Oscar Expands Roster for Animated Films

In this film publicity image released by Columbia/Sony Pictures Animation, characters Sam Sparks, voiced by Anna Faris, and Flint Lockwood, voiced by Bill Hader, are shown in a scene from Columbia Pictures' "Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs."
The Best Animated Feature category at this year's Oscars will be more crowded, thanks to a plethora of films qualifying for the Academy Awards this year.

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.

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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