This year Oscar is in love -- with a rat

Thu Feb 21, 2008 4:37pm EST
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By Arthur Spiegelman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - When the producers of "Ratatouille" started making their movie, they wondered who in their right mind would pay to see an animated tale about a rat cooking in a high-class French restaurant.

"We are still wondering," said producer Brad Lewis, despite the fact that the Disney/Pixar film has grossed $620 million at worldwide box offices and is widely expected to win Sunday's Oscar for 2007's best animated film.

Academy Award pundit Tom O'Neil calls the movie, "the big cheese in the contest. It has the highest critics' ranking of any film this year -- 93 percent of critics liked it and it should have been nominated for best picture."

Only one animated film has been nominated for best film, 1991's "Beauty and the Beast," and it lost.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences created a separate category for the world's top film honors to single out full-length cartoon movies starting with nominees for 2001.

While "Ratatouille" is the front-runner for this year's Oscar, it has stiff competition from "Persepolis," a French film about a schoolgirl's rebellion against the repression of women in Islamic Iran, and "Surf's Up" about surfing penguins.

All three have won critical respect and praise from fellow animators. French officials liked "Persepolis" so much they made it the country's candidate for best foreign language film, but it failed to be nominated in that category and wound up as a rare foreign language entry in animation.

A BIRD AND A RAT   Continued...

<p>Actor Brad Garrett poses with characters from Pixar's film "Ratatouille" at its premiere in Hollywood, California in this file photo from June 22, 2007. REUTERS/Mark Aver</p>