Under the rules of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, if 16 or more animated features films are deemed eligible - including a theatrical playdate in Los Angeles during the past year - then five features could be nominated for an Academy Award. If there are fewer than 16, the maximum number of nominees is three.
Apparently not all films submitted this year made the cut: Variety reports that "Yogi Bear," a mixture of live action and computer animation, was a 16th film submitted - and disqualified.
Under Academy rules, for a live action film to be eligible in the animated feature category, "a significant number of the major characters must be animated and animation must figure in no less than 75% of the picture's running time."
Although "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore" - a mixture of live action and animation - passed the 75% threshold, "Yogi Bear" apparently did not.
With that disqualification, and the resulting shorter short-list, chances diminished for a foreign title or indie project to get recognized beyond the familiar entries from the biggest producers of animation - Pixar ("Toy Story 3"), Disney ("Tangled"), and Dreamworks ("How to Train Your Dragon").
Last year, when there were 16 submitted features, five films competed for the Oscar: In addition to Pixar's winning computer animated "Up," and Disney's "The Princess and the Frog," the list included two stop-motion features ("Coraline" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox"), and "The Secret of Kells," a hand-drawn French-Belgian-Irish film set in medieval Ireland.
The 15 eligible features are:
"Alpha and Omega" - A 3-D computer generated tale of two wolves on a trek back home. The "road movie" even featured the voice of Dennis Hooper, his last film.
"Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore" - Talking pets save the world.
"Despicable Me" - Computer animation about a criminal mastermind (Steve Carell) and his little yellow minions.
"The Dreams of Jinsha" - A Chinese hand-drawn film which took five years to complete, that tells of a young boy who dreams himself 3,500 years back in time, when he must battle a "mysterious evil energy."
"How to Train Your Dragon" - A fantasy of a young Viking who befriends rather than hunts dragons.
"Idiots and Angels" - A "cartoon-noir" feature by animator Bill Plympton, who has been nominated twice before for his outrageous hand-drawn shorts, "Your Face" (1987) and "Guard Dog" (2005).
"The Illusionist" - A critical favorite directed by Sylvain Chomet about a French magician's adventure in Scotland, based on an unproduced screenplay by French comic filmmaker Jacques Tati. Chomet's "The Triplets of Belleville" received two Oscar nominations in 2003.
"Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" - Computer-animated fantasy based on the "Guardians of Ga'Hoole" book series by Kathryn Lasky.
"Megamind" - Will Ferrell and Brad Pitt (or rather their evil genius/superhero counterparts) send up "Superman" as they battle it out.
"My Dog Tulip" - Based on J.R. Ackerley's memoir about his friendship with his Alsatian, the film features the voices of Christopher Plummer, Lynn Redgrave and Isabella Rossellini. Filmmakers Paul and Sandra Fierlinger went paperless - theirs is the first feature to be entirely hand drawn and painted on computers.
"Shrek Forever After" - Dreamworks' latest installment in the green ogre and donkey sidekick series.
"Summer Wars" - Japanimation about a young math genius-computer hacker who enters a virtual world.
"Tangled" - A new Disney musical that sends up the fairy tale of Rapunzel, with songs by Alan Menken whose work on previous Disney musicals ("The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin," etc.) has won him eight Academy Awards.
"Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue" - A new adventure starring Peter Pan's favorite fairy.
"Toy Story 3" - The latest in the popular series of adventures featuring Woody, Buzz Lightyear and a surfeit of classic toys.
The 83rd Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011, at 5:30 a.m. PT, with the award ceremony held on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011.