue.
3 Didn’t Win: Moana (2016)
2016 was a big year for Walt Disney Animation Studios as they had two films nominated for Best Animated Feature: Moana and Zootopia. And while the studio did take home the win, many fans felt like Moana was the film that deserved to win.
Not only did Moana tell an adventurous and heartfelt story with an incredible soundtrack, but it also featured stunning animation. Animating the ocean was one of the biggest struggles for the animation team, but it certainly paid off as the ocean became its own character. Many fans felt like the scene between Moana and Taka deserved an Academy Award on its own for the stunning contrast of colors.
2 Deserved To Be Nominated: The Secret Life Of Pets (2016)
Illumination Entertainment rarely ever gets the credit it deserves from the Academy, and many hoped that would change with the release of The Secret Life of Pets, a film that followed a group of house pets on an epic city journey while their humans were away. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, and the film was snubbed completely.
Though the film didn’t revolutionize the animation genre, it did pay homage to the animation past by rarely ever showing the owners’ faces, something Warner Brother cartoons were known for. Regardless, the film did launch a successful franchise and was one of the highest-grossing films of 2016.
1 Didn’t Win: Klaus (2019)
Netflix’s Klaus set out to keep Disney and Pixar out of the top spot for a second year in a row when it was nominated in 2019 but ultimately was unsuccessful, losing to Toy Story 4. The loss left many angered, especially considering Toy Story 4 was not the strongest contender in the category and instead relied on nostalgia.
On the other hand, Klaus was wildly original and stunningly animated using a traditional Spanish animation style. While the film may have lost the Academy Award, it did take home the Annie Award for Best Animated Feature, which is voted on solely by fellow animators.