(Note: This is a fictional creative writing exercise, inspired by hours of contemplation of which animated performances have been most worthy of attention over the years. This feature imagines that a Best Voice Performance category was added to the Oscars following Beauty and the Beast’s nomination for Best Picture at the 64th Academy Awards. Each week I’ll cover the hypothetical nominees and winner from one year of animated performances.)
There was a lot of excitement to see what 1996 would hold, given the huge success of the 68th Academy Awards. Toy Story had energized the industry, and while Pixar’s next film was still several years away people remained hopeful for a battle for the Best Voice Performance Oscar that matched the one between Tom Hanks and Tim Allen. When no clear frontrunners emerged, talk about the award started to die down, and industry analysts marked the category as one to ignore this year. They were wrong, because when the nominations were announced the category was one again at the forefront of conversation. However, instead of excitement the overwhelming tone of the discussion was one of confusion.
1996 – Nominees for Best Voice Performance in a Motion Picture:
- Sean Connery (Draco) – Dragonheart
- Richard Dreyfuss (Centipede) – James and the Giant Peach
- Tom Hulce (Quasimodo) – The Hunchback of Notre Dame
- Mike Judge (Beavis, Butt-head, etc.) – Beavis and Butt-head Do America
- Billy West (Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd) – Space Jam
The announcement of the nominees was met with much head scratching both from people in the industry and the general public. The wish that the category would feature performances from a larger variety of films, often expressed by Academy members, was fulfilled, but not in the way anyone expected. The nominations from The Hunchback of Notre Dame and James and the Giant Peach seemed pretty ordinary when compared to a film starring a basketball player and one based on an adult cartoon from MTV. And as for Sean Connery, most people assumed that he got a nomination simply because he’s Sean Connery, and he has a unique voice that seemed destined for the category, even if this wasn’t the role that many had imagined getting him there. For the second year in a row, people were at a loss to guess how the award would turn out, though obviously in a much different manner than the previous year.
Richard Dreyfuss (Centipede) – James and the Giant Peach
Despite the fact that many wanted to see Sean Connery win, Richard Dreyfuss was considered the more traditional choice. The nominees left viewers and those in the industry shaking their heads for months afterwards, and many expressed a sense of relief that a film like Beavis and Butt-head didn’t sully the category by winning. The hope for the next year was that there would be a more impressive slate of nominees, from an equally diverse but perhaps less bizarre set of films. Although that hope would not exactly be met, 1997 would give people something new to talk about, and present an interesting debate for consideration.
What do you think? Was 1996 a strange year for voice performances? Who is your favorite character fromJames and the Giant Peach? Off the top of your head, can you name even one song from The Hunchback of Notre Dame? Am I the only one who could happily listen to Sean Connery read the phone book? Let me know in the comments!