While the Academy previously announced it was increasing the slate of Best Picture nominees from five to 10 - prompting even more heated debate about which films will make it onto the list - it was revealed today that 20 animated features were submitted for consideration for the 82nd Academy Awards.
Under the Academy's rules, because at least 16 features were eligible, the number of short-listed nominees in the Best Animated Feature category will be raised from three to five.
Only once before has there been a slate of five Best Animated Feature nominees, when Hayao Miyazaki's 2002 fantasy "Spirited Away" bested "Ice Age," "Lilo & Stitch," "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron" and "Treasure Planet."
2009 was a rich year for features using computer generated animation, stop-motion, claymation and hand-drawn animation, many being released by indie distributors, who - because of the expanded slate of nominees - have a better chance than usual against the likes of Pixar, Disney and other major studios.
The 20 submitted films are:
• "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel," a live-action film whose CGI chipmunks make it eligible under Academy rules;
• "Astro Boy," based on the 1960s TV cartoon series;
• "Battle for Terra," a CGI sci-fi saga;
• "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs," a 3-D box office hit from Sony;
• "Coraline," the critically-acclaimed stop-motion adaptation of Neil
Gaiman's gothic children's book;
• "Disney's A Christmas Carol," the motion-capture animated film by Robert Zemeckis, starring Jim Carrey (or rather his computer-rendered likeness);
• "The Dolphin - Story of a Dreamer," a computer animated tale of a teenage dolphin venturing out into the wide, wide ocean;
• "Fantastic Mr. Fox," a stop-motion adaptation of Roald Dahl's novel, with voices by George Clooney and Meryl Streep;
• "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs," the third in the popular CGI series of prehistoric comedies;
• "Mary and Max," a claymation feature from Australia about pen pals - a little girl and a middle-aged man with Asperger's Syndrome;
• "The Missing Lynx," a Spanish animated film about endangered species and hunters crossing paths;
• "Monsters vs. Aliens," another 3-D sci-fi action flick;
• "9," a post-apocalyptic fable by Shane Acker, based on his 2005 Oscar-nominated short film;
• "Planet 51," a CGI comedy in which the aliens are us;
• "Ponyo," from master Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki;
• "The Princess and the Frog," a musical from Disney in the traditional, hand-drawn animation style, with songs by Randy Newman;
• "The Secret of Kells," a French-Belgian-Irish film set in a 9th century abbey, its design a cross between medieval manuscripts and 1950s UFA cartoons;
• "Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure," a sequel set in the "Peter Pan" universe;
• "A Town Called Panic," a surreal stop-motion comedy from Belgium featuring toy cowboys and Indians, a killer penguin-robot and Nutella;
• "Up," Pixar's 3-D adventure of a balloon salesman escaping to South America to fulfill a lifelong dream, and one of the most critically-acclaimed films of the year.
The films were submitted by the Academy's Nov. 2 deadline, with several still to complete their week-long qualifying theatrical run by the end of this year.
Some were late entrants, including "The Secret of Kells," a French-Belgian-Irish film which was just picked up for U.S. distribution by GKIDS, and "A Town Called Panic," whose producers booked a Los Angeles theatre themselves in order to qualify the film in this year's race.
The 82nd Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2010, at 5:30 a.m. PT, with the award ceremony held on Sunday, March 7, 2010.
By David Morgan, CBSNews.com