FINDING NEMO (Disney/Pixar) fittingly leads the pack of 11 eligible Oscar contenders for Best Animated Feature announced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Nov. 19, 2003. The entries include three other Disney films (BROTHER BEAR, THE JUNGLE BOOK 2 and PIGLET'S BIG MOVIE) along with JESTER TILL (TILL EULENSPIEGEL a 2D/3D hybrid, Solo Film), LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION (Warner Bros.), MILLENNIUM ACTRESS (DreamWorks' Go Fish specialty division), POKEMON HEROES (Miramax), RUGRATS GO WILD! (Paramount), TOKYO GODFATHERS (inspired by John Ford's classic THREE GODFATHERS, Goldwyn Films) and THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE (Sony Classics).
Conspicuously missing is DreamWorks' SINBAD: LEGEND OF THE SEVEN SEAS, which performed poorly at the box office despite some critical praise and signaled the end of traditional animation at the studio. "Based on the critical response the film received in the marketplace, we decided not to pursue an academy campaign," explained DreamWorks animation head Ann Daly.
Also missing was the critically acclaimed COWBOY BEBOP: THE MOVIE. On the other hand, while there was some concern that LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION might not qualify because of its live action presence, it obviously contained enough animation (both 2D and 3D) to make the initial cut.
Which films will be nominated alongside NEMO -- the sure-bet to win based on its enormous popularity and record-breaking box office (nearly $340 million in North America)? The smart money so far is on TRIPLETS and MILLENNIUM, based on their artistic merit and critical buzz.
Films submitted in the Best Animated Feature category also may qualify for Academy Awards in other areas, including Best Picture, provided they meet the rules criteria governing those categories.
The eligibility of three of the films, "JESTER TILL, TOKYO GODFATHERS and TRIPLETS is subject to their opening in Los Angeles prior to December 31. TRIPLETS is scheduled to open Nov. 21 and JESTER TILL and TOKYO GODFATHERS (the latest from MILLENNIUM ACTRESS director Satoshi Kon) on Dec. 5. TOKYO GODFATHERS will open commercially on Jan. 16, 2004.
The 76th Academy Award nominations will be announced at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2004. The Academy Awards ceremony will take place on Feb. 29.