As Finding Dory tops $1bn, the Pixar hit is an Oscar favourite

For the first time ever, two animated films have topped $1bn in the same year. But is ‘Finding Dory’ the Oscar favourite over in-company rival ‘Zootopia’?

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Can Finding Dory make it three-for-three for Disney?

Twice before this year, a Disney-distributed animated film has topped $1bn in global gross, and both times, that film (Frozen and Toy Story 3) won the Oscar in the animated feature category.

This year, Disney adds two such candidates to the Academy Awards race, with a third title to consider, as well.

Over the weekend, Disney/Pixar’s Finding Dory became only the fifth animated film ever to cross the billion-dollar mark, not adjusting for inflation.

This also marks the first time that two animated films – Finding Dory and Disney’s Zootopia – have grossed $1bn in the same year. And a third Disney film this year, mostly crafted from digital effects, The Jungle Book ($966m), is near to that magic number as well. (The Jungle Book, as a hybrid, would be an interesting test case if the studio lobbied for its consideration as an animated film – but don’t expect Disney, with its embarrassment of animation riches in 2016, to test those waters.)

Disney's Zootopia fights for an Oscar against in-company rival Finding Dory  (©2016 Disney)

Yet it is especially significant that Finding Dory enters that box-office pantheon because to me, that would seem to cement its status as the front-runner for the best animated film Oscar. Finding Dory already has numerous factors working in its favour, including: the high respect Pixar is accorded within Hollywood; the film’s long-beloved characters and its Oscar pedigree (its predecessor, Finding Nemo, won best animated feature, and was nominated in three other categories).

Those factors help offset the fact that the movie scores a 77 average rating among reviewers on, not quite the glowing number that Finding Nemo (90), received – and neck and neck with in-company rival Zootopia (78).

Box office is not the most crucial consideration in the animation category, but when two films are so close, every box that Finding Dory can check certainly helps.

In that way, 2016 could prove to be reminiscent of the Oscars race three years ago: the Pixar nominee, Brave, had a Metacritic score (69) not quite as good as the Disney nominee, Wreck-It Ralph (72), but it helped Brave’s cause that it was able to score big at the box office, too (grossing $540m worldwide against the Disney film’s $471m). Brave took home the trophy.

As we look around this year, the other films that could reasonably score animation nominations include Laika’s Kubo and the Two Strings (84 on Metacritic) and Disney’s forthcoming Moana – with The Red Turtle and A Silent Voice poised as intriguing foreign productions this year.

So while I judge Finding Dory to be the front-runner, the big winner should ultimately be Disney, which could well have three nominees by early next year.

 © The Washington Post