OSCAR: Disney's Rich Ross Says “We're Going For The Best Picture Win” For 'Toy Story 3'

EXCLUSIVE: “We’re going for the Best Picture win. We wanted to have the best movie and the reviews have clearly said that and it’s the number one box office hit of the year so I’m not sure why we would not go for it all,” the Walt Disney Studios Chairman Rich Ross told me in a phone conversation this week. He’s talking about their worldwide billion dollar grosser Toy Story 3 which also sits atop Rotten Tomatoes chart of the best reviewed films of the year, at least those in wide release. To that end Disney/Pixar will launch an ambitious advertising campaign aimed squarely at Academy members this week that will blatantly try to associate past Best Picture winners with TS3 by having Toy Story characters enact some iconic images from Oscar winning films like West Side Story, On The Waterfront, Shakespeare In Love, Silence Of The Lambs, Titanic, The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King and Forrest Gump (which will feature the Woody character voiced of course by ‘Gump’ star Tom Hanks — get it?). There are potentially more than 20 different ads they will create, but some, like Lambs, which features a disembodied Mr. Potato Head, still are being cleared by various parties. The campaign which uses the phrase ‘Not Since’ will launch with The Godfather Part II in which Lotso, the mob boss-like bear emulates Al Pacino. Since that film (and Rings) were rare instances of sequels triumphing with Best Pic wins, the studio is not-so-subtly implying that the time has come for another sequel to win. Of course TS3 is a presumed front runner for Best Animated Feature but a Best Pic win is a longer shot.  Disney has had the only two nominees ever, 1991’s Beauty And The Beast before the separate ani category was established in 2001 and last year with Pixar’s Up, the first time there were ten nominees instead of five since 1943. Neither won and Disney is the only major never to have won the Best Picture Oscar, period (although their soon-to-be ex specialty division Miramax did).

“The theory is pretty simple for us,” says Ross. “It’s thrilling that there is a separate category for animation and that allows animated movies to be recognized but for some reason an animated film has never gotten Best Picture and I always wondered was there not an appetite? We decided this year we have the biggest and best reviewed film of the year. If not this year, and not this movie, when?” He also points out other genres and categories of films like fantasy (with Rings), horror (with Lambs) and sequels (with Godfather II) broke seemingly insurmountable barriers in terms of the perception that certain kinds of movies can’t win, so why not toons?

“As far as ‘Up’ last year it’s not surprising but I think the strategy is you go for Best Picture and as a fallback you end up as Best Animated Feature. And I guess I always thought that was not confident. With this movie we wanted to come up with a campaign that kept our aspirations clear but at the same time used a tongue in cheek approach,” he says. “It’s all to recognize the quandary which is that no animated picture had won Best Picture, so we used only Best Picture images to reflect that. I feel very confident we have a movie everybody loves and I want to make sure with our support and our campaign that people don’t feel the consolation prize is the appropriate prize for a movie like Toy Story 3. I think people will look at the ads and feel it’s very Pixar and very Disney. At the same time it’s very clear. Toy Story 3 is a Best Picture. Vote for it. Please.”

  1. What a brilliant ad campaign. He’s right: Toy Story 3 deserves to win Best Picture. Why not? Go for the gold.

    1. So arrogant. I hate it when a studio tries to buy themselves an Oscar by bombarding voters with expensive, glossy, self-aggrandizing campaigns. Let the movie speak for itself. Let the voters decide what they think is worthy. It makes me resent the film, which is unfair, being that it’s not the filmmakers at fault.

      1. Sorry Jack. In a world where marketing rules, it’s the product that has the most marketing that ends up winning.

    2. Disagree.
      How To Train Your Dragon should win Best Animated. And there are a few others more worthy of Best Pic. 127 Hours, The Social Network, The Town- all better flicks.

      1. 127 won’t win- its to hard for a lot of people to sit through . The Town will fall out of the 10 best. Social Network was a waste of time. Nothing special there

      2. Totally agree on “How to Train Your Dragon.” I disliked the writer’s assumption that TS3 has no competition.

        While I loved both movies, “How to Train Your Dragon” surprised me as one of the best movies I saw last year, period. I found it far more moving and euphoric overall, and I’m totally rooting for it to upset TS3 as Best Animated Picture.

  2. Well, at least they’re going for what they want but gotta say — Toy Story the original deserved the Oscar, this one doesn’t. Frankly there are better animated movies out there this year. But I admire the cleverness of the campaign and I guess Disney has lots o’ money to spend for something that just aint gonna happen.

    1. I tend to agree. I thought #1 was the best with #2 close behind. #3 was definitely very good, but had a few plot movements and story moments that didn’t quite work or were a little forced. Audiences and critics seem to be VERY forgiving of such things nowadays if they even notice them at all, but for a Best Picture you’d like to see everything click just right. Then again Best Picture has become a somewhat dubious political/popularity game over the past 10 years or so, so who knows what can happen. I don’t think it’s likely to happen, but it wouldn’t be a travesty if TS3 got a Lord of the Rings 3 “Best Picture For The Entire Series” style win.

  3. It’s probably good enough to win, but it won’t. The Academy won’t be able to swallow giving the award to a fully animated film where the actors stand at lecterns reading lines.

  4. I loved the movie. But I object to animated films being in the best picture race… period. And I also don’t think it’s possible for an animated film to ever win best picture — too many actors and people in the Academy that DON’T work in the animation field. They will never in a million years vote for an animated film to win. Their nomination IS their win and, frankly, they shouldn’t be so greedy.

    1. If an animated picture IS the best picture of the year, why shouldn’t it win? Who cares how it was made? That’s a very short-sighted view, in my opinion.

      1. I guess because if they have their own category – ANIMATION – why should they get two nominations? I feel the same way about FOREIGN LANGUAGE and DOCS so it’s nothing against animation. It just seems to me like animation should be good enough – it’s an amazing honor – but all of the sudden if you don’t get a best picture nomination, the animation nomination is somehow “less than.” It undermines the value of being nominated for best animated film. If it happens, great, throw a party but really to come out say it like this seems sort of greedy. Sorry it made so many people mad.

        1. I’m assuming that they’re NOT going to compete in two categories, that they’re only entering “Toy Story 3” as a “Best Picture” nominee, which makes your point moot.

          Of course being nominated for “Best Animation” instead of “Best Picture” is a “less than”. Because the “Best Picture” is the most coveted. By excluding all animated features from that category, you’re telling the world that animated movies are “less than” non-animated ones.

    2. Wow, I think this sort of perspective is wholly ignorant of the changing landscape of cinema. I understand if you don’t enjoy animated films but to write them off because of the way they are produced – which is painstaking, arguably more so than live action – is just ignorant.

      So good luck to ya, you’re a dinosaur out there.

    3. Why should they “frankly” not be so greedy? The Best Picture should win, you know, Best Picture. I’m not saying TS3 will win, or even that it should win (it shouldn’t), but to declare that one nominee should just be happy to be there or it’s being “greedy” while the others, many of which are significantly worse, should campaign campaign campaign, is silly (and probably a result of bias). The fact is this is a pretty open race this year and most of the critics/audience seem to think the ones at the top are of fairly equivalent quality. This is not a “Crash” year. It would be one thing if TS3 was clearly #10 of the 10, but it’s obviously not.

    4. Why object to Animated movies being nominated? People work just as hard if not Harder on said films. If it is good why should it matter how it’s made. You sound like a very close minded person when you say stuff like that.

    5. If Avatar was fairly in the running for Best Picture last year, Toy Story 3 should be considered as well. The difference between a 80% animated film and a 100% animated film isn’t that great.

  5. While I have not seen the rest of the Oscar hopefuls yet, Toy Story 3 is the best movie I have seen all year by miles. I am extremely happy that Disney is giving it the much-deserved push for Best Picture, and I really hope it wins.

    Also, any word if there will be a push for Lee Unkrich as Best Director? I would love to see him get a nomination. Not only did TS3 masterfully blend comedy and drama, but I am sure it takes a lot to helm a movie where so much is literally being created from scratch. It would be great if the Academy recognized an animation director in the Best Director category for once.

  6. With respect, I’ve seen most of the live-action Oscar-bait flicks, and I just don’t see Toy Story 3 walking away with Best Picture.

    Getting actors and a range of BTL AMPAS types to vote for an animated film is a challenge to begin with, but with pictures like Black Swan and The Social Network out there, it just doesn’t seem so likely those voters can be drawn to the animated fare.

    IMHO, there’s also the perception – fair or not – that since there’s a separate category for Best Animated, the Academy can honor a film like Toy Story 3 AND give its accolades to a serious live-action film.

    Toy Story 3 has made Disney a buck, and Pixar has yet to strike out, so even a lavish Oscar campaign is really just a drop in the bucket to make sure the most lucrative creative team in the industry continues to feel loved.

  7. Sounds like a funny and effective campaign that will certainly garner a bunch of attention but may not impress too well upon Academy members. You have to remember that the largest branch in the Academy by far is the Actors Branch and the lack of any on-screen performances (yes I know that animation is performing), creates a disconnect that doesn’t seem likely to bode well for vote getting. Particularly since many members of the Actors Branch (and the Academy at large) are older and tend to have more dramatic sensibilities than the ‘light comedy’ and ‘family’ labels that define TS3.

    A Best Picture nomination is very plausible, but a win, I think, is most unlikely. Nevertheless, at least Rich Ross is giving it a go, which is in itself laudable.

  8. Hubris, thy name is Rich Ross.

    It’s preposterous to think that Academy voters would give Toy Story 3 Best Picture on top of Best Animated Feature. Not only does it simply not deserve it (while great, it’s not as great as the prior Toy Story films), there’s this little thing called the actors branch of the Academy – its largest voting block – not to mention the average age of Academy voters (let’s just say Up had a far greater chance with its elderly lead character).

    While those ads sound great, this campaign seems like an ill-advised, indulgent expense that could even potentially backfire and cost them the Animated Feature win.

  9. Gotta love the condescending pat-on-the-back comments. “It’s a waste of time Rich Ross, but good fer you for trying.”

    The movie is better than Slumdog and Crash, that’s for sure.

    1. Perhaps it is a better movie, at least subjectively according to you, but Slumdog and Crash are the type of films that the majority of the Academy members like to vote for. And there is nothing condescending about the comment — Rich Ross has no control over the voting of the Academy members and being one myself for many years now I can tell you that the majority of the members like to think they’re too sophisticated and cultured to vote for a film like TS3 or frankly for any comedy (except Annie Hall and The Apartment). That may not be fair in many people’s eyes but that’s just the way it is. Sorry.

  10. Having already seen a larger number of potential Best Picture nominees (or at least the ones studios and indies are pushing), I can say that TS3 is ABSOLUTELY the Best Picture of the year. It was the best of the trilogy by far (and that’s saying a lot because I thought the first 2 were great achievements, as well), and is also (in my opinion) the most accessible to Academy voters of any of the animated pix that have been nominated in the category before. (For context: I loved “Beauty and the Beast,” thought “Up” was Pixar’s weakest movie to date, think Wall-e and Cars SHOULD have been nominated, and get pissed when “Babe” is left out of this conversation entirely).

    1. CARRSS???? Up is most definitely one of Pixar’s strongest. Cars felt like a self indulgent movie for Lasseter. Definitely the weakest of the Pixar collection. I’m very upset that Cars 2 is coming out caues I have two wait two years before there’s another Pixar movie worth seeing.

    2. CARS!! You actually liked Cars!! that was Pixar’s worst movie in my opinion and in critical opinion. It didn’t even deserve a best animated picture nomination because it was horrible (in a pixar sense)

      and Up was fantastic and one of Pixar’s best. Cars just doesn’t have the same quality of storytelling that Up or Wall-E or Ratatouille or the others had.

  11. I really hope so that this film will make movie history. I’ve seen this movie and cried at the end. This movie can also win for best animated film too. Good luck pixar. Hope you make history.

    1. You cried at the end because the beginning and ends were the best parts. The middle was pretty much the exact same as Story 1 and Story 2! LOL

  12. I don’t think Academy voters will give it the win.
    To most of them it’s still just a cartoon.

  13. Disney would have a better chance of winning an Oscar with a live action remake of the Apple Dumpling Gang.

    In other words a DISNEY film will never win Best Picture.
    So it has been written.

  14. TS3 had a beautiful blend of comedy, drama, and even action. It was so moving that it had me in tears, and I wasn’t the only adult crying. It has my vote for Best Picture, for what it’s worth.

  15. This guy, Rich Ross, he is the bottom of the barrel insofar as studio heads are concerned. He’s walking tall, referring to TS3 as “his” movie and “we” did this and “we” did that – gimme a break, Rich, you plastic faced, soon-to-be former studio head. How many people will rejoice when that happens?

    You know that song, Rich? “Ding Dong The RICH is Dead?” You know, Rich, from YOUR movie, The Wizard Of Oz.

    Well, we’ll be sining it when Iger becomes the bucket of water that melts you into David-Vogel-Dom.

  16. TS3 is the BEST PICTURE of the year! Social Network is a close second, but everyone needs to hold judgment until TRUE GRIT is unleashed!

  17. Toy Story 3 was good, but it wasn’t even the best animated movie this year. How To Train Your Dragon seems closer to what the Academy “typically” likes — real emotion and drama over comedy. And they both got nearly perfect ratings on Rotten Tomatoes (98% and 97%… but TS3 is higher only because more critics reviewed it — both had only 3 bad reviews.)

    Unfortunately, Pixar has the better reputation and track record than Dreamworks, so they’ll get more attention. I just feel bad for the folks who made Dragon, who’ll get the shaft…

  18. I love Pixar and all their movies but this is over the top. The movie was great but it stands out for being a movie in a sea of energy drink commercials and faux celebrity vehicles. It prob deserves a nom just for the sheer talent on display but as much of it is heartfelt and well done an equal amount is kind of retread. Ratatouille, Up and WallE were all superior and none of them garnered this kind of hyperbole.

    I wouldn’t root against the movie at all but this just feels like a reach from a team with little else to put on the field.

  19. Putting aside the arguments over 1&2 (and I believe TS2 is the peak of the series) TS3 is still the best eligible film I’ve seen. And out of everything I’ve seen this year, only “Temple Grandin” would beat it on a ballot if it were eligible.

    “The Kids are Alright” and “Inception” were both very good, but Toy Story 3 is truly an effort of art. Why shouldn’t Disney seek the big prize for it?

    I tend to buy into “The best film wins for the year”. Or, I at least wish that were true. Right now, for story and direction, I haven’t seen anything that holds together like TS3.

    Will it win? I doubt it. Should it win? Right now, without seeing December releases, it’s in the lead going away.

  20. “How To Train Your Dragon” was by far the best animated film this year. Sure, I loved TS3. But the animation on HTTYD was a real work of art. It was superior in script, character development and animation.

    I don’t think Pixar deserves the nod this year, but I’m afraid Disney’s reign will continue.

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