Should Ellen DeGeneres Get an Oscar Nomination for ‘Finding Dory’?

Finding Dory
Courtesy of Disney/Pixar

Pixar films are known for their sublime character voices — just look at Tom Hanks in “Toy Story” or Paul Newman in “Cars.” But as the title heroine in “Finding Dory,” Ellen DeGeneres goes to even greater acting depths to channel a memory-challenged Blue Tang fish. It’s a portrait that’s far more nuanced than her turn as a lovable sidekick in the original 2003 movie “Finding Nemo.” In the sequel, as Dory’s childhood recollections slowly return, DeGeneres combines the kind of slapstick lines that would make “Aladdin’s” Genie jealous with heartbreaking drama (a la “Still Alice” under the sea). Even though we never see DeGeneres’ face, it could still be called one of her strongest performances, and one that audiences won’t soon forget.

But don’t expect her to get any awards recognition at the end of the year. That’s because Oscars have never once nominated a vocal performance in the acting categories. Although members of the Academy can vote for them, and studios have occasionally campaigned for actors for their voice work (such as Jennifer Jason Leigh in last year’s “Anomalisa”), Academy voters have been too rigid to actually celebrate acting in an animated film.

Which begs the question: do the Oscars need a separate category for these kinds of performances? The ceremony is already too long with 24 different contests, but it would certainly liven up a stodgy telecast to see Academy Award contenders like Amy Poehler (“Inside Out”), Idina Menzel (“Frozen”) or Jack Black (“Kung Fu Panda”). Not to mention that while most genres in Hollywood are suffering from lack of originality, animation is experiencing a renaissance, which is why the Academy added a category for such films in 2002.

That year, “Shrek” took the first Oscar for an animated feature. The inaugural Pixar movie to win wasn’t for another two years with “Finding Nemo.” If “Finding Dory” lands the trophy next February, it would be the first time that two movies from the same animated franchise received the Oscar. But that’s not a guarantee, even with “Finding Dory’s” rave reviews.

It will be another strong year for animation with “Dory” likely up against two Disney films (“Zootopia” and “Moana”), Netflix’s “The Little Prince,” Sony Pictures Classics’ “The Red Turtle” and the dark horse raunchy candidate, Sony Pictures’ “Sausage Party,” which is like an R-rated “Toy Story” set in grocery store. If there was a separate category for voice acting, DeGeneres would inevitably face off against Seth Rogen (who portrays a sex-starved hot dog named Frank in “Sausage Party”). That would give the Oscars a kind of MTV Awards meets “Celebrity Deathmatch” vibe that the show has been desperately missing.

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  1. It’s nice to see this argument getting more coverage – the acting awards are outdated in their current form. I wrote this a couple of months ago suggesting ways to shake them up, so that DeGeneres and others have a platform to be recognised for voice performances.

  2. Mack says:

    No, because her voice is only one small component of the creation of the role. The biggest being the actors–aka the animators, who do all the real work.

    • No, She made it Big with the Studios, by Crossing the WGA Union Picket Lines. She adopted a Dog right before STRIKE, then gave it to a Friend. They came and took the Dog back. During the WGA Strike I carried a sign that said” Don’t Treat Us Like Dogs, Ellen”. The New York wing of the Writers Guild of America, actually a separate union called the WGA East, issued a statement saying DeGeneres was “not welcome” in New York and threatening to picket her show if she went ahead with plans to tape there on November 19 and 20. Nice to see afterwards the WB moved her from NBC on to a Big Union Lot. Then made her the Next Oprah

  3. Ryan says:

    Hmm? So who wins each year since 1989?

    1989- Jodi Benson as Ariel in “The Little Mermaid”
    1990- Peter O’Toole as Pantaloon in “The Nutcracker Prince”
    1991- Paige O’Hara as Belle in “Beauty and the Beast”
    1992- Robin Williams as The Genie in “Aladdin”
    1993- Chris Sarandon as Jack in “The Nightmare Before Christmas”
    1994- James Earl Jones as Mufasa in “The Lion King”
    1995- Tom Hanks as Woody in “Toy Story”
    1996- Tony Jay as Frollo in “The Hunchback Of Notre Dame”
    1997- Hank Azaria as Bartok in “Anastasia”
    1998- Ming-Na Wen as Mulan in “Mulan”
    1999- Joan Cusack as Jessie in “Toy Story 2”
    2000- Eartha Kitt as Yzma in “The Emperor’s New Groove”
    2001- Mike Myers as Shrek in “Shrek”
    2002- Daveigh Chase as Lilo in “Lilo and Stitch”
    2003- Ellen DeGeneres as Dory in “Finding Nemo”
    2004- Tom Hanks as the Conductor in “The Polar Express”
    2005- Ralph Fiennes as Lord Quartermaine in “Wallace and Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit”
    2006- Paul Newman as Doc Hudson in “Cars”
    2007- Dan Castelenetta as Homer Simpson in “The Simpsons Movie”
    2008- Emma Watson as Princess Pea in “The Tale Of Desperaux”
    2009- Jennifer Cody as Charlotte in “The Princess and The Frog”
    2010- Tom Hanks as Woody in “Toy Story 3”
    2011- Johnny Depp as Rango in “Rango”
    2012- John C. Reilly as Ralph in “Wreck-It Ralph”
    2013- Idina Menzel as Elsa in “Frozen”
    2014- Will Arnett as Batman in “The LEGO Movie”
    2015- Phyllis Smith as Sadness in “Inside Out”

  4. Rebecca says:

    I’m surprised a category hasn’t been added for voice over work. What would Aladdin been without Robin Williams voicing the Genie?

  5. Susan says:

    Jennifer Jason Leigh definitely deserved an Oscar nomination for her haunting voice work in Anomalisa last year (though at least she finally got nominated, and was equally great in The Hateful Eight). Scarlett Johansson also deserved an Oscar nomination for her voice role in Her a few years back.

  6. Eve says:

    No, but maybe Andy Serkis should.

  7. EricJ says:

    Oh, are we freakin’ back to -this- again, like we were before 2008? Dancing around off-the-subject acting nominations just so Pixar can finally get some kind of major non-Best Animated Oscar, like when we wondered whether Patton Oswald could be nominated for Ratatouille?

    People, you HAD YOUR CHANCE for a big, real Pixar Best Picture last year. The Academy was offering it to you on a silver platter–That’s why they kept eight nominations open, because Inside Out was a less depressing film than The Revenant.
    But noo-ooo, the Golden Globes didn’t give it to theirs, so we mustn’t either….

  8. Gav says:

    Good job Ellien, but let’s be real. It’s a voice over job. No body language, no facial expressions. You did the part justice, just not award worthy

  9. Dank says:

    No, no, no. Does that answer the question? Oscar, LOL!!!

  10. crossie says:

    This article is nuts!

    Not the premise, but the execution. ‘Celebrity Deathmatch’ shout out out of nowhere!

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