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Animated Feature Films to be Honored with Oscar® Category

A brand new Academy Awards® category - the first in almost 20 years - was announced Wednesday (9/27).

The new category, Best Animated Feature Film, could be presented as early as the March 2002 Oscar ceremony - depending on the number of films that are eligible.

An executive committee will be formed to determine the eligibility of the films. This committee will be comprised of over a hundred members located in the Los Angeles area from all of the Academy's branches. They will review all of the animated feature films released in LA County during the year.

To be eligible, an animated feature must be at least 70 minutes in length; can use cel animation, computer animation, stop motion or other recognized animation techniques; must be "primarily animated" and meet the other general requirements for feature film eligibility as stated in the Academy Award Rules.

The overseeing committee is expected to develop criteria for the definition of "primarily animated." This will determine how films that blend live action with animation - such as the upcoming release "Osmosis Jones" - will rate under these criteria.

One could speculate that a film like "Mary Poppins" or "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" that only has a few animated sequences may not be eligible. But what about a film like "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" or "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace," where many major characters are animated throughout the film? This certainly will be included within the guidelines set forth by the committee in the coming months.

A minimum of eight films must be eligible for the possibility of a recommendation by the committee for the award to be given. If the Academy Board of Governors accepts the committee's recommendation, the nomination process will begin. If eight to fifteen animated features turn out to be eligible in a year, three films may be nominated. If sixteen or more are eligible, five may be nominated.

Once the nominees are selected, all the Academy members worldwide would be eligible to vote to select the film that would receive the Oscar.

The Oscar would be presented to "the key creative talent most clearly responsible for the overall achievement," normally a single individual, on behalf of the entire production. In no case will more than two statuettes be presented.  

Designation of the award recipients, as well as questions of eligibility or rules interpretation, will be resolved by the overseeing committee. The Academy Board of Governors, however, will make the final determination if an award is to be presented in the category at all, in any given year - as they do with each Oscar category.

Films submitted in the Best Animated Feature category may qualify for Academy Awards in other areas, including Best Picture, provided they meet the rules criteria governing those categories. This is just as it is with the Best Foreign Film category - as was shown in 1998 when Roberto Benigni's "Life is Beautiful" was nominated in that category (which it won), as well as Best Picture (which it didn't).

The last time new Academy Award categories were established was in 1981.  The Academy governors voted two new categories that year - Makeup, (the first recipient being Rick Baker for "An American Werewolf in London") and a new honorary Oscar, the Gordon E. Sawyer Award, given to an individual for a career of technological contributions that has advanced the film industry.

Other than awards given in single specific categories, such as Best Song or Musical Score, animated feature films have rarely been awarded Oscars for the entire film itself. In 1938, Walt Disney was presented with a special Oscar - and seven miniature Oscars - for "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."* And in 1995, John Lasseter was awarded a special Oscar for "Toy Story."

The Academy Awards are the highest level of achievement for motion pictures. With this new category for animators to aspire to, one can hopefully look forward to even more quality animated feature films.

* By the way... Contrary to popular belief, Disney's "Snow White" was NOT the first animated feature ever. There were a few foreign animated features made prior to that, including several films produced in Germany by Lotte Reiniger, such as "Prince Achmed" in 1926. This film was created with a unique method of combining silhouettes with frame- by- frame animation techniques. Sadly, however, actual prints of these predecessors to "Snow White" may not exist anymore - although their existence has been documented in several texts - including Ralph Stephenson's thorough books "Animation in the Cinema" (Zwemmer/Barnes, 1967) and "The Animated Film" (Tantivy / Barnes, 1973).


For more information on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, visit their websites. (run by the Academy) features news of special events held at the academy headquarters in Beverly Hills, information on the Academy's Margret Herrick Library, and a searchable database of the all the Academy Award winners. (run by ABC) has video clips and behind the scenes reports from the previous awards ceremonies.

...Check 'em out.

Remember, ACADEMY AWARD(S)®, OSCAR(S)®, OSCAR NIGHT® and OSCAR® statuette design mark are registered trademarks and service marks and are the copyrighted property of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. So don't mess with them, OK?

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