The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announces its eligibility list for their animation category next week, and some are already predicting chaos. The problem here is that because there are a limited number of animated films released every year, the number of films eligible for nomination is also limited. The rules about which movies qualify as animated are also complicated, but the big uproar of the moment seems to be over the notion that only three films will be nominated.

HR has run a piece bemoaning the prospect of so many movies being left out, since this year has been so heavy with animation. Except I don’t see the problem.

It’s been a big year for animated movies but very few of them deserve any real consideration for the Academy’s animation Oscar. There’s talk that if more than 16 animated movies end up being made this year they could expand the nominations to five instead of three… but I say forget it. Let’s hope the year ends with only 15, because most of the animated crap this year doesn’t deserve to be remembered, let alone nominated.

After a packed year last year with great movies like Ice Age 2, Monster House, Cars, Over the Hedge, Flushed Away, and Happy Feet this year it’s been more about quantity. There are only three animated movies which deserve any sort of nomination, and the decision is easy. Those three are: Ratatouille, The Simpsons Movie, and even though I haven’t seen it I’ll say Beowulf… since it has to be better than all the other animated dreck we’ve been saddled with in 2007. Maybe the surprisingly enjoyable Disney entry Meet the Robinsons deserves some consideration, but after those four the category runs out of steam quick.

Shrek 3 was an abortion and everyone knows it. Surf’s Up has a handful of deluded supporters, but it’s third rate crap which barely anyone watched. Bee Movie is mildly amusing and incredibly disjointed at best. Happily N’ Ever After may be the worst movie of the year and should only be mentioned in the same breath as words like “Razzie”. What else have you got? TMNT? You have to be kidding me.

The only real controversy here is that for some bizarre reason Beowulf might not qualify, while garbage like Shrek 3, or even Alvin and the Chipmunks gets in. Alvin and the Chipmunks is a mostly live action movie with some animated characters in it, but because of a convoluted quirk of the category’s rules, they measure the percentage of animation in the movie and it might be enough for Alvin to slip past. Meanwhile, they’ve instituted a new rule which requires that “movement and characters' performances are created using a frame-by-frame technique”, which seems targeted at eliminating motion capture animation from the category. Beowulf, a groundbreaking film in that it’s one of the first truly adult-oriented computer animated movies yet made, was done entirely with motion capture and as such may be kicked out in favor of some of this year’s other animated junk. Surfing penguins anyone?

Yes, this year is loaded with all kinds of animated fair. But very little of it has been any good. If anything, 2007 has made a case for doing away with the animation Oscar altogether, or at the very least made the Academy look very smart for limiting the field to a meager three nominations. Animated movies are bigger than ever, unfortunately this year they were also badder than ever. If Beowulf gets disqualified on a technicality, then this is a category with barely enough legitimate contenders to fill even those three meager nominations.
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