A look at this year's animated feature film race for the Academy Awards

Since the 2024 Oscar race for Best Animated Feature is likely to be wide open, we decided to take an early look at which films will qualify for next year's awards ceremony.

At this time last year, the race was lopsided at the top, and Guillermo del Toro's "Pinocchio" seemed like a betting favorite for most of the year, even though it was one of the last qualifying films to reach audiences. This time around, the situation is more uncertain, with a number of titles showing qualities that Oscar voters often appreciate. There are also rumors that studios, feeling the pressure of a double strike of writers and actors, are holding off on future releases until 2024.

As we did last year, we have broken down the list of potential films by distributor. Many companies have not yet nailed down the full list of films they will submit, so we have included whatever might make the cut. The final list of qualifying films will likely be slightly different from what we have compiled here, but we are confident that most of the following films will be submitted.

First up is Netflix, winner of last year's Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Not only did Guillermo del Toro's "Pinocchio" strike gold, but Chris Williams' "Kaiju" was also nominated. This year, two Netflix films are likely award contenders: "Nimona" and "Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget." The former is a super fun genre-bending queer hero story that has received rave reviews from critics and Netflix subscribers alike. The latter, which has yet to be released, is from Aardman Animations, one of the world's most beloved studios, and is a sequel to the classic film Netflix continues to be one of the most prolific distributors, delivering several animated feature films this year, including "Miraculous" : Ladybug and the Cat Noir: The Movie" and "The Wizard's Elephant." Anthony Stacchi's "The Monkey King" and "Leo" by Robert Smigel, Robert Marianetti and David Wachtenheim are on the way.

Disney, which is at least assured of a nomination, is hoping for quality over quantity this year. Last year, the studio had three animated films - "Turning Red," "Lightyear," and "Strange World" - on the Academy Award shortlist. This year, the studio is likely to present only two animated feature films, and while "Elemental" had a dismal opening weekend with a lackluster response from critics at the Cannes Film Festival, it has a good chance of winning and could be the biggest comeback story of the year. The reviews posted after Cannes were much kinder to the film, and the film's worldwide box office now stands at $425.5 million. The big question mark is Walt Disney Animation Studios' Wishes. Disney has returned to the princess route in the past, but it remains to be seen if this film will be accepted. That would be a real shame, especially now that it is the Walt Disney Company's 100th anniversary.

GKIDS could have a historic impact on this year's animated feature film race. For starters, the company will distribute Hayao Miyazaki's "The Boy and the Hare" later this year, which is a clear contender. GKIDS will also distribute the dark horses "Ernest and Celestine": "Unicorn Wars" by Spanish prodigy Alberto Vazquez, and Annecy's Grand Prize-winning "Chicken for Linda". A handful of other feature films are likely to qualify, including "New Gods: Yang Jian," "Lonely Castle in the Mirror," and "The First Slam Dunk."

Sony may only have one film in theaters this year, but "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" is a clear contender for the 2024 Animated Feature Oscar. The previous film in the series won the award in 2019, and the general consensus among critics and audiences for a sequel is that it marks another step forward for the franchise. Nevertheless, "Across the Spider-Verse" is only the first half of a two-part story, and it is no wonder that voters have chosen to wait for the finale to throw more awards at Spider-Man.

For the past few years, Universal has been the big animation winner at the box office, distributing films from DreamWorks and Illumination, but that has not translated into Oscar gold medals. This year, Universal will maintain its position as the top animated distributor at the box office, but its lineup again doesn't look like something Academy Award voters will take the time to consider. The Super Mario Bros. Movie is the most likely candidate, given its astronomical box-office receipts. Ruby Gilman, Teenage Kraken failed to make an impact either culturally or at the box office. Trolls Band Together is not the first franchise film to be nominated for an Academy Award, but only when the original Trolls song "Can't Stop the Feeling" was nominated. And while it is exciting to see a completely original film on Universal's release calendar, "Migration" is still a big question mark.

Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies' "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles": Mutant Mayhem" has been a big hit for Paramount, pleasing critics and audiences alike. The film's excellent start at the box office is all the more impressive considering the film's modest budget of $70 million. Some critics have said that the film is too violent, which could work against it for voters, but it is still likely to compete with other strong contenders throughout the upcoming awards season. Paramount will also release "PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie" next month, but it doesn't look like it will have much of an impact on the awards season, at least for now.

The Sony-owned animation specialist confirmed in March that it plans to make a big awards season push for Makoto Shinkai's "Suzume," which screened in the main competition of the 2023 Berlin International Film Festival and received high praise at several festivals. For Crunchyroll, which has built its reputation on streaming, this will be the first major test of its ability to push a film into serious awards contention.

Pablo Berger's Robot Dreams, which impressed at Cannes and Annecy, has been given a U.S. theatrical release by Neon, a major indie company that knows how to run a film awards campaign. Neon is the U.S. distributor of the animated feature, documentary, and international feature nominated "Flee in 2021," which made Academy Award history; Dekanalog distributed Liu Zhen's "Art College 1994, which screened in competition at the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year. Little Nicholas: Happy as Can Be won a number of awards in 2022 and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture by distributor Buffalo Eight this year. And Blue Fox Entertainment will release "The Inventor," the directorial debut of "Ratatouille" screenwriter Jim Capobianco, in the United States next month. And it was recently announced that Signe Bauman's "My Love Affair with Marriage" will have a limited theatrical release starting at 8 Above.

We debated whether Warner Bros. Discovery should have its own category. And let's be honest, despite the commercial success of "The Mummies" for the company, it would not be a worthy topic of conversation for the 2024 Academy Awards; there have been whispers for some time that "Coyote vs. Acme" will be released theatrically in 2023, but the WBD situation suggests that the film Coyote vs. Acme is unlikely to be released this year, or to have any impact on the awards season if it is released at all.