Last year, director Andrew Stanton gave the world John Carter, the first of two big budget science fiction live action films featuring Taylor Kitsch (the other being Peter Berg’s Battleship). In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last year, both movies were critical and financial disappointments (basically, they sucked). Audiences had high hopes for Stanton’s live action film debut, especially those who were aware that his previous directorial efforts were two computer animated films (2003’s Finding Nemo and 2008’s Wall-E). For this Oscar installment of Animation Corner, I will honor the 10th anniversary of Finding Nemo and the fifth anniversary of Wall-E by taking a look back at these Academy Award-winning films (which also reminds me that this year’s Oscars are now a month away).
Stanton made his feature directorial debut with 2003’s Finding Nemo, which was the fifth feature film to be made by Pixar (1995’s Toy Story, 1998’s A Bug’s Life, 1999’s Toy Story 2, and 2001’s Monsters, Inc. were the previous four). The story centers on an overprotective clownfish named Marlin who must team up with a regal tang fish named Dory to rescue his son Nemo, who’s been abducted by human scuba divers from Australia. The voice cast includes Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Willem Dafoe, Brad Garrett, Allison Janney, Stephen Root, Geoffrey Rush, John Ratzenberger, Eric Bana, Bruce Spence, Elizabeth Perkins, and Alexander Gould as the voice of Nemo. Thomas Newman’s excellent score is at times heartwarming, and stirring with action and suspense (earning one of the film’s Oscar nods; the film also received nominations for Sound Editing and Original Screenplay). It would win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, becoming the first Pixar feature film to do so and it marked the second year in a row that an animated film distributed by Disney won the award (Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, made by Studio Ghibli, won the year before).
Five years later, Stanton followed up his Oscar-winning debut with 2008’s Wall-E, the ninth Pixar release (2004’s The Incredibles, 2006’s Cars, and 2007’s Ratatouille had been made in between Stanton’s films). The story centers on a small robot named Wall-E in the future, who’s been charged with cleaning up a polluted (and abandoned) Earth. One day he meets and falls in love with another robot named Eve, and follows her into outer space. The voice cast includes Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard, Sigourney Weaver, John Ratzenberger, Kathy Najimy, and Ben Burtt as the “voice” of Wall-E. One of the most critically acclaimed films of the year, it earned six Oscar nods (including Original Screenplay, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Original Song, and Original Score). This would be the second Stanton film to pick up the Best Animated Feature Oscar. This was also the second of four consecutive years where a Pixar film won in this category (2007’s Ratatouille, 2008’s Wall-E, 2009’s Up, and 2010’s Toy Story 3 each won for their year).