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Will any animated movies get a Best Picture nod at this year's Oscars?

Posted Friday, December 11, 2009 at 3:54 PM Central
Last updated Friday, December 11, 2009 at 4:02 PM Central

by Tim Briscoe

We're entering Awards Season. The Golden Globe nominations will be announced on Tuesday. Many of the Oscar earmarked films are starting to be released in theaters.

Seems like an ideal time to discuss a topic near and dear to my heart -- acknowledging some of the best animated films of the year. With the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' (AMPAS) move to 10 Best Picture nominees, it seems to be no longer a question of if an animated film will be picked, but how many will be included.

First, a brief history lesson. Only one animated film has ever been nominated in the Best Picture category. That was Disney's Beauty and the Beast in 1992. To address some of the complaints regarding the lack of animated films in the Best Picture category, AMPAS started the Best Animated Feature prize in 2001.

Last year, lots of critics and fans cried foul when the universally acclaimed WALL-E was not nominated. That had to play into the Academy's decision to expand the Best Picture field to 10.

This year has produced a lot of quality animated films. The top of the heap has to another winning effort from Pixar, Up. It was part of the National Board of Review's top 10 for the year. There's no question it'll be one of the five in the Academy's Best Animated Feature class. It's expected to be up for the Best Picture Oscar.

But is that all we can expect? Or can we even expect that nomination?

There have been a load of critically-acclaimed animated films in 2009. Rotten Tomatoes, the critical opinion aggregator, has nine animated films from the year with at least a 70% approval rating -- eight of which are 80% or greater.

Shouldn't at least two of these movies be up for Best Picture? Let's look further at the serious contenders.

Animation enthusiast and blogger Tommy Day has three picks. "My most obvious choice is Up for Best Picture, but I also think Fantastic Mr. Fox could stand up to any other of the nominees this year, but I would be surprised if it was nominated." The man behind Saturday Morning Central and the forthcoming Animation on Blu-ray says Ponyo, the latest from master Hayao Miyazaki, is also worthy.

These three films were part of the 20 that AMPAS announced would be up for consideration in the Best Animated Feature category. But does exclude them from Best Picture?

Technically, no. They can be nominated in both. But the existence of a separate category clearly segregates animation. AMPAS is effectively saying "You cartoons belong at the kiddie table but not at the head table with all the other actual films." Will the Academy voters follow suit? I'd bet on it.

Look at documentaries and foreign language films. In the history of the Oscars, those have been largely ignored for the Best Picture prize due to having their own classifications.

Animation is now in that group of red-headed step children. Ultimately, I wouldn't wager money on any animated movie -- not even Up -- for this year's Best Picture.

Day, is a lot more optimistic. "I think the awards organizations are warming up to animated films being something other than kids fare, and with films like Up and Fantastic Mr. Fox, it can only get better."

For the sake of acknowledging these talented filmmakers, I hope he's right.

What do you think? Will Up get a Best Picture nod? Any others? Let us know what you think.