Galvin Collins, Courtesy of Focus Features
"Coraline" has received 10 Annie Awards nominations, including Best Animated Feature.

This is as good a year as any to be an animation fan.

There has been a whole slew of good-to-great cartoon features released theatrically in 2009. Arguably the best of these, as usual, came from the dependably terrific Pixar animation house. Its latest was this summer's smash hit, "Up."

(A quick side note: If you'd told me that millions of viewers would respond so enthusiastically to what is a cartoon fantasy about a retired widower, I would have laughed in your face. But that is the magic of Pixar.)

The year also boasted two winning, stop-motion animated features — "Coraline"and"Fantastic Mr. Fox."

And if that wasn't enough, there were rewarding, traditionally animated features — "Ponyo" and "The Princess and the Frog."

Another cartoon feature, the little-seen "Sita Sings the Blues," was a combination of computer-generated, hand-drawn and other animation elements.

Even "9," "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" and "Monsters and Aliens"featured first-rate, computer-generated art work. The latter two also had some laugh-worthy gags.

(However, the less said about things like the long-delayed "Delgo" or the vulgar "Planet 51" the better.)

Those working in the field are understandably excited about animation's future. Take Disney veterans Bruce Smith and Randy Haycock, two of the supervising animators on "The Princess and the Frog."

"We're seeing people doing their best work ever right now, and it's really inspiring everyone to do the same," Smith said.

Both men gave credit to Pixar chief John Lasseter, who has been a big proponent of all styles of animation.

"He sees the best in everything. With people like him in charge of the studios, you can't help but feel energized," Haycock said.

It will be interesting to see just how the studios and animation houses will try to top this year. As a cartoon nut, I'm eagerly awaiting 2010's cartoon films.

AWARDING ANIMATION.

Members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are going to have their work cut out for them as they select a Best Animated Feature Oscar winner.

Perhaps they may want to select five nominees instead of the normal three, as is permitted by the Academy Awards by-laws?

(You could certainly make a case that there are that many worthy nominees, unlike the silly new by-law that allows for 10 live-action film nominees.)

The Annie Awards, which are sponsored by the International Animated Film Society, have no such qualms.

"Coraline" leads the field, with 10 nominations, and is one of six films in the running for Best Animated Feature.

"Up" and "The Princess and the Frog" are not far behind that movie, with nine and eight nominations, respectively.

The full list of the 2010 award nominees can be found at www.annieawards.org. The winners will be announced Feb. 6.

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