89th ACADEMY AWARDS: BEST ANIMATION FEATURE FILMS

The Academy Awards are a celebration of film from all around the globe. 2017 saw the hosting of the 89thAcademy Awards ceremony, and awards were given in a number of categories including best animation films of the world.

Animation feature films are one such category, and as is done every year, the very best of animation won the coveted prize. Let us learn more about the best of animation from the last two years.

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Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo and the Two Strings is an American film by Laika, directed by Travis Knight (who was previously involved with projects like Coraline and ParaNorman).

Released in August 2016, the film follows the story of a young boy, Kubo, who lost his left eye in an accident as an infant.

He tells stories about a fearless samurai warrior, aided by the magic from his shamisen (a stringed instrument) to the locals in his village during the day, and returns to his ailing mother by sunset to the hear about his missing father, the samurai warrior Hanzo.

His grandfather, the Moon King, and his aunts are after his remaining eye, and their power is at its peak in the night-time.

One day, he is unable to return home by sunset and is attacked by his aunts. His mother intervenes and sends him off to a distant place, and the rest of the film follows his journey back home and victory over his enemies.

The epic fantasy film is made in traditional stop-motion, designed to look like a moving woodblock print to retain a Japanese flavour. Along with 3D printed characters, a record-holding skeleton puppet was made for the film.

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Moana

Released in 2016, Moana is a venture of The Walt Disney Company.

A musical fantasy-adventure, the film focuses on the wilful daughter of a Polynesian chief who, when her island is affected by a blight, sets sail in search of the demigod Maui to return a lost artefact to a goddess and save her people.

While on her adventurous journey across the seas to find the island of the Goddess, Moana encounters and defeats a number of villains and learns some important lessons about life, people and herself.

The film was made completely using digital 3D, as the filmmakers thought that the ocean environments could be much more realistically depicted using computer animation and simulations than through traditional animation.

Maui’s tattoos, which depict his backstory and achievements, were done by hand-drawing and have received much praise.

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My Life As A Zucchini

Alternatively titled My Life As A Courgette, this is a Swiss-French production and was first screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016.

Depicting the story of a kid named Icare, the film has a tragic story with an inspirational ending.

He has an alcoholic mother whom he accidentally pushes down a flight of stairs, after which he is shipped off by the police to live at an orphanage.

While he does not fit in at first and believes that nobody cares for him, he eventually learns valuable lessons about family, friends and love and gains friendship in the form of the police officer and another orphan, Camille.

The title comes from his mother’s nickname for him, Courgette (Zucchini in the American release), which he prefers over Icare.

My Life As A Zucchini is animated using traditional stop motion techniques, and it notable for its bright colours, unique stylisation, moving story and brilliant use of humour.

The film is directed by Claude Barras, and is his first full-length animation feature film.

In addition to being nominated for an Academy Award in the animation category, the film was also shortlisted for the Best Foreign Film category, though it did not make it to the final nominations.

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The Red Turtle

Born out of a collaboration between the German company Wild Bunch and Japan’s Studio Ghibli, The Red Turtle is a beautiful fantasy film.

Despite having no dialogue, it tells the story of a man who is shipwrecked and trapped on an island. He comes across a red turtle one day while trying to escape, and thinking it to be the creature destroying his raft, brings it ashore and leaves it upside down as revenge.

A few days later, he returns to the turtle out of guilt only to find that it has died. The shell cracks open, revealing a woman inside who awakens when it starts raining.

The two eventually bond and start a family. Their son, after growing up, decides to leave the island.

Some time later, the man passes away and the woman, transforming back into the red turtle, returns to the sea.

The film is a surreal fantasy along the lines of Studio Ghibli’s previous films like Spirited Away.

It is also the only 2D animated film among the Academy Award nominees, and unique in its collaboration between the director Michael Dudok de Wit and one of the most revered cartoon studios in the world.

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Zootopia

The winner of the Oscar for Animated Feature Film, Zootopia is a venture of The Walt Disney Company. Born out of a number of different plot ideas, the film follows Judy Hopps, a rabbit, as she solves a major crime in order to prove her mettle as a police officer.

In contrast to her innocence and naivete is Nick Wilde, a jaded fox who is a con artist. The title comes from the name of the fictional city in the film’s animal-themed world.

A comedy-adventure, Zootopia was made in a warehouse while Disney’s main facility was being renovated.

Nevertheless, a huge amount of research and effort went into designing the realistic look, with thousands of hours spent studying things like walk cycles and fur movements.

To simulate the fur, Disney even developed a new application that allowed them to create extreme detail.

Lakhs of mammals were created and used in the film, and the environments were developed with inputs from agencies that provided services for disabled people, as well as major car manufacturers like Ford.

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So there you have it. If you haven’t watched these films, do take out the time to do so.

And if you want to know more about how these films are made and the techniques and tools used, do stop by your nearest MAAC Chowringhee Centre today.

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