November 18, 2005

‘Wallace,’ ‘Corpse Bride’ on Oscar Shortlist

By Sheigh Crabtree

LOS ANGELES -- Ten cartoons are on the eligibility list for best animated feature film in this year's Academy Awards race, and stop-motion animation is represented for the first time since the category was created in 2001.

In fact, two stop-motion films -- Aardman Animation's "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" and Warner Bros. Pictures' "Tim Burton's Corpse Bride" -- are in the running for an Oscar nomination.

Many of the animated features reflect the industrywide turn away from traditional animation techniques toward 3-D computer animation. The 10 films ultimately will be whittled down to three when all the nominees for the 78th annual Academy Awards are announced January 31.

Walt Disney Pictures topped the list with three films, including Walt Disney Feature Animation's first computer-generated movie, "Chicken Little," the current champion at the box office; Studio Ghibli's "Howl's Moving Castle," by Japanese anime master Hayao Miyazaki; and Vanguard Animation's British carrier pigeon yarn "Valiant."

DreamWorks Animation has a tandem of contenders with "Madagascar" and "Wallace & Gromit."

20th Century Fox Animation and Blue Sky Studios are represented by "Robots."

Representing the independently made animated movies are the Weinstein Co.'s "Hoodwinked"; Pentamedia Studios' computer-animated "Gulliver's Travels" from India; and Triumph Films' "Steamboy," directed by Katsuhiro Otomo.

"We think it's the strongest group ever," said Bill Kroyer, governor of the Academy's Oscar animation branch. "It shows the greatest range of style and technique yet. The initial question when the category was founded was, Will there be enough animated releases to make the category worthwhile? Not only do you see a range of techniques, countries and styles, but animation is the most successful genre of film of any kind. With horror, comedy or drama genres, you just don't have 10 films performing domestically and internationally like these will."

Films that have not yet been released in Los Angeles County must still fulfill all of the qualifying rules before year's end. "Hoodwinked," described as a revisionist take on the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale, is set for release next month.

"This is my first film, so it's a dream come true," "Hoodwinked" director and co-writer Cory Edwards said. "It's a homegrown independent film 3-1/2 years in the making. We're the little engine that could."

In the past, Pentamedia India has booked a local theater in Artesia, Calif., to qualify its films as it did with 2004's "Little Buddha." Pentamedia representatives could not be reached for comment.

"Steamboy" was released theatrically in the summer.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter