Disney Has Fallen to Average at Best in a Category It Normally Dominates

Best animated feature
Credit: Sony; Universal, Netflix

For over a decade, Disney has been synonymous with success in the Best Animated Film category at the Oscars, producing a string of critically acclaimed and beloved animated features. However, as we end 2023, the landscape seems to be shifting, with major contenders emerging that could potentially dethrone the animation giant from its long-standing reign.

ember lumen voice by leah lewis and wade voice by mamoudou athie in element city

Credit: Pixar Animation Studios

A Decade of Dominance

Disney’s animation studios, particularly Disney-Pixar, have been virtually unbeatable in the Best Animated Film category. From the heartwarming Up (2009) to the groundbreaking Coco (2017), the studio has consistently delivered films that captured the hearts of audiences and the praise of critics.

The iconic Frozen (2013) and the emotional journey of Toy Story 4 (2019) further solidified Disney’s dominance in the animated film industry.

However, the tides appear to be turning in 2023, with a lineup of formidable contenders that could make the next Oscar race one of the most competitive in recent memory. As Disney faces intense competition, the question arises: Is the animation giant still at the top of its game?

Toy Story 4


Competition for Best Animated Feature

Several animated films from different studios are making waves in 2023, challenging Disney’s usual stronghold on the Best Animated Film category.

Disney was famously dethroned in 2022’s Academy Awards by Netflix and Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio (2022). This looks to continue with all the contenders that could be nominated soon.

Particularly, Netflix has a standout in its summer hit, Nimona (2023). The film was received well, a fact that Disney would probably like to forget because it once had the rights to the movie.


Credit: Netflix

In recent years, another prominent loss for Disney was Studio Ghibli heading to GKIDS films. While the famous Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki was thought to be retired, he has released a new film, The Boy and the Heron (2023), which is creating a stir. Miyazaki’s Spirited Away (2001) surprised everyone when it beat Disney for Best Animated Feature in the past.

Other notable films that could beat Disney in the category at the upcoming Academy Awards include Illumination’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023), Netflix’s Leo (2023), and Crunchyroll’s Suzume (2023).

These films bring unique storytelling, innovative animation techniques, and diverse perspectives to the table, creating a tough competition for the coveted Oscar.

Disney’s Recent Track Record

Many of Disney’s recent animated releases have been met with mediocre approval at best. They have faced increased criticism for formulaic storytelling and a perceived lack of innovation.

Some argue that the studio has become somewhat predictable, relying on established franchises and sequels rather than pushing the boundaries of animation.

The studio had two major animated films released under it this year – Pixar’s Elemental (2023) and Disney Animation Studios’s Wish (2023).

asha, valentino, and star from Disney's wish film

Credit: Disney

Elemental received decent reviews but has notably lower scores on Rotten Tomatoes than most other Pixar releases. It did trudge along at a snail’s pace to become a moderate success. It will likely be nominated, but it doesn’t have much chance of winning compared to the previously mentioned competitors.

Critics destroyed Wish, and the film hasn’t gotten people to the theaters. It sadly has little chance of even being nominated for Best Animated Feature.

Disney’s only hope comes from Marvel’s Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023), the sequel to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018). However, the Toy Story franchise is the only time a sequel ever won in the category of Best Animated Feature.

miles morales spider-man: across the spider-verse

Credit: Marvel, Sony

Furthermore, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a product of Sony Pictures and not released under Walt Disney Studios.

The Winds of Change

Disney is at a crossroads as the industry evolves and audiences demand fresh and original narratives. The success of streaming platforms and the rise of independent animation studios have reshaped the landscape, forcing even the animation giant to adapt to changing viewer expectations.

The competition is fierce, and the animation landscape is evolving. Whether Disney can adapt and reclaim its dominance or if a new era in animated filmmaking is upon us remains to be seen. One thing is certain: the race for the Best Animated Film Oscar has never been more exciting or unpredictable.

About Michael Stoyanoff

Michael is a goofball with an entertainment background and a passion for writing. He has a long history of being a Disney fan and is still a lost boy at heart. In his free time, he enjoys running, playing video games, and traveling the world. He is also unnaturally obsessed with pugs and spends a lot of time with his dog Mr. Pippers the Pug.

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