The first round of the animated films bracket went fairly predictably: Relatively newer though cherished animated films such as Dreamworks’ “How To Train Your Dragon” (2010) and Miyazaki’s “Princess Mononoke” (1997) beat out old-school Disney princess classics “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937) and “The Little Mermaid” (1989), respectively. Beloved, more recent Disney and Disney-Pixar films held their own against more obscure films: “Finding Nemo” (2003) unsurprisingly bested lesser-known but Academy Award-nominated “The Red Turtle” (2016), and “Toy Story 3” (2010) immediately triumphed over 2007’s Academy Award-nominated “Persepolis.” Favoritism of Disney-Pixar even allowed the emotional “Inside Out” (2015) to win over Miyazaki’s “Howl’s Moving Castle” (2004), a film with a dedicated fanbase. Miyazaki’s better-known “Spirited Away” (2001), however, managed to best Disney giants “Monsters, Inc” (2001) and “Toy Story” (1995), securing its spot in the final four.
In fact, “Spirited Away” was the only animated entry to beat a Pixar film outside of other Pixar films themselves. The Bay Area animation studio showcased an unmatched dominance across the entire bracket, filling ten out of the final sixteen spots as well as six out of the final eight spots. Despite mixed critical reactions to its recent films such as “Cars 2” (2011), “Brave” (2012), “Monsters University” (2013) and “The Good Dinosaur” (2015), Pixar still holds the spot as the top animation studio right now because when it gets a film right, it’s nearly perfect. Yet, its most recent hit, “Inside Out,” didn’t make it past the second round after going up against “Finding Nemo,” seemingly suggesting that the studio has some work to do if it wants to keep its throne.
In the final four, “Spirited Away” was joined by 2009’s “Up” — the possessor of perhaps the most devastating montage in animated cinema — 1994’s “The Lion King” and 2010’s “Toy Story 3.” It’s a shame “Spirited Away” didn’t get the chance to go up against “Toy Story 3,” having beaten the third installment’s superior origin film, “Toy Story”; the third title in the franchise has a mere 99 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, whereas “Toy Story” and its immediate sequel both possess the coveted 100 percent. The sole non-Disney film of the final four, “Spirited” was also one Academy Award shy of its competitors — “Up,” “The Lion King” and “Toy Story 3” have each achieved two.
In the final match, “Up” was pitted against “The Lion King.” Though the ‘90s classic may boast of its original songs penned by Elton John and score composed by Hans Zimmer, the emotional staircase of heart-wrenching to heart-warming provided by “Up” managed to one-”up” “The Lion King,” securing its title as the champion of the Animated movies bracket. Maybe the upcoming remake of “The Lion King,” starring Donald Glover’s critically acclaimed voice (“Awaken, My Love!” being the most recent example) as protagonist Simba and with Beyonce reported as the top choice for leading lioness Nala, will manage to come out on top next time. For now, the win for “Up” can be celebrated locally with an ice cream cone at its featured Fenton’s Creamery.
March Madness of Movies brackets were voted on by the Arts & Entertainment staff.