The new Academy realignment that splits the Short Films and Feature Animation branch into separate Animation and Short Films branches has been met primarily with enthusiasm. According to animation and live-action short Academy members and other industry insiders, this change was long overdue. Both animation and live-action shorts deserve their own dedicated branches after experiencing tremendous growth, box office success, and prestige in recent years.

Last year, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” and “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” were number two and three at the domestic box office, and the 2024 Oscar Shorts releases have already broken $2 million globally since the ShortsTV presentation February 16.

“As both the Academy’s shorts and animation communities have grown, and to ensure they continue to thrive, the need for two individual branches became increasingly apparent,” Academy Short Films and Feature Animation branch governors Bonnie Arnold, Jinko Gotoh, and Marlon West said in a joint statement on February 26. “We’re excited about the future of these two branches and thank our fellow governors for their support.”

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Angourie Rice image from "Mean Girls"

The Animation branch (which boasts 700 Academy members) will oversee both features and shorts, with new governors in charge of each category. Meanwhile, the new Short Films branch (which comprises more than 200 Academy members) will contain narrative and non-fiction short filmmaking, overseen by a new governor. Documentary shorts, though, have been the domain of the Documentary branch only. However, filmmakers from the Documentary branch will be able to transfer over to Short Films, and Short Films members who want to opt-in to vote for animated features and shorts can do the work to screen and vote.

“War Is Over! Inspired by the Music of John & Yoko”ElectroLeague

The popular animated feature category was first awarded to DreamWorks’ “Shrek” in 2002. This season’s animated feature race pits Sony’s “Across the Spider-Verse” against Hayao Miyazaki’s “The Boy and the Heron” (Studio Ghibli/GKids). The shorts race is led by Annie winner  “War Is Over! Inspired by the Music of John & Yoko” (ElectroLeague), executive produced by Sean Ono Lennon and directed by Pixar alum Dave Mullins.

“I definitely think it makes so much more sense,” an Academy member involved in animated shorts told IndieWire. “And I’m sure the live-action members in that branch were feeling like it was hard to be heard at times.” In terms of voting, animation members have always been eligible to vote for animated shorts in the first two phases, and the entire Academy is eligible to opt-in to vote for animated features in both phases.

“The new Short Films branch opportunity makes sense because the short film genre has been growing exponentially these past 10 years,” a live-action shorts member told IndieWire. “All the nominated short films are currently in over 350 theaters across North America and other parts of the world (the total is about 700), which is a wider release than many of the nominated features.

“Also, feature talent such as Wes Anderson (the Oscar-frontrunner “The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar“), Alfonso Cuarón, and Pedro Almodóvar are making shorts. It’s not just student and emerging filmmakers anymore. Even A-list actors are participating in shorts. This year, the whole Academy was allowed to opt-in to review the live-action shorts, which brought further support for the short film genre. It seems like this is the beginning of an opportunity to show how shorts are a force to be reckoned with both within the Academy and the world.”

Yet the animation community has concerns. One director, while thrilled that animation now has its own branch, is fearful about shorts being permanently excluded from the live Oscar telecast because the new Short Films branch will have less of a say with only 200-plus members. (In 2022, the three shorts categories and five craft categories were cut from the live telecast, which caused a scandal, and they were subsequently reinstated.)

Additionally, one animation insider worries about indie animated shorts standing as much of a chance getting nominated from the new animation branch as it did before. Another, who’s “happy if animation shorts folks can stay within the animation branch without being forced to go with the shorts branch,” still sees a potential issue with the shorts branch. “I’m not sure I understand the full logic behind putting [live- action shorts folks] alone in a very small branch,” they told IndieWire.

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