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Oscars 2002 Saturday, 23 March, 2002, 12:32 GMT
Oscar's day of animation
Monsters, Inc
Monsters, Inc used the latest technology

The Oscars will be more animated than usual on Sunday with either Shrek, Monsters, Inc or Jimmy Neutron winning an Academy Award.

It will be the first time an animated feature will win a competitive Oscar and many in the industry think the award is well overdue.


Disney know they are in a fight

Mike Young
In recent years some of the biggest hits at the box office have been animated movies.

A whole generation of film-goers have fallen in love with Shrek, Buzz Lightyear and Sully, animated characters who deserve a place on the A-list of celebrities.

'Writing quality'

"Shrek as a script stands up to anything," says Mike Young, who runs one of the largest independent animation studios in Los Angeles, producing TV programmes such as Butt Ugly Martians.

"You can say Shrek in the same breath as Bridget Jones's Diary.

Jimmy Neutron
Jimmy Neutron: Based on a TV series
"It has the same writing quality and therefore attracted an older, adult market."

Despite the evident quality of the film, it has still been a struggle to persuade the academy to recognise the genre.

"The American academy is made up of fairly elderly people and therefore animation is so low on their radar screens they don't notice it," says Mr Young.

'Merit'

But Ron Diamond, co-founder of the Animation World Network website, says the answer is simpler.

"It has nothing to do with merit or quality of the film.

Shrek
Shrek: Will he be grinning on Sunday?
"There have never been enough animated features released in North America to justify a category of its own."

Mr Young says a whole chain of films from Toy Story, to its sequel, to Shrek, Monsters Inc and Ice Age have helped raise the profile of animation and considerably widened the appeal of such films.

"The real breakthrough was getting adults to see Shrek," says Mr Young.

Mr Diamond says: "People of my parents' generation have a whole different view of animation - they were not perceived as being for adults.

Difficult issues

"One of the new territories to be explored is more adult-themed animation."

Animated features that deal with difficult issues, adult issues, and with adult relations could become a reality, he adds.

Mr Diamond says there has been a renaissance in animation in the last 15 years.

"There are a far greater number of films being made than ever before and the academy decided that if there were eight films that qualified for the Oscars then the category would be run," he says.

Ice Age has recently broken the box office record for a March opening, proving big hit animation films are no passing fad.

Given the success of recent animated movies, both men agree there will be a further explosion in such films.

"Disney used to make one show every year, but now there is Fox, Dreamworks, Universal, Paramount, Nickleoden and of course us, the independent sector," says Mr Young.

"Now Disney know they are in a fight," he adds.

Of the three films nominated both men agree they feature strong characters, a good story and accomplished animation.

Torn

"They are expertly produced and feature all the modern technologies in computer graphics," says Mr Diamond.

While Mr Young says he felt Shrek would win Mr Diamond says he is torn between Shrek and Monsters, Inc.

"I'm glad I don't have to choose between the two," he adds.

Both men hope this year's first Oscar will prove to be a launch pad for the industry.

"It is such an exciting time to be an animator," says Mr Young.

Mr Diamond agrees: "I don't think the renaissance is over at all, by any means."

The Oscars ceremony is broadcast live on BBC Two on Monday 25 March from 0045-0500 GMT and reported live on BBC News Online.

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12 Mar 02 | Oscars 2002
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