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Oscar’s roster gets animated

'Polar' in, 'Team' out of Academy honors

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has 11 films competing in the feature-toon race, but two question marks met different fates: Warner Bros.’ “The Polar Express” was included, but Paramount’s “Team America” wasn’t.

The 11, unveiled Thursday, are Disney-Pixar’s “The Incredibles,” Disney’s “Home on the Range” and “Disney’s Teacher’s Pet”; DreamWorks’ “Shrek 2,” “Shark Tale” and “Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence”; Paramount’s “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie”; “Polar Express”; “Clifford’s Really Big Movie” (also distributed by WB); Masquerade Films’ “Sky Blue”; and Blazeway’s “The Legend of Buddha.”

There was a rumor that “Polar” would not submit for animation, but those close to the film say that’s not true; it was always going to be submitted in that category. The film uses new technology, and the real question was whether the Acad would consider it animated.

A similar rumor surfaced briefly about “Incredibles.” But Disney senior veepee of publicity Dennis Rice said Thursday, “There was never any conversation, ever, about not submitting in animation. We strongly believe it’s a great artistic achievement that happens to be animated and deserves recognition in both categories.”

“Polar” is similarly aiming for one of the five best-pic slots. The 1991 “Beauty and the Beast” was the only toon nommed for best picture, and that was before the creation of the feature-animation category. A film can be nominated in both, as pics such as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” have been nominated for both best film and foreign-language pic.

Toons are also eligible in other categories (script, directing, sound) provided they meet other Acad qualifications.

As for “Team,” some at Par were hoping for inclusion as an animated-feature. Academy rules on short films list animation techniques as “stop-motion, clay animation, puppets, pixilation, cutouts, pins” and so on. However, the committee Wednesday considered that the puppets reference referred to frame-by-frame manipulation of puppets, while “Team” was considered live-action puppetry that was lighted and filmed in real time. While missing out on toon-feature eligibility, it is eligible in other categories.

To be eligible, all toons are subject to receipt of the official screen credits form. In addition, “Incredibles,” “Polar,” “Sky Blue” and “SpongeBob” all must fulfill their plans to open in Los Angeles prior to Dec. 31.

The Academy has an eight-16 rule for toons: For there to be a category with three nominations, eight toons must open within a given year. For five nominations, there must be 16 or more. The Acad’s executive committee of the short films/feature animation branch declared the 11 eligible. That panel technically has the right to state that there will be no category this year, but But it is expected to recommend to the board of governors on Dec. 14 that the award be given.

Nov. 1 was the deadline for submissions in this category.

Oscar noms will be announced Jan. 25, and winners will be unveiled Feb. 27.

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