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Animation / how we got here

Juggernaut fish may overpower 'Bear,' 'Triplets'

First, the conventional wisdom: The only thing that would jinx Disney/Pixar’s digitally animated “Finding Nemo” is the unexpected interference of a Chicago Cubs fan.

Swimming in an ocean of critical support and enjoying its status not only as 2003’s top-grossing film but the highest-grossing animated film ever, “Nemo” is the clear favorite in this category.

Director Andrew Stanton is fairly blase about kudos and commerce — not that he’s stuck up or anything. It just doesn’t concern him, and that’s emblematic of the Pixar aesthetic, a filmmaking attitude that, ironically, has resulted in much financial success and, yes, Oscars. Pixar creative avatar John Lasseter received a “special achievement” Oscar in 1995 for “his inspired leadership of the Pixar ‘Toy Story’ team” and in 1988 for his short film “Tin Toy.”

A likely spoiler for “Nemo’s” party is the French-Belgian-Canadian production “The Triplets of Belleville.” The nearly wordless beauty, charm and quirkiness of the animation have made “Triplets” a favorite at festivals, on the arthouse circuit and with animators.

“Brother Bear” scooped the final mention. The 2-D animation pic performed well at the box office but failed to generate anywhere near the heat or buzz of its recent CGI brethren.

Some may see it as one of the last of its kind from a major studio. The Disney name and the film’s traditional approach likely accounted for much of the Academy’s support.

Oscar pedigree

“Finding Nemo” has cast a very wide net for Oscar this year and it’s highly unlikely that it won’t nab the golden man.

The Disney-Pixar relationship may be kaput, but their final collaboration was one of their best, catching rave reviews and tons of business that made it the year’s top grosser.

That the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences appreciates this film is obvious (see its three other noms). Were there no animation category, “Nemo” would have been a serious contender in the picture category.

That “Nemo” is an outstanding example of the bright and exciting CGI animation that has exploded in the wake of “Toy Story” makes it all the more appealing.

The biggest threat to “Nemo” is “The Triplets of Belleville,” a quirky, arthouse toon produced in France, Belgium and Canada. The nearly wordless tale uses music and traditional techniques to great effect and its old-world warmth makes it a real charmer. That this film also got a nom in nonanimation categories — original screenplay, original song — shows it has a lot of support.

“Brother Bear” is the least likely to win the award. The momentum toward CGI means this is possibly the last 2-D animated film Disney will make for a very long time.

That could work in its favor as the Mouse House has not won this category, now in its third year, for a film of its own and some may want to take this final chance to celebrate the past before CGI and foreign toons from places like Japan take over.

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