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21 animated features vie for Oscar gold

By Jeff Peterson

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 5 2012 2:41 p.m. MST

Dracula (Adam Sandler) looks on nervously as his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) and the human boy Jonathan (Andy Samberg) share an intimate moment in "Hotel Transylvania."

Sony Pictures Animation

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This year marks a big step forward for the world of animated movies.

A record-setting 21 films are being considered for nomination in the Best Animated Feature category at this year’s Academy Awards.

Unlike some years, however, there’s no clear winner in this year’s group. Among the more high-profile films in contention, the list includes family favorites like Pixar’s “Brave,” Disney’s “Wreck-It Ralph” and the Genndy Tartakovsky horror comedy “Hotel Transylvania.”

Possible nominees include films from the U.S., Great Britain, Japan, South Africa, India, France and Canada.

According to academy rules, though, only five of the 21 films being considered will actually be nominated, which means some fan favorites are bound to get snubbed.

The huge number of films eligible for nomination this year reflects just how much the animation industry has grown in the past few decades.

From the so-called “Disney Renaissance” of the late ’80s and early ’90s up through “Toy Story” and the explosion of CGI filmmaking, animation has blossomed as a medium.

In fact, just the existence of an award for Best Animated Feature shows how far animation has come. The first statuette was only handed out back in 2001. In an upset, it went to DreamWorks Animation’s “Shrek,” which beat out the Pixar classic “Monsters, Inc.”

Since then, though, Pixar has mostly dominated the field, winning six of the 11 years the category has existed, including back-to-back Oscars from 2007 to 2010 for “Ratatouille,” “Walle-E,” “Up” and “Toy Story 3.”

It isn’t just a matter of more animated features getting made these days, though. The overall quality of filmmaking has also been on the rise as studios outside of Disney and Pixar have started to come into their own.

Last year, in fact, Pixar didn’t even receive a nomination — instead, the Oscar went to Gore Verbisnki’s quirky homage to Sergio Leone Westerns, “Rango.”

This year’s list of Oscar contenders is also notable for the variety of animation styles on display. Along with the usual CGI features, a trio of stop-motion films, “ParaNorman,” “Frankenweenie” and “The Pirates! Band of Misfits,” all make a serious bid for nomination, if not Oscar gold.

Meanwhile, Great Britain’s dark horse candidate, an adaptation of ex-Monty Python member Graham Chapman’s “A Liar’s Autobiography,” tells its story in 17 segments, each showcasing a different animation technique, from traditional hand-drawn stuff to Claymation.

Independent features are also represented well. GKids, the small distribution company that landed two of the five nomination slots last year with “A Cat in Paris” and “Chico & Rita,” also has four films in consideration this year: two French features, “Zarafa” and “Le Tableau,” as well as “The Rabbi’s Cat” and the latest from Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli, “From Up on Poppy Hill.”

Oscar nominees will be announced Jan. 10, and the 85th Academy Awards will take place Feb. 24 in the newly christened Dolby Theatre.

A native of Utah Valley and a devoted cinephile, Jeff Peterson studied humanities and history at Brigham Young University.

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