"Up" a favorite in quality Oscar race for animation

Wed Feb 3, 2010 2:28pm EST
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The animation category at this year's Oscars ceremony presents a crowded field of singing frogs, sly foxes and spunky kids, but despite some tough competition, the high-flying adventure movie "Up" is expected to float away with the Oscar.

Disney/Pixar's "Up" this week became the only animated film apart from 1991's "Beauty and the Beast" to land a best picture nod, and the movie about a boy and an old man who fly off in a house tied to balloons is also nominated in the animated category.

There, it's up against Twentieth Century Fox's "Fantastic Mr. Fox," the Walt Disney Co's "The Princess and the Frog," Focus Features' "Coraline" and European production "The Secret of Kells," which critics say was a surprise choice, because it played in only a handful of U.S. theaters.

Filmmakers and critics say the nominated movies are all very different, all very good, and rival the dramas in the coveted best picture category.

"Animation actually outdid the live-action movies this year, it's an extraordinarily competitive field in terms of quality," said Peter Hammond, a critic with Los Angeles Times awards tracker TheEnvelope.com.

But Hammond said "Up" is the "overwhelming favorite" in the animated category.

The five animated movies include two that came out in 3-D ("Up" and "Coraline"), two made with tiny figurines manipulated through a painstaking process called stop-motion ("Fantastic Mr. Fox" and "Coraline") and two hand-drawn films ("The Princess and the Frog" and "The Secret of Kells").

"It's really cool, because I feel like a number of years ago all the films were in the same zone, all trying to do the same type of thing," said Pete Docter, co-director of "Up," which was made with computer-generated imagery.   Continued...

<p>Soap bubbles spell the word "Up" as they float in the sky at the premiere of the Disney-Pixar animated film "Up" in Hollywood, California May 16, 2009. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>