Oscars: An animated race with ‘Toy Story 3,’ ‘Illusionist’ and ‘How to Train Your Dragon’

Feb. 16, 2011 | 10:52 a.m.

A decade ago, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences created the Oscar for animated feature, the new category’s nominees included “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius,” a Nickelodeon-produced movie memorable for little more than its belch jokes. Ten years on, the competition has become much fiercer: This year, the three films vying for the prize are all critical darlings that had to beat out two other well-reviewed box-office hits to earn a nomination.

The three nominees are Pixar’s Toy Story 3,” the highest-grossing animated movie of all time and the third entry in a franchise that revolutionized the way animated films are made; DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon,” another computer-graphics blockbuster that set a new benchmark for 3-D with its sweeping flying sequences; and “The Illusionist,” an independently produced French film with very little dialogue that’s a love letter to the waning art of hand-drawn animation.

“This year in particular is an incredibly strong field,” said Bob Last, producer of “The Illusionist.” “Animation has reached a new maturity. The fundamental barrier to making CG animation look good has been lowered, so it comes back to story and character…”

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– Rebecca Keegan

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