Oscars 2020: Could ‘Toy Story 4’ Really Lose Best Animated Feature?

The 2020 Oscars could be one of the most unpredictable awards nights in years. Sure, the acting frontrunners are more or less settled. But all eyes are on whether the cultural phenomenon of Joker will actually claim Best Picture.

Likewise, some of the smaller races are just as suspenseful. In particular, Best Animated Feature feels like it might be up for grabs. Toy Story 4 is the likely winner there, but looking at the other nominees, its victory might not be so set in stone.

Replicas of Sheriff Woody and Buzz Lightyear at a carnival
Replicas of Sheriff Woody and Buzz Lightyear at a carnival | Daniel Fung/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Disney usually dominates the category

The Academy Awards only introduced the Best Animated Feature category in 2002, when Shrek took the first trophy. Since then, Disney and Pixar have absolutely dominated the category. In 18 years, Disney has received three wins and 11 nominations, while the studio’s Pixar has won nine Oscars and earned 13 nominations.

Pixar’s critical acclaim and penchant for appealing to adults and children alike make the studio an easy favorite. Likewise, the rise of the second Disney Renaissance led Frozen, Big Hero 6, and Zootopia to fairly decisive wins. But there’s reason to think Disney/Pixar’s reign could be reaching its end.

In 2019, the House of Mouse had two nominations, with Incredibles 2 and Ralph Breaks the Internet. Yet, both films lost to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Perhaps the academy simply didn’t want to reward the Disney sequels. But if that’s the reasoning, the 2020 Oscars might be no different.

The 2020 Oscars are a very different story

This year, Disney/Pixar’s sole Best Animated Feature nominee is Toy Story 4. The film’s brand recognition and $1 billion box office gross might help it cross the finish line at the Oscars. But the academy appears to be offering Disney less support than usual. Case in point, the studio’s other big contender — Frozen 2didn’t even score a nomination in the category.

Since Frozen won back in 2014, its sequel — now the highest-grossing animated film of all time — felt like the obvious frontrunner. Instead, two Netflix films, I Lost My Body and Klaus, bumped it out of the top five. Plus, Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World marked the series’ third nod in as many films. Suddenly, the race seems a lot tighter.

Toy Story 3 not only won Best Animated Feature back in 2011 but also landed a Best Picture nomination. So maybe this franchise is the exception to the rule. After all, no other sequel has won this category since its introduction. And since Toy Story 3 served as the perfect end to a trilogy, the academy might not wish to reward Pixar for pushing the series further.

‘Missing Link’ could be Laika’s first win

If Toy Story 4 does lose Best Animated Feature, the film most likely to come through with an upset — according to GoldDerby.com — is Missing Link. The stop-motion animated adventure was a box office flop, with just $26 million worldwide. Yet, the academy has a long-standing appreciation for Laika, the studio behind the film.

All four of Laika’s previous features — Coraline, Paranorman, The Boxtrolls, and Kubo and the Two Strings — received Best Animated Feature nods but zero wins. In fact, Laika is the animation studio with the most nominations to have never won an Oscar in this category.

However, the studio did receive its first Golden Globe this awards season, which could bode well for its Oscar chances. While the Globes and Oscars have completely separate voting bodies, that win probably encouraged more Oscar voters to check out Missing Link prior to casting their ballots. Toy Story 4 might still pull off a win, but it won’t do so now without a fight.