2025 Oscars: Best Animated Feature Predictions

Nominations voting is from January 8-12, 2025, with official Oscar nominations announced January 17, 2025. Final voting is February 11-18, 2025. And finally, the 97th Oscars telecast will be broadcast on Sunday, March 2 and air live on ABC at 7:00 p.m. ET/ 4:00 p.m. PT. We update our picks through awards season, so keep checking IndieWire for all our 2025 Oscar predictions.

The State of the Race

Pixar’s “Inside Out 2” has become the early Oscar favorite as 2024’s surprise box office phenomenon ($388 million in U.S./Canada ticket sales after 12 days), putting the animation powerhouse back on top theatrically after its recent drought. For the follow-up to Pete Docter’s imaginative Oscar winner, newbie director Kelsey Mann tapped into anxiety as the newest and most resonant emotion for 13-year-old Riley (Kensington Tallman), and audiences responded beyond expectations. Voiced brilliantly by Maya Hawke, the hyper-active, orange, and stringy Anxiety mounts a hostile takeover of Riley’s emotions with cohorts Envy (Ayo Edebiri), Ennui (Adèle Exarchopoulos), and Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser). It’s up to Joy (Amy Poehler) to set things right with Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Tony Hale), and Disgust (Liza Lapira).

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While Riley goes into overdrive to impress at summer hockey camp, Joy and the regulars attempt to restore Riley’s Belief System and Sense of Self, which represent the latest world-building wonders from Pixar. The former is a glowing, translucent environment with a river and pulsing strings that replay Riley’s memories, while the latter is the crystal-shaped foundation of her evolving identity. There’s also more inside/out back and forth and screen time for Riley. Also, Pixar takes the rare retro opportunity of exploring the 2D dog and fanny pack stars of Riley’s favorite preschool show “Bloofy’s House.”

“The Wild Robot,” from DreamWorks and director Chris Sanders (“How to Train Your Dragon”), poses the strongest competition for the Oscar as the leading original film. Adapted from Peter Brown’s illustrated book, the sci-fi adventure stars robot Roz (Lupita Nyong’o), washed ashore on an uninhabited island, who must adapt and live among the animals, especially after adopting an orphaned gosling bird (Kit Connor), Brightbill. Joining Roz and Brightbill on their wilderness adventure is Fink, the fox (Pedro Pascal), and along the way, they encounter Catherine O’Hara as opossum Pinktail and Bill Nighy as an elderly goose, Longneck.

The film explores the relationship between technology and nature and the notion that kindness can be a survival skill. DreamWorks embraces an impressionistic 2D aesthetic (inspired by Tyrus Wong’s legendary watercolor backgrounds in “Bambi” and Hayao Miyazaki’s lush forests) that’s the most impressive hand-drawn stylization since the influential “Spider-Verse.” Thanks to new tech, DreamWorks hand-painted all of the environments as mattes while also applying 2D textures and shaders to Roz and the various animals. The more time Roz spends in the wild, the more her surface changes with dents, scratches, mildew, and mold. She very quickly becomes a hand-painted surface, blending in with the animals and the wilderness.

'The Wild Robot,' DreamWorks Animation
‘The Wild Robot’DreamWorks

After winning its first Oscar for distributing Hayao Miyazaki’s “The Boy and the Heron,” GKids comes back strong with “Chicken for Linda,” last year’s Annecy Cristal winner. The charming hand-painted French-Italian musical comedy, directed by the married duo Chiara Malta and Sébastien Laudenbach (the animated “The Girl Without Hands”), explores memory and mother-daughter bonding in what becomes a wild chase to catch a chicken to make chicken and peppers. It combines the spontaneity of the French New Wave with “All That Jazz”-inspired musical numbers. All of the characters are color-coded (Linda, the child, is yellow), and they add color blotches to black brushstrokes that bleed over the character lines.

“Flow” (Sideshow/Janus Films), a festival fave from Cannes and Annecy (where it won multiple awards), is a masterpiece of silent naturalism. It’s a Biblical-like adventure, from Latvian director Gints Zilbalodis (“Away”), about a solitary black cat forced to survive a catastrophic flood with fellow animals on a boat. The CG animals (which also include a capybara, lemur, stork, and golden retriever) are very believable, and the environments are warmly stylized, courtesy of an animation team based in France, Belgium, and Latvia.

One of several contenders from Netflix, “Ultraman: Rising,” directed by animation vet Shannon Tindle (“Lost Ollie,” “Kubo and the Two Strings”), reimagines the legendary anime franchise from Tsuburaya Productions as an action-packed, heartwarming ode to parenthood and achieving balance in life. Baseball superstar Ken Sato (Christopher Sean) has difficulty fighting kaiju in Tokyo while pursuing his passion but then is further tested when forced to adopt a 35-foot, fire-breathing baby kaiju girl. Tindle tapped ILM (the VFX powerhouse’s first animated feature since the Oscar-winning “Rango”) to tackle a stunning 2D aesthetic combining manga and anime (particularly covers with marker renderings), coupled with dynamic camera moves and lighting.

ILM also worked on “Transformers One” (Paramount Animation), the franchise’s animated spinoff from Oscar-winning “Toy Story 4” director Josh Cooley. It’s a new origin story, exploring an untapped subterranean robot world with its own aesthetic, scale, and scope. We’re introduced to the future Optimus Prime and Megatron as Orion Pax and D-16, and their story and adventure has its roots in “Ben-Hur.”

Mumakil in Warner Bros' anime film 'The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim' by Kenji Kamiyama.
Mumakil in ‘The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim’Warner Bros.

“Memoir of a Snail” (IFC) is another festival fave with strong Oscar potential. It’s the second stop-motion feature from Australian Adam Elliot (“Mary and Max”) — the claymation master of monochromatic melancholy — and took this year’s Annecy Cristal Award. The semi-autobiographical story concerns sad, lonely, and snail-obsessed Gracie (Sarah Snook), who tells her life story, detailing her childhood of mistreatment and the trauma that led to her retreating from life in her own shell. She longs for her long-lost twin brother Gilbert (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who’s had it rough as well.

“The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim” (Warner Bros. Animation/New Line Cinema) marks the first anime film in the franchise, with Kenji Kamiyama directing the 2D prequel. It explores the tragic consequences of war and revenge, telling the story of Helm Hammerhand (voiced by Brian Cox), the legendary king of Rohan, and his family, as they defend their kingdom against the ruthless Dunlendings, ruled by Wulf (Luke Pasqualino), the lord of Dunland, who seeks revenge for the death of his father. The film is narrated by Rohan descendant and future shieldmaiden Éowyn (Miranda Otto).

Disney’s “Moana 2” sequel, which began as a Disney+ series at the studio’s new Vancouver studio, transitioned to a feature amidst early praise and has expanded its story, scope, and animation, with assistance from the Burbank studio utilizing the same pipeline. Directed by David Derrick Jr., Jason Hand, and Dana Ledoux Miller, Moana (Chloe Auliʻi Cravalho) returns to find the lost island of Motufetu, now hidden by the jealous God of Storms, to reconnect all of the communities of Oceania. Demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) is back, but the sequel introduces baby sister Simea (Khaleesi Lambert-Tsuda) and new crew members. Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa’i return as composers and co-songwriters, joined by songwriters Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear.

“Wallace & Gromit: Vengeance Most Fowl” (Netflix/Aardman), directed by franchise creator Nick Park and creative director Merlin Crossingham, marks the feature-length return of Aardman’s favorite stop-motion pals. It’s about an out-of-control “smart gnome” with a mind of its own. However, the fiendish plot involves fan-favorite Feathers McGraw, the villainous penguin from the Oscar-winning short “The Wrong Trousers.”

'Wallace & Gromit: Vengeance Most Fowl,' Aardman
‘Wallace & Gromit: Vengeance Most Fowl’Courtesy of Netflix

“That Christmas” (Netflix/Locksmith Animation), the sweet-looking Santa story that chronicles the holiday as “an emotional magnifying glass,” is adapted by upcoming Thalberg Award recipient Richard Curtis (“Notting Hill”)from his children’s books, directed by “How to Train Your Dragon” animation vet Simon Otto. The voice cast is led by Brian Cox, Fiona Shaw, Jodie Whittaker, Lolly Adefope, and Alex Macqueen, and the score is by John Powell (the “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise).

“Piece by Piece” (Focus Features), an animated musical biopic about cultural icon Pharrell Williams, is uniquely created through LEGO brick building. It’s directed and co-produced by Morgan Neville (the Oscar-winning doc “20 Feet from Stardom”) and boasts a cast that includes Gwen Stefani, Kendrick Lamar, Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, Busta Rhymes, Jay Z, and Snoop Dogg.

“The Imaginary” (Netflix/Studio Ponoc) is an anime fantasy, adapted from the A.F. Harrold novel (illustrated by Emily Gravett), about young Amanda (Evie Kiszel) and her imaginary companion, Rudger (Louie Rudge-Buchanan), who discover a hidden world of forgotten Imaginaries that becomes dangerous. Boasting an innovative light and shadow technique, the film is directed by former Studio Ghibli animation vet Yoshiyuki Momose (“Grave of the Fireflies”) and produced by Studio Pontoc founder and former Ghibli producer Yoshiaki Nishimura (the Oscar-nominated “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya”).

Potential nominees are listed in alphabetical order; no film will be deemed a frontrunner until we have seen it.

Frontrunners

“Chicken for Linda”
“Flow”
“Inside Out 2”
“Ultraman: Rising”
“The Wild Robot”

Contenders

“The Imaginary”
“The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim”
“Memoir of a Snail”
“Moana 2”
“Piece by Piece”
“That Christmas”
“Transformers One”
“Wallace & Gromit: Vengeance Most Fowl”

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