What if there was a Best Voice Performance Oscar? – 2003

(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.)

After the controversy at the 75th Academy Awards, it seemed all anyone could talk about was Andy Serkis and the eligibility of his portrayal of Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films.  His motion capture performance wasn’t nominated either for Best Supporting Actor or Best Voice Performance, and there was considerable debate over whether the acting or the animation branch (or both) would bend and give him the nomination.  What the speculators didn’t count on was the arrival of Pixar’s latest film, one which would go on to be regarded as a game-changer in the industry on account of its depth and storytelling.

2003 – Nominees for Best Voice Performance in a Motion Picture:

  • Albert Brooks (Marlin) – Finding Nemo
  • Ellen DeGeneres (Dory) – Finding Nemo
  • Alexander Gould (Nemo) – Finding Nemo
  • Andy Serkis (Gollum) – The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
  • Andrew Stanton (Crush) – Finding Nemo

For the sixth time in the category’s history, the five nominees came from only two films, and for the fourth time one of those films provided four of the five nominees.  In true Oscar fashion, Serkis received what many people called a “we’re sorry” nomination for Return of the King, even though it was felt that his performance in The Two Towers was far more award worthy.  As for Finding Nemo, in addition to being the biggest animated film of the year (and the second-highest grossing film worldwide after Return of the King) the performances were felt to have set the film apart from its predecessors, providing a new standard in terms of emotional weight and depth of feeling from the voice actors.  The only question was whether the Academy would give Serkis the award that many felt he deserved the previous year, or whether they’d turn to Finding Nemo instead.

Winner:

Ellen DeGeneres (Dory) – Finding Nemo

In the end, it seemed like the clear choice was always Ellen DeGeneres, whose hilariously random acceptance speech seemed like an early pitch for the Oscar hosting gig (which she would eventually get in 2007 and will repeat this coming March).  In fact, her performance as Dory would go down in history as one of the best voice performances of all time, and would pretty much single handedly lead to a sequel centering on her character.  And while Serkis did not win any Oscars for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, his nomination for Best Voice Performance seemingly opened the doors for future portrayals using that technology.  Though, it would not come into play the following year, which would feature a rematch from 2001 between Pixar and Dreamworks.

What do you think?  Is Ellen DeGeneres’s performance as Dory the greatest voice performance of all time?  Is there any way she wouldn’t win the Oscar?  Who else should have been nominated from 2003?  Who do you think will win from 2004?  Let me know in the comments!

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