From 'Rango' to 'Smurfs,' Rating the 18 Animated Oscar Contenders' Prospects

This year's race for Best Animated Feature prize is among the most competitive ever

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Ever since it was introduced ten years ago, the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature has been among the more controversial Oscar categories: Some say it relegates movies to kid-friendly ghetto, preventing truly great animated films from getting a Best Picture nod.

But that evidently hasn't stopped filmmakers from entering their work into Best Animated Feature race. This year, 18 movies have been submitted to the Academy for consideration—the second-highest number ever—which means there will be five nominees for just the third time in the award's history, so long as each movie meets the eligibility requirements. (Last year, by contrast, only three films were nominated because only 15 were submitted).

Of course, some of the contenders are less than serious (The Smurfs). Others, like the performance-capture Adventures of Tin-Tin, will test conventional wisdom about the Academy's tolerance for innovative techniques. But the volume of interest in the award suggests that studios and filmmakers may be getting over the longstanding criticism of the Best Animated Feature category. An Oscar is an Oscar, after all.

The five nominees will be announced on Jan. 24, but here's a look at the chances of the 18 films vying for the honor, which were made public late last week:

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Robert Levin writes about film and other entertainment topics for amNewYork, Inside Jersey, Backstage, and elsewhere. He is a member of the New York Film Critics Online guild.

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