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Disney In Depth: Analyzing Disney At The Oscars 2014
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Brett Nachman   |  @   |  
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What an odd and oddly-wonderful Oscars. As the 86th Academy Awards winds down, we reflect on the shocking wins, disappointing losses, and memorably unusual moments. But here we focus on the Disney elements, whether prominent or more subtle, that persisted throughout the show.

Frozen thawed the cooler hearts of some voters, scoring it two wins. And the other Disney nominees? Not so lucky. Yet the influence of the Mouse could be felt throughout the theatre. Let’s analyze Disney at the Oscars 2014.

Disney character Elsa of "Frozen" shapes snow and ice

We must first focus on the strengths, which existed within one special project. Frozen became the first film from Walt Disney Animation Studios to obtain the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Since the category’s inception 12 years ago, several Disney animated films have been nominated (including Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, and even the underrated Treasure Planet). Not until this year, though, was there so much hype and support around a Disney project – heightened only by the obvious omission of Disney-Pixar’s Monsters University. Everyone wanted to see Frozen garner this award. We were far from underwhelmed. The short and sweet speech by co-directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with Peter Del Vecho, the film’s producer, captured these hard-working individuals’ authenticity. Most critics and audiences have adored the 53rd animated feature from the Mouse House. Thankfully, that has translated to the Academy, which bestowed Frozen with a shining statue. Now as to why it was not nominated for Best Picture is another story.

Frozen stars attended the Dolby Theatre ceremony, including Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel. The show-stopping Broadway icon moved the crowd to a standing ovation, following the similar get-on-your-feet performances by the other Best Original Song contenders. “Let It Go” was the last song presented that night after toe-tapping routines by the likes of U2 and Pharrell Williams. Menzel delivered yet another breathtaking performance of the ballad that has taken the world by Frozen storm. Props to the Oscars for bringing back musical numbers in recent years, following a handful of ceremonies absent of much live entertainment. Songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez accepted their Oscars with a clever speech in which they thanked individuals whose names rhymed.

The most talked-about portion of Frozen winning two Oscars, though, is not the acceptance speeches or even the movie, which just eclipsed $1 billion at the box office. Remember two out-of-this-world presenters? Kim Novak, who helped award the animated film with its first Oscar of the evening, kept the audience in suspense – momentarily – before she revealed the win. Additionally, she captivated viewers with her awkward introduction that is more recognized now for the fact that her face barely moves. Luckily for Novak, Danny Zuko himself (otherwise known as John Travolta, a staple of Disney features) made an embarrassment by flubbing Idina Menzel’s name while introducing the singer. The video has been shown across social media platforms and even parodied on Conan (as seen in the video below), captures the silliness of the error. Poor Travolta.

But Frozen was not the only bit of Disney presence at the Oscars. For instance, host Ellen DeGeneres (a.k.a Dory) referenced Finding Nemo after a montage of animated heroes. The master of ceremonies joked that to the celebrities sitting in aisle seats that there needed to be more Nemo in the clips. Disney CEO Bob Iger could be found in the audience, too, if you looked closely.

Disney was nominated for several other projects outside of Frozen, including a whopping two nods for panned The Lone Ranger (Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Visual Effects). Though the Johnny Depp vehicle never stayed on track – or in the minds of audiences who disregarded the picture – the Oscars celebrated the box office crash. Briefly. Nobody can deny the craftsmanship put into the characters’ appearances, as well as the massive and well-coordinated action sequences they existed in. Ranger lost to Dallas Buyers Club and Gravity in each of those categories, respectively.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto

Marvel Studios’ Iron Man 3 also contended for a statue at the Oscars, if only in the Visual Effects category. Even Saving Mr. Banks, painfully overlooked, as I mentioned in the previous edition of Disney In Depth, could not win an Academy Award. As I predicted, Gravity scored another victory – seven in total at the Oscars – for its original score. Sadly, the utterly-smart Mickey Mouse short Get a Horse did not win for Best Animated Short Film. To its credit, though, it has played to more viewers (with showings of Frozen) than perhaps most films ever nominated in this category. Touchstone Pictures’ The Wind Rises, supposedly the last film by Hayao Miyazaki was nominated for Best Animated Feature, but, of course, lost to its Disney companion.

The Walt Disney Studios, however, did not score as many Oscars – or even nominations – as some may have predicted. As much as Oz the Great and Powerful suffered from inconsistent storytelling devices and pacing, the Sam Raimi-directed fantasy should have been considered more for its elaborate costumes. As I mentioned earlier, it is a travesty that Monsters University received not one nomination, not even for Best Animated Feature. This year’s Oscars had five nominees occupy the category and University failed to slip in one.

Oz the Great and Powerful: The Witch

The Pixar prequel had the heart, laughs, and smart storytelling of the original film. But no nomination. I stand on this soapbox as a Pixar enthusiast and would argue that last year’s Best Animated Feature winner (Disney-Pixar’s Brave) does not possess as much warmth, style, and quality as Monsters University. We all have personal preferences, and I think each Disney-Pixar film has its merits. But the Monsters omission makes less sense than Brave winning, as classy and empowering as the Scotland-set adventure is.

I may encounter the most rolled eyes and “say what?” responses for these last pair of omissions I must point out. Disney’s Planes, which general audiences paid tickets to see but did not necessarily respond to, should have been nominated for one of these two categories: Best Original Song and Best Original Score. “Nothing Can Stop Me Now,” the exciting rock song by Mark Holman sneaks up on you as quite fun to hear after the initial listen. Additionally, Mark Mancina‘s title track for the film is one of the strongest pieces of instrumental music to come from any film last year. I LOVE hearing this repeatedly, as its inspired orchestration deems worthy of much more praise than it has been given credit for – assuming individuals have paid attention to this.

What do you think of this analysis? What should have won – or been nominated in the first place – from The Walt Disney Studios? Share your thoughts of Disney at the Oscars!

This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Follow me on Twitter for alerts of new editions of Disney In Depth, Thursdays on Geeks of Doom.

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