(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.)
Fresh off another controversy at the 70th Academy Awards regarding original vs dubbed voice performances, movie fans looked to the films of 1998 to bring some stability back to the category. 1998 would turn out to be a solid year for animation, including the return of Pixar to the big screen, a solid entry from Disney, a wider variety of studios producing animated films and some strong competition between two movies with similar settings.
1998 – Nominees for Best Voice Performance in a Motion Picture:
- Woody Allen (Z) – Antz
- Cary Elwes (Garrett) – Quest for Camelot
- Denis Leary (Francis) – A Bug’s Life
- Eddie Murphy (Mushu) – Mulan
- Ming-Na Wen (Fa Mulan) – Mulan
Everyone had huge expectations for A Bug’s Life, following the success of Toy Story. Pixar had become the hottest thing around, and perhaps the expectations were simply too high but audiences came away from it a bit disappointed. No one said A Bug’s Life wasn’t a good movie, but it just didn’t live up to the legacy that Toy Story had left it. Interestingly, another film about ants actually got more attention. Antz, the first film from newly formed Dreamworks Animation, was the cooler, more modern cousin to A Bug’s Life, though there were allegations that Dreamworks stole the idea behind the film from Pixar. Amidst this duel, Disney’s latest animated film, Mulan, was a hit, and Eddie Murphy’s fast-talking, pint-sized dragon, Mushu, was thought to have propelled Murphy to the top of the category.
Woody Allen (Z) – Antz
The shocked gasps when Woody Allen won were only matched by those later in the ceremony that came as Shakespeare in Love defeated Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture (considered one of the biggest upsets in Oscar history). As Allen gave his acceptance speech in his usual self-depreciating manner, all eyes turned to Murphy, who was clearly stunned. There were even rumors in the days following the ceremony that he stormed out of the theater shortly after the presentation of the award, though no one seemed to be able to confirm it. The general consensus was that Woody Allen won by virtue of being an Academy favorite, having by this time won 4 Oscars and having been nominated an additional 18 times. The general outcry was drowned in the controversy over the Best Picture category, but animation and voice acting fans were still stunned and disappointed. So they once again turned to the next year’s slate of films, the return of Toy Story and a potential rematch of the best race that this category had ever seen.
What do you think? Who would have won from 1998? Should The Prince of Egypt have been nominated? Do you prefer Antz or A Bug’s Life? What do you think will happen next year? Let me know in the comments!