Earlier this week, The Walt Disney Company took home the gold at the 89th Academy Awards for Best Animated Film for Zootopia. Though it was certainly a well-deserved win for the beautiful, stunning and poignant film, the win of Zootopia also triggered a tragic loss for the studio as Disney’s other contending film, Moana, walked away shy of any awards, in both the Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song categories. While it would have been nice for both Disney films to get recognition, this isn’t the first time that Disney films have gone head-to-head and lost against each other and other studios. Therefore, today we’ll be taking a look at ten other fantastic Disney films that went up in The Oscars and failed to walk away with any awards.
#10: Treasure Planet (2003)
Prior to Zootopia and Moana, the last time that two films from the Walt Disney Animation Studios went up against each other for an Oscar was back in 2003 when John Musker and Ron Clement’s Treasure Planet went up against Lilo and Stitch. Sadly, both films failed to win the award, losing to Spirited Away. While Disney’s Treasure Planet has since been all-but-forgotten by the studio and by audiences, the Academy was sure to forget about its stunning beauty in 2003 fairly quickly.
#9: Lilo and Stitch (2003)
While it’s not a perfect movie, there are few movies that are as delightful as Lilo and Stitch is. Luckily, the films continues to live on in some form at Disney, but there’s a lot to appreciate in Disney’s odd little film about an escaped alien experiment. From its hilarity and emotion, and it’s timeless animation beauty, Lilo and Stitch is a film that will be remembered by fans even without an Oscar win to go along with it.
#8: Frankenweenie (2012)
There are few directors with such a diverse directing portfolio than the legendary director Tim Burton, who has left his mark and shaped modern cinematography and storytelling for an era to come. One of his most poignant, beautiful and painstakingly masterful films is none other than 2012’s Frankenweenie which was adapted from the 1984 short film of the same name. Filled to the brim with eye-watering emotion and wonderful storytelling and an excellent homage to the golden-age of horror films, Frankenweenie is a stunning and excellent film that has seemingly been all-but-forgotten, including at the Academy where it lost to Pixar’s Brave.
#7: Brother Bear (2003)
In fairness, Brother Bear quite possibly never stood a chance when it went up against Pixar’s incredible film Finding Nemo back in 2003. But there’s a lot to love about Brother Bear, despite that it came out during a lackluster period in Disney animated storytelling. There’s it’s obvious and gorgeous hand-drawn animation, which came at a time in which the medium was slowly dying at Disney and other animation studios. Brother Bear may not have quite stood the test of time, but it’s a film worth remembering for the merit that got it nominated in the first place.
#6: The Princess and The Frog (2009)
Wouldn’t it be nice if John Musker and Ron Clements, the men behind The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules and Moana had finally won an Oscar for their amazing work? Before Moana went up against Zootopia, Musker and Clements had two films to be nominated since Best Animated Feature was added to the Academy lineup. The second of this was The Princess and the Frog, which is arguably one of the duo’s best, but it understandably lost to Pixar’s Up, which was also nominated for Best Picture that season. However fair its loss was, it’s still a fantastic Disney film worth remembering all these years later.
#5: Cars (2006)
While the Cars franchise is often the black-sheep in the Pixar family, there’s no doubting that Cars is an absolutely delightful film. For reasons still unexplained, Cars lost its award to George Miller’s Happy Feet in the 2006 season. Despite its loss, the Cars franchise is still hugely popular and profitable, with a third installment coming this June, but it’s a shame the first film that kicked off the franchise could not get more recognition that it deserved.
#4: The Wind Rises (2014)
While it should be noted that The Wind Rises is not exclusively a Disney film, as it was part of the partnership between Disney and the anime company Studio Ghibli, but as Disney owns half of this film and was the distributor and partner for the studio, it only seems right for this film to be mentioned. Promised to be the final directorial role of the animation visionary Hayao Miyazaki, The Wind Rises is another classic example of Miyazaki’s ability for great storytelling blended with stunning artwork and well-crafted emotion. Miyazaki managed to win an Academy Award for his film Spirited Away which beat Lilo and Stitch and Treasure Planet, but his final film is certainly one not to be forgotten, even if it didn’t stand a chance against the Frozen powerhouse.
#3: Bolt (2008)
Coming right off a lackluster era for Walt Disney Animation Studios, Bolt was the first film from the studio that was looking to redefine itself under the new guidance of Ed Catmull, John Lasseter and Bob Iger. If there was any great way to kick off this promising new era that would lead to films like Tangled, Frozen, Big Hero 6, and Zootopia, the quality of Bolt was certainly a promising start. Filled with hilarity, emotion and great rounded characters and storytelling, Bolt earned a nomination, pitting it against Pixar’s WALL-E. Understandably, WALL-E proved to win over the Academy, and Bolt has since been almost entirely forgotten, but it’s a near-perfect film that’s worth remembering for its quality and for kicking off an incredible new era of Disney storytelling.
#2: Wreck-It Ralph (2013)
There have been many instances in which a film from Walt Disney Animation Studios lost to a Pixar movie, but none have been more disappointing than Wreck-It-Ralph’s historic loss to Pixar’s Brave. Coming at a particularly weak time for Pixar and a strong time for WDAS, there’s no doubt that Brave was certainly weak on any standards. Sadly Wreck-It Ralph couldn’t beat the Pixar bias, but luckily the franchise still lives on in spite of that, earning itself a sequel out in mid-2018.
#1: Monsters Inc. (2002)
In quite possibly one of the most inexplicable Oscar upsets of all time, the wonderful and incredible Monsters Inc found itself losing to the new DreamWorks powerhouse, Shrek in the very first showdown for Best Animated Film. It’s tough to say why the green ogre was able to overtake one of Pixar’s most phenomenal films yet, but the loss is certainly nothing but disappointing. Years later, Monsters University found itself snubbed out of the Oscars entirely, but while things were disappointing for the Monsters franchise, it’s quality and legacy continue to be cherished by fans everywhere.
What are your favorite Disney movies that lost at the Oscars?
Mitchell Stein is the founder and operator of the Disney-fan based website The Mickey Mindset which is a leader in delivering Disney news, articles and opinions across the company. He can be contacted by following him on Twitter @MitchellStein1.