Can 'Toy Story 3' Win the Oscar?


It's Election Day. Time to talk serious politics—like the Oscars. Toy Story 3 is the most successful movie of the year, and the top-grossing cartoon of all time. It was also adored by 99 percent of America's movie critics (and it's on DVD this week, which is why we're talking about it). Since the Oscars now nominate 10 films for best picture instead of five in an effort to include more populist titles like this one, the Pixar hit will probably make the cut. But could it win?

Before you dismiss the idea, there's a reasonable argument to be made for its chances in February:

1. $$$.
Money talks at the Oscars, and Toy Story 3 is like one of those chatty dolls with a pull string. Worldwide, it's grossed more than $1 billion, the first animated film to ever reach that benchmark. In Britain it has the second-highest box office of all time (after Avatar). Yes, the Academy passed over Avatar for The Hurt Locker last year. But Toy Story has another distinct advantage ...

2. Legacy.
... the two other Toy Story movies. In 2004 many voters saw the Oscar sweep for Lord of the Rings: Return of the King as a vote for all three movies, not just the final (bloated) installment. A victory for Toy Story 3 would similarly be a way to award the best trilogy to come out of Hollywood since Star Wars. The original Toy Story, released 15 years ago, made the list of AFI's best 100 films.

3. Influence.
If it weren't for Toy Story we wouldn't have Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, Wall-E, or the rest of Pixar's catalog. Nor would we have all the chapters of Shrek, or The Fantastic Mr. Fox from Wes Anderson. Toy Story's snappy dialogue helped usher in a new era of animation, in which cartoons were constructed with such sophisticated wit, they were targeted at adults.

4. Emotion.
The final scene (spoiler warning: stop reading if you're among the 11 people yet to see the movie), in which Andy says goodbye to his toys, brings men to tears. Oscar voters like to weep all over their ballots.

5. Tom Hanks.
The actor who plays the voice of Woody is an Academy Awards darling: i.e., this movie, and that movie, and don't forget this one.

6. The incumbent rule.
Unless there's a last-minute crowd pleaser like Titanic, the incumbent—i.e., the movie with the best critical backing by Nov. 1—takes the prize by default. The only major threat, The Social Network, might suffer from the fact that actors who vote on the Oscars don't use Facebook.

And after all that, why it might fall short: Star Wars didn't win best picture. Neither did E.T. Only two cartoons have been nominated before: Beauty and the Beast and Up, and they both lost to live-action films. If Toy Story 3 joins their company, Ken won't get his hands on a golden man, which is probably for the best: Barbie might get jealous.