Don’t Be Surprised If ‘Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse’ Isn’t Nominated For an Oscar

We could be looking at another ‘Lego Movie’ situation.
Spider Verse Spidey Sense
Sony Pictures
By  · Published on December 18th, 2018

Imagine if this year’s Best Picture and Best Animated Feature are both Marvel superhero movies. That’s the hope of some fans, that Black Panther will receive the former and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse will win the latter at the Oscars. That would certainly be a nice tribute to the recently passed Stan Lee.

Sorry, true believers, but that’s not going to happen. Maybe Black Panther will at least receive a nomination for Best Picture, but if history repeats itself in Hollywood this year, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won’t even be recognized by the Academy. So, don’t be surprised if it’s not named as a nominee.

I’m not trying to be a party pooper. I would love to see something so original in style win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Even if I’m mostly dying for Disney to end its reign in the category and technically Disney the corporation, if not Disney the studio, does stand to benefit if a Spider-Man movie is honored.

Remember how you felt when The Lego Movie was snubbed four years ago? There’s a plausible reality that you could feel the same again with the latest animated production from Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who not only were robbed then but also five years earlier with Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.

Perhaps the animation branch of the Academy is too conservative when it comes to their picks for the Best Animated Feature category. The Lego Movie more than Cloudy featured an innovative style. Was it denied because of that? Or because of the live-action scene? But the other two Lego movies have also been ignored.

As far as precedents, there is no reason a superhero movie can’t be nominated. Pixar won its second Best Animated Feature award with The Incredibles, and Incredibles 2 is very likely to be nominated this year. And Disney’s Marvel Comics adaptation Big Hero 6 won the year The Lego Movie was excluded.

Sony Pictures Animation hasn’t exactly been shut out, either. They received nominations in the past with Surf’s Up in 2007 (Pixar’s Ratatouille won) and with their Aardman co-production The Pirates! Band of Misfits (Pixar’s Brave won) in 2013. They’ve never won, but few other studios outside of Disney/Pixar have.

Out of the 17 years of the Best Animated Feature category’s existence, Disney has won 13 of the Oscars. That’s counting the three from Walt Disney Animation Studios proper, nine from Pixar before and after it was officially a Disney owned company, and Spirited Away, for which they had the US home video rights.

Spirited Away was also heavily campaigned for by Pixar co-founder and future Disney exec John Lassiter, as if he was simply endorsing Hayao Miyazaki as a supporter and not also a synergetic action. Campaigns are a big deal for this Oscar category, as it is for many others. So, small animated movies don’t win.

And they’re less likely to win going forward, if they’re even still nominated. That was a fear last year at this time due to a new Academy rule opening up the nomination of animated features to the whole membership — that is, they’re invited to participate on the committee but aren’t required and most won’t join in.

The change may have resulted in surprise nominations for lackluster but mainstream studio fare like The Boss Baby and Ferdinand last year, though the change didn’t shut out films like The Breadwinner and Loving Vincent. Participants are still invested and have to watch a good bit of the qualifiers.

Ironically, though, some think the change had to do with the Lego Movie snub, and yet The Lego Batman Movie was still ignored. The idea is that many in Hollywood want more of a variety of hits among the noms against Disney/Pixar. Not foreign films, though. Their own big moneymaking family-friendly studio fare.

Doesn’t that mean that Sony should have a stake and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse could have a chance? Well, the movie isn’t exactly a big hit with its $35 million opening. Not that Ferdinand had a big debut, either ($13 million), so that’s one point admittedly against my argument.

But I also don’t know how hard Sony is campaigning for the movie. As a BFCA member voting for the Critics’ Choice Awards, I surprisingly never received any For Your Consideration screener for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, though it’s possible the movie just wasn’t ready. It was nominated anyway.

Apparently, there is some kind of campaign including guild screenings, whether that’s something that was always planned or is ramping up following all the critic group love for the movie. Of course, we mustn’t forget that The Lego Movie was winning the same honors years ago and seemed a shoo-in for the Oscar, too.

So, if Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse isn’t likely to be nominated, what will be? Obviously. Incredibles 2, because it’s well-regarded by most (despite its weak script) and is a record-breaking moneymaker. Ralph Breaks the Internet, too, because it’s an even better Disney effort with tributes to classic animation.

For the non-Disney slots, there’s Isle of Dogs, which is another acclaimed effort from previous category nominee Wes Anderson. And the Academy likes stop-motion. Especially Aardman Animation stop-motion. They gave a nod to The Pirates!, so maybe they’ll also show favor for Early Man.

Then there’s Mirai, which has a possible shot at the obligatory foreign spot, as it’s received recognition elsewhere. GKIDS has to have something in there, and that film, the latest from never-nominated Mamoru Hosoda, has a lot of fans. I confess I haven’t seen all the 25 eligible films, so there could be some random outlier picked.

Then there’ll probably be one other major studio release. Maybe The Grinch, which has stealthily shot up to sixth place on this year’s domestic box office chart despite a modest opening in early November. It would be Universal and Illumination’s first and only nod beside and since Despicable Me 2.

Sony had a much bigger hit with Hotel Transylvania 3, and that would be too sad if it wound up honored over Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Sequels don’t really get nominations when their predecessors weren’t, so it doesn’t have a big chance anyway. And nobody is talking about Smallfoot or Sherlock Gnomes.

If I’m right and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse isn’t going to be nominated for Best Animated Feature, not all hope is lost for the movie’s chances with the Academy. Like The Lego Movie, it could still receive an Oscar nomination in another category, like Best Original Song, for “Sunflower,” right? Oh, wait, never mind.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.