With Pixar Animation Studios having won this award six out of eight times since the category's inception back in 2001, conventional wisdom would suggest that Brave is a favorite to take this year's prize. But Pixar's reputation ostensibly took a major hit last year, when Cars 2 failed to even secure a nomination. And given how modestly the studio's latest nominated feature has performed on the awards circuit up to this point, this year's race may lend credence to the notion that the Pixar pedigree has seriously weakened. Though Brave is notable for being the only film in the Pixar canon with a female protagonist, offering a different take on the well-worn princess tale than we're accustomed to from a Walt Disney property, the generally well-received film did take some slack upon release for its surprisingly conventional storytelling.
It seems as if Pixar's customary frontrunner status has been up for grabs here since the start of the awards season, and Wreck-It Ralph, one of three Disney productions nominated in this category, is currently running off with the baton. It's an odd-duck leader, given its lack of visual and narrative sophistication and how hard it leans on comedy and simplistic emotion for effect, but as our own resident Wreck-It Ralph apologist Eric Henderson suggests, the movie has a relentlessly sympathetic core that voters are likely to respond to. The Pirates! Band of Misfits and ParaNorman, to me the category's freshest candidates, seem to be too outside the mainstream to net the sort of support necessary to secure a victory. Frankenweenie, Tim Burton's homage to a bygone filmmaking era, is a possible spoiler, but despite picking up a decent number of quite notable critics' awards, it fails the popularity test that remains crucial to winning this category. Armed with formidable box-office numbers and higher IMDb ratings than the other nominees, not to mention five Annie awards including Best Animated Feature, Wreck-It Ralph enjoys the sort of advantage over its fellow nominees that seems almost insurmountable.
Will Win: Wreck-It Ralph
Could Win: Brave
Should Win: ParaNorman