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Toon tussle in animation race

Pixar winning streak rides on 'Toy Story 3'

While Pixar’s “Toy Story 3” remains one of the best reviewed films of the year, competition in the category is deep and the top prize is far from assured.

Since its animation category was created four years ago, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. has given its top toon prize to a Pixar film, but whether that streak continues depends on how voters feel about the other noms — “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Tangled,” “Despicable Me” and “The Illusionist.”

The “Toy Story 3” nomination represents a first for director Lee Unkrich, who admits to receiving some interesting reactions.

“I’ve gotten condolences that we weren’t nominated for best picture,” he remarks, noting that “Toy Story 2” had won Globes best picture race in the comedy-musical in 2000. “People don’t understand, though, that the Golden Globes, unlike the Academy Awards, haven’t allow animated films to compete for best picture since the animated film category was instituted.”

Except for “The Illusionist,” which opens Christmas Day, all the nominees earned major B.O. receipts, so this category has heft.

“Unlike live action, where hundreds of films are made every year, in animation there only are a relative handful,” Unkrich notes. “If you’re going to have an animation category, you hope that there will be enough worthy films so that it feels like a legitimate award.”

“Dragon” co-director Dean DeBlois agrees: “Animation was always considered the kids table when it came to awards, but these nominees were big moneymakers for the industry. I think that will encourage people to be bolder, and veer away from formulaic paths.”

Engaging human characters, which have only proliferated in recent years because of technical advances, represent another notable aspect of this year’s nominees.

“Dragon” has propelled the DreamWorks style to move beyond wisecracks and sight gags, while “Tangled” demonstrated that Disney fairy tales could thrive in a computer-generated environment.

“The success of these films advances the technology,” DeBlois observes, “and it’s only going to get better every year.”

More from Golden Globes Countdown:
Globes receives high star wattage | Globe drama noms an impressive bunch | Comedy-musical noms are an eclectic mix | ‘Big Bang’ lands HFPA love | Wahlberg has fighter’s chance | Hard-charging trio makes Globes debut

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