Which three animated features will draw Oscar nominations?

Now that the submission deadline has passed, we know that the Animated Feature category at the Oscars will have just three nominees this year. This is not unusual, as looking back over the years since this award was first bestowed to “Shrek” in 2001, the category has only been expanded to five nominees twice (in 2002 when “Spirited Away” triumphed, and last year when “Up” won in probably the most competitive lineup ever in this category).

Putting aside all recent talk of “magic numbers”, “five or three nominees”, and “will they or won’t they submit”, it appears that at this stage in the race, by most accounts, we have about eight realistic contenders in this field:

“Despicable Me”
“How to Train Your Dragon”
“The Illusionist”
“Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole”
“Shrek Forever After”
“Toy Story 3”

In addition to the above are a few more titles that fill out the field to 13 titles: “Alpha and Omega,” “Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore,” “Yogi Bear,” “My Dog Tulip” and “Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue.” Perhaps there might have been more contenders in the mix, but we’ll never know.

Films that generally do well in this category tend to be CGI, Pixar or Pixar-like, with a few traditional animated features thrown in the mix. The biggest hit of the year is bound to be the category favorite, and this year that is critical and commercial smash “Toy Story 3,” which is also a likely nominee in the expanded Best Picture category.

Hot on its heels is Dreamworks’ “How to Train Your Dragon”, undoubtedly in a strong second place behind the category fave. Other plausible contenders likely to be fighting it out for that last slot include Disney’s “Tangled,” Universal’s “Despicable Me” and Warner’s “Owls of Ga’Hoole”. However, most pundits seem to agree that Sylvain Chomet, who crashed this category in 2003 with “The Triplets of Belleville” stands the best chance with foreign festival favorite “The Illusionist” as the likely third nominee in this category.

Photos: “How to Train Your Dragon” (Dreamworks); “Toy Story 3” (Disney)

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