Oscar favorite 'Frozen' leads red-hot animation field
By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The first Academy Award for an animated feature film was a special honor given to Walt Disney in 1939 for the innovation of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Child actress Shirley Temple presented Disney with a full-sized gold Oscar statuette and seven miniature ones.
The studio founded by the animation pioneer, Walt Disney Animation Studios, has never won the Oscar for best animated feature, a category created in 2002. That is expected to change on Sunday, as the studio's hit "Frozen" is the favorite in a race that has become as diverse as Hollywood's animation industry.
"Frozen" will compete for Oscar gold with films that include box office hits "The Croods," a caveman comedy from DreamWorks Animation SKG, and the yellow minions of Universal Pictures' "Despicable Me 2," produced by relative newcomer Illumination Entertainment.
"It's a tremendously vibrant competitive landscape," said Illumination Chief Executive Officer Chris Meledandri.
A larger number of players creating high-quality animated films helps everyone in the business, he said, because it raises enthusiasm for the genre and brings a wider group of people to theaters beyond the typical family filmgoers.
"Audiences remain urgently interested in the medium," Meledandri said. "It continues to expand our collective audience."
Last year, five studios including Walt Disney Co's famed Pixar unit distributed animated films that generated $100 million or more at U.S. and Canadian theaters, six if Disney Animation Studios and Pixar are counted separately. This year, the biggest movie at the domestic box office is Warner Bros' animated "The Lego Movie," which has earned nearly $280 million worldwide in three weeks.
Another animated film, "The Nut Job" from Open Road Films, a joint venture of theater chains AMC Entertainment and Regal Entertainment, ranks third on domestic charts this year. Continued...