Anime News Network is reporting that Neon Genesis Evangelion 1.0: You Are (not) Alone, the first film of Gainax’s Eva reset film trilogy is, unfortunately, not eligible for the Academy award for Best Animated Feature. According to the Acadamy’s rules, a foreign film is eligible for nomination for this year’s awards if it first opened outside the US after January 1st, 2008. However, Eva 1.0 opened on September 1st, 2007, and Funimation licensed the film around December. Ponyo, however, is elgible, meeting the requirements for US and Domestic release dates.
A couple more notes. In addition to needing to have a film’s opening outside the US after January 1st, 2008 (and not being available in a non-theatrical form within 90-days of the original theatrical release), it also cannot be shown withing the United States in a non-theatrical form before its theatrical run (which, it sounds like, also must meet the qualifications for US theatrical releases as well). So, that keeps Mamoru Oshii’s The Sky Crawlers out the running, as it opened in theaters first on December 5th, 2008, and then was released on DVD and Blu-Ray in March of this year. Though, if I’m misinterpreting things and the film does get a nomination, it will be Oshii’s first Acadamy Award nomination, as Ghost in the Shell was released before the Best Animated Feature Award was introduced. That said, with the 8,000-pound Gorilla of Miyazaki in the room, this probably would have been a tough race for Oshii anyway.
I expect Ponyo to get the win in the Best Animated Feature category, unless something bigger gets nominated for Best Animated Feature. If something bigger doesn’t get nominated and Ponyo loses anyway, I think the possibility might be high that Spirited Away’s Oscar may have been, in part, in recognition of Miyazaki’s achievement, and in part the “Anime Oscar” – saying “This is the Oscar to recognize the achievements made in the field of Japanese animation, thank you for playing, you’re not getting anymore – stick with the Foreign Films please.”
If nothing bigger is nominated and Ponyo wins (or something bigger is nominated and Ponyo loses), I suspect the next anime film that could be a contender for Best Animated Film at the Oscars would be in a few years when The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya comes out (assuming, of course, Season 2 of Haruhi gets licensed and the film gets licensed). I’m picking that one because this would be one of the few cases where a film spinoff/sequel of an anime TV series actually gets some serious character development (I’m not going to elaborate because I don’t want to spoil it). Normally, most animated films based on TV series are either side stories (like the DBZ films, the Pokemon films, the Naruto Films, and the Bleach films) with no implications on the plot and no character development, or compilation films (like the Eva films, the upcoming Gurren Lagann films, and the Mobile Suit Gundam film trilogy), which will re-tell the events of the TV series, often re-using animation from the series. There are some exceptions though (SDF Macross: Do You Remember Love, for example). Disappearance on the other hand isn’t an adaptation of the events of the series, and has bearing on the continuity, which means there will be character development.
(Disclaimer: This does not preclude some other anime film I don’t know about coming out, doing fantastic, getting nominated and winning. Also, as always, I could be totally off base and I wouldn’t be too surprised if I was.)