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Sorry Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse Fans, Another Movie Needs To Win The 2024 Oscar For Best Animated Feature

I can’t believe I’m actually writing this, but I’m not rooting for Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse to win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars this year – as much as another film, anyway. That’s not to say I’ll be throwing anything at my TV if the Sony Animation film does in fact take home the prize come the 2024 Academy Awards. However, I do believe another movie needs to win instead: Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy And The Heron. Let me explain why, and I should note that this is all coming from someone who’s not only a huge fan of Spider-Man (especially the Spider-Verse franchise) but also has much respect for all the work that was done on both projects.

When I watched Across The Spider-Verse in June, I was absolutely awe-struck by the accomplishment that is the superhero sequel, which is by all measures an animated masterpiece. And I’m certainly not the only one, considering our CinemaBlend staff collectively voted it the best movie of 2023. The well-reviewed Across the Spider-Verse is undoubtedly a great cinematic achievement for both the medium of animation and the comic book genre, but I cannot shake how much of a missed opportunity it would be if the Academy chose not to recognize The Boy and the Heron with Best Animated Feature during the upcoming 96th Academy Awards. 

The main character looking at a hand in The Boy and the Heron.

(Image credit: Studio Ghibli)

Why I Hope The Boy And The Heron Wins Best Animated Feature At The 2024 Oscars

While I had a memorable experience seeing Across The Spider-Verse in theaters, I had an even more transformative time with The Boy And The Heron for a few reasons. I’m a life-long Spider-Man fan, but Hayao Miyazaki movies are most definitely make up a cornerstone of my childhood as well. So it was a pretty big deal for me to experience the latest movie from Studio Ghibli on the big screen. While Spider-Man fans have been able to see the wall-crawler on the big screen nine times across the past decade, Heron is the first Miyazaki movie to come out during that time period, following 2013’s The Wind Rises, which was supposedly meant to be the final movie of the filmmaker’s career.

As I watched the Japanese film’s storyunfold in theaters, I realized that I never imagined I’d be experiencing a brand new vision from the legendary filmmaker in my adulthood. And in a lot of ways, the movie is the culmination of Hayao Miyazaki’s incredible body of work across over 40 years, which critics have applauded the anime movie for

From the filmmaker’s trademark artistic style to the movie’s deep discussion about love, loss and environmentalism (which he’s been weaving into his work all along), the 82-year-old deserves the Oscar more than ever. There’s no denying how much he’s had an impact on the forward movement of animation in cinema across his years in the industry. He’s influenced so many filmmakers in the genre and, if there’s any movie that could symbolize his lifetime of glorious achievement in the medium, it’s The Boy And The Heron.

The boy and the heron in The Boy And The Heron

(Image credit: GKIDS)

The Underrated Story Behind Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy And The Heron 

You could certainly make the argument that more work went into Across The Spider-Verse, considering all the animation styles involved in the over two-hour film. However, The Boy and the Heron’s production process sounds just as impressive to me, considering the filmmaker started work on the project back in 2016 and the two-hour release is completely made up of traditional, hand-drawn animation, It’s reportedly the most expensive Japanese film ever made, per Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki’s conversation with Sora News 24. With all that in mind, the movie was released with little marketing or press, so much of the incredible work behind it hasn’t been revealed to the public. Once one experiences it though, it’s clear that it’s something special. 

The six-year production process piloted by Hayao Miyazaki included the filmmaker writing and directing the project with a story that is reportedly very much inspired by his own childhood. Along with the movie being one of the most personal works from Miyazaki, it has also broken box office records for Studio Ghibli, surpassing Howl’s Moving Castle’s record opening weekend in Japan. It’s also become the first original anime film to reach number one at the box office in both Canada and the United States. We need to honor those achievements, and an Oscar is a great way to do so. 

Chihiro in Spirited Away.

(Image credit: Studio Ghibli)

Hayao Miyazaki’s History With The Oscars Isn’t The Best, And That’s Honestly A Crime

Lastly, it’s also worth noting that Spider-Verse franchise has earned a Best Animated Feature Oscar before, as Into the Spider-Verse won the prize at the 2019 ceremony. The franchise will will have the potential earn the gold again when Beyond The Spider-Verse comes out at some point. So, with all of that in mind, this could be the Academy’s final chance to award Hayao Miyazaki an Academy in his career. 

While we don’t know it for sure, it’s very possible this could be the filmmaker’s final movie both, considering his age and the fact that he has retired before. He has earned Oscar nominations before, as he won for the category for Spirited Away in 2003 and was nominated for Howl’s Moving Castle in 2006 (which beat out by Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit) and The Wind Rises in 2014 (which Frozen bested). Seeing Hayao Miyazaki up on that stage and being recognized by Hollywood for The Boy and the Heron in particular would make for such a gorgeous tribute to the filmmaker’s animation legacy. 

Of course, at the end of the day, an Oscar is just an Oscar, and whoever a golden trophy goes to doesn’t discount the incredible achievement that The Boy and the Heron is an incredible feat of filmmaking like Across the Spider-Verse is. Both are among the best animated movies of 2023, and I’ll be cheering on Oscars night if either of them take home the Best Animated Feature prize. We can look forward to 2024 Oscar nominations being announced on January 23, 2024, and the ceremony itself will take place on Sunday, March 10. 

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