Nominations voting is from January 11–16, 2024, with official Oscar nominations announced on January 23, 2024. Final voting is February 22–27, 2024. And finally, the 96th Oscars telecast will be broadcast on Sunday, March 10, and air live on ABC at 8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT. We update predictions through awards season, so keep checking IndieWire for all our 2024 Oscar picks.
The State of the Race
Over the first half of 2023, an early Oscar favorite has emerged with Sony’s “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” which has surpassed its Oscar-winning predecessor at the box office ($378 million domestically and $682 million globally) and upped its game with a more expansive story and greater animated tech innovations. Producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller and new directors Joaquim Dos Santos (“The Legend of Korra”), Kemp Powers (“Soul” co-director), and Justin K. Thompson (“Into the Spider-Verse” production designer) hurled Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) and Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld) into several new dimensions to battle Spot (Jason Schwartzman), including Gwen’s watercolor world and the India-inspired Mumbattan. And for that, Sony Pictures Imageworks created innovative tools for translating more elaborate 2D stylization into 3D with new systems for using pencil, pen and ink, markers, and paintbrushes.
An early frontrunner has emerged with “The First Slam Dunk” (GKids), Takehiko Inoue’s superb anime adaptation of his hugely popular basketball manga series (“Slam Dunk”). Made by Toei Animation, the 3D/2D drama has become the fifth highest-grossing anime of all time and won the Japan Academy Prize for Best Animated Film. It’s about a high school championship game between underdog Shohoku and perennial champs Sannoh, which turns into a psychological rite of passage through the overcoming of pain and hardship.
Pixar’s “Elemental” is also an early frontrunner, despite its dismal box-office performance and mixed reviews. Peter Sohn ambitiously leveraged his parents’ immigrant story for the studio’s first rom-com about the seemingly impossible pairing of the fiery Ember (Leah Lewis) and the watery Wade (Mamoudou Athie). Set in Element City, where fire, water, air, and earth co-exist despite their fundamental differences, the film represents one of Pixar’s greatest tech accomplishments, in which VFX touched every shot because of the simulated characters and environments. The movie is touching in its evocation of obligation and desire, but the strength of the Pixar brand doesn’t guarantee a nomination.
Makoto Shinkai’s disaster-ridden “Suzume” (Crunchyroll) is another early frontrunner. It’s his most beautiful and ambitious fantasy romance yet, in which a small-town teen anxiously travels throughout Japan with a mysterious companion trapped inside a magical chair to save her country from a cataclysmic disaster. The director of “Your Name” was inspired by the Great East Japan Earthquake and expertly makes use of both hand-drawn and more expressive and complex CG animation for character and effects.
The biggest surprise so far is Netflix’s “Nimona,” which marks an LGBTQ breakthrough for a mainstream animated film. Based on ND Stevenson’s best-selling queer graphic novel about the titular teen shapeshifter (Chloë Grace Moretz) in a futuristic medieval world, it explores timely issues of identity and xenophobia while aesthetically pushing 2D stylization into 3D with a uniquely illustrated look from DNEG. It’s a minor miracle the film got made at all after Disney halted produced shuttered Fox-owned Blue Sky. Annapurna Animation and Netflix came to the rescue, though, and were uncompromising in delivering a faithful vision of Stevenson’s work.
Then there’s Illumination’s “The Super Mario Bros. Movie, ” the Nintendo video game adaptation, which was a worldwide phenomenon ($574 million domestically and $1.3 billion globally) and became the second highest-grossing animated film in history. While directors Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic (“Teen Titans Go!”) cleverly focused on Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) as underdog Brooklyn plumbers-turned superheroes and turned Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) into a badass to help fight nemesis Koopa Bowser (Jack Black), the story and animation were not well received. So it faces an uphill battle to get an Oscar nomination.
Another potential contender from this summer is the punkish reboot of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” (Nickelodeon). It’s from director Jeff Rowe (co-director of “The Mitchells vs. The Machines”), who utilizes a rough sketch look through CG to depict a dark and graphic New York. It’s about the heroic aspirations of Leonardo (Nicolas Cantu), Michelangelo (Shamon Brown Jr.), Donatello (Micah Abbey), and Raphael (Brady Noon) and wanting to be accepted by humans.
But the fall lineup could provide several nominees from such contenders as Hayao Miyazaki’s swan song, “The Boy and the Heron” (GKids), which will premiere at TIFF; Disney’s “Wish,” in celebration of the studio’s 100th anniversary; “Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget” (Aardman/Netflix), the sequel to the most commercially successful stop-motion film in history; and Spanish director Pablo Berger’s acclaimed 2D animated feature debut, “Robot Dreams” (Neon’s animated follow-up to “Flee”), adapted from the award-winning graphic novel by Sara Varon.
Miyazaki came out of retirement to make one last hand-drawn film, inspired by the novel “How Do You Live?.” It takes place after the firebombing of Japan during World War II and focuses on a boy in turmoil whose family relocates to the countryside, where he encounters a talking blue heron that leads him into a parallel universe on a life-altering adventure.
“Wish” is an origin story about the fairy tale wishing star, which touts a retro-looking watercolor style. It’s from the “Frozen” team of screenwriter and chief creative officer Jennifer Lee, director Chris Buck, and producer Peter Del Vecho. It’s about a young girl, Asha (Ariana DeBose), from the kingdom of Rosas, who makes a wish in a time of need and encounters a 2D-looking ball of boundless energy called Star. Alan Tudyk voices her sidekick, a pajama-wearing goat.
In “Dawn of the Nugget,” Rocky (Zachary Levi, replacing Mel Gibson), Ginger (Thandiwe Newton, taking over from Julia Sawalha), and daughter Molly (Bella Ramsey) are forced to break back into the farm to save their chicken pals. Sam Fell (“ParaNorman”) directs from a script by Karey Kirkpatrick, John O’Farrell, and Rachel Tunnard, with Steve Pegram (“Arthur Christmas”) and Leyla Hobart producing.
“Robot Dreams” concerns a lonely New York City canine who decides to purchase a robot companion in the 1980s. It sports a colorful 2D animation style and a bittersweet story about the fragility of friendship amidst a bygone New York of the 1980s populated with anthropomorphic animals.
Other fall contenders include “They Shot the Piano Player” (Sony Pictures Classics), the Bossa Nova tribute from Oscar-nominated directors Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal (“Chico & Rita”); “The Inventor” (Blue Fox Entertainment), a stop-motion and 2D musical about Leonardo da Vinci’s (Stephen Fry) quest to find the meaning of life, from director Jim Capobianco (Oscar-nominated screenwriter of “Ratatouille”); “Trolls Band Together” (DreamWorks), the third installment of the psychedelic jukebox musical, with Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and Branch (Justin Timberlake) confronting his secret past as a pop star to save the world; “Ernest & Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia” (GKids), the sequel to the Oscar nominee, reuniting grouchy, musical bear Ernest (Lambert Wilson) and sweet, young mouse Celestine (Pauline Brunner), from directors Jean-Christophe Roger and Julien Chheng; and “Migration” (Illumination) from Oscar-nominated director Benjamin Renner (“Ernest & Celestine”), about a family of ducks who convince their overprotective dad to go on a dream vacation as they attempt to migrate from New England to the Bahamas.
Potential nominees are listed in alphabetical order; no film will be deemed a frontrunner until we have seen it.
“Elemental” “Nimona” “Suzume” “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” “The First Slam Dunk”
“Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget” “Ernest & Celestine: A Trip to Gibbertia” “Migration” “Robot Dreams” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” “The Boy and the Heron” “The Inventor” “The Super Mario Brothers Movie” “They Shot the Piano Player” “Trolls Band Together” “Wish”