Oscars open Animated Feature nominations up to entire membership

The Oscars have decided that the entire membership will now be invited to take part in the nomination stage of the Animated Feature race. Up until now, the nomination committee was comprised of members of the Short Films and Feature Animation Branch and selected craftspeople from the other branches who collectively tended to favor traditional and stop-motion films over CG fare.

Required attendance at screenings has been dropped. Rather, members can attest to having seen all the nominees at theaters or screenings or by way of the the academy’s streaming site or screeners. And the method of determining the nominees has been changed.

However, the academy is keeping the requirement that at least 16 films be submitted for consideration before there are five nominees. There must still be at least eight entries for this award to be given, with up to 12 meaning there will be three nominees and between 13 and 15 resulting in four. Last year, there were 27 entries and five nominees.

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Until now, committee members were required to attend screenings of at least two-thirds of the eligible films (that would have meant 18 last year) before being allowed to score them from 6 (poor) to 10 (excellent). Only those films with an average rating of at least 7.5 remained as contenders. If only one film merited such a score, it was to receive a special award; otherwise, the five highest ranked above 7.5 would be the nominees.

That scoring system is being replace by the preferential ballot that has been used to determine the contenders in acting, directing, writing and the craft categories (except makeup/hairstyling and visual effects) for decades. This system requires members to rank their top five choices and a multi-step system of counting winnows the various contenders down to the final nominees.

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Compare this to the complicated process by which the five Foreign Language Film nominees are determined. As with the new Animated Feature nominating committee, this one is also open to all members. Last year, there were a record 85 entries and the several hundred academy members who volunteered were divided into four groups and required to watch 21 or so submissions over a two-month period that ended in early December. Those who attended at least two-thirds of their assigned screenings were entitled to cast ballots on which they rated the films they had seen on a scale from 6 to 10.

Their top six vote getters numbered among the nine semi-finalists. The 20 members of the executive committee, chaired by academy governor and Oscar-winning producer Mark Johnson (“Rain Man,” 1988), added three more films to the roster. Those nine semi-finalists were screened three per day beginning in early January by select academy members in New York, Los Angeles and London who then voted for the final five nominees.

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