(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.)
At the 73rd Academy Awards, for the third time in the Best Voice Performance category’s short lifespan, four of the nominees were from the same film. This recurring issue caused considerable frustration among Oscar fans, and there was even some talk about doing away with the category in the months after the ceremony. However, 2001 was shaping up to be a more promising year for animation, so much so that a new category was announced for the Oscars, that of Best Animated Feature. This was thought to be an acknowledgement of the progress made by animation, which consistently ranked among the top grossing films of the year and was now attracting some of the top talent in the industry. The question was how this would affect the Best Voice Performance category and whether a winner in one category meant that the film would also win the other.
2001 – Nominees for Best Voice Performance in a Motion Picture:
- Billy Crystal (Mike Wazowski) – Monsters, Inc.
- Michael J. Fox (Milo James Thatch) – Atlantis: The Lost Empire
- John Goodman (Sulley) – Monsters, Inc.
- Eddie Murphy (Donkey) – Shrek
- Mike Myers (Shrek) – Shrek
No one was surprised to see Monsters, Inc. and Shrek lead the nominations with two sets of buddy characters. The two biggest animated films of the year, one was the latest from the powerhouse that is Pixar and the other represented a new challenge from up-and-coming Dreamworks, looking to steal some of Pixar’s thunder. Both films featured big-name voice actors, but while Monsters, Inc. was the bigger box office hit Shrek was considered the “cooler” choice, with humor and pop cultural references designed to appeal to adults as well as kids. As the awards season ramped up, fans separated into two camps each supporting one of the films (with poor Michael J. Fox written off as having no chance). The Monsters, Inc. supporters argued that Billy Crystal’s many years as a successful Oscar host worked in his favor, while Shrek fans felt that Eddie Murphy’s previous nomination for Mulan gave him the edge. And though the debate got fairly heated, it was felt that the competition was good for the category as a whole.
Eddie Murphy (Donkey) – Shrek
Eddie Murphy’s acceptance speech was something of a marvel. The normally fast-talking comic was so excited to have won that he became almost indecipherable, throwing out jokes, lines from Shrek, references to his previous movies and anecdotes from his childhood at a speed that was baffling to behold. And though no one would admit to it later, there was a healthy amount of fear while he was talking that some of his stand-up comic roots might slip in and he might say something that would earn ABC a healthy fine from the FCC. When Shrek later won the Best Animated Feature Oscar it was thought to be a big step forward for the relationship between animation and the Academy Awards. Looking forward, however, no one could have predicted the controversy to come.
What do you think? Could anyone have beaten Eddie Murphy? Were you happy in 2001 when the Best Animated Feature category was added? Who do you think will be nominated from 2002? Let me know in the comments!