Oscar Animated Field Inches Toward Magic Number

“Summer Wars” enters the fray, leaving the category two films shy of the magic number

Slowly, steadily and perhaps improbably, the Academy’s Animated-Feature category is inching toward the magic number.

The category needs 16 films to qualify in order to trigger a field of five nominees; any less, and it’ll have only three, as it has in seven out of the nine years of its existence. (The Golden Globes only need 12.)

Initially, this year seemed likely to produce a smaller field as well – but theWrap has confirmed a last-minute entry that will be the 14th submission, with enough question marks remaining to conceivably put the 16-film mark within reach.

Summer WarsA spokesperson for Funimation Entertainment told theWrap this week that it is currently filling out Academy paperwork for the Japanese anime release “Summer Wars,” directed by Mamoru Hosada, and will complete a qualifying run in Los Angeles before the end of the year. 

Barring any disqualifications for the kind of eligibility issues that can always arise with the Academy, or any unexpected decisions not to submit, “Summer Wars” will bring the field only two shy of the needed total.

And remember: this is a category in which, as one longtime participant in the process commented last year, “Every year when the final list comes out, there are at least one or two films I’ve never even heard of.” 

Could “Chico & Rita,” a Spanish film which is playing AFI Fest 2010, be another entry? A spokesman for the film told theWrap that it’s unlikely, though a decision has not yet been made. (It’ll have to be made quickly: November 1 is the deadline to submit paperwork.)

Could Warner Bros. bump the number up by submitting “Cats & Dogs 2: The Revenge of Kitty Galore,” a live-action/animation hybrid that could conceivably qualify? A rep wouldn’t comment.

Could "Cat Tale," from Imagi Animation Studio, bump up the number? One Oscar consultant who works the animation field has it on his list of likely entries.

And could something else come out of nowhere to beef up the field, the way “The Missing Lynx” and “A Town Called Panic” did last year? Possibilities exist, but so far nobody’s booked any qualifying runs at Laemmle’s local theaters, which is where most of those under-the-radar runs take place.

If the total reaches 16 this year, it’ll be due to a last-minute push. As of mid-October, these appear to be the films that have qualified and seem likely to be submitted:

1. “How to Train Your Dragon” (DreamWorks Animation, release date 3/26)
2. “Shrek Forever After” (DreamWorks 5/20)
3. “Toy Story 3” (Pixar/Disney 6/18)
4. “Despicable Me” (Universal 7/9)
5. “Alpha and Omega” (Lionsgate 9/17)
6. “Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue” (Disney 9/21)
7. “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole” (Warner Brothers 9/24)

In late October, though, the field will grow by two small films:

8 “My Dog Tulip” (New Yorker Films 10/22)
9 “Idiots and Angels” (Plymptoons 10/29)

November will see two major-studio productions:

10 “Megamind” (DreamWorks 11/5)
11 “Tangled” (Disney 11/24)

December adds two more:

12 “Yogi Bear” (Warner Bros 12/17)
13 “The Illusionist” (Sony Classics 12/25)

Throw in “Summer Wars,” and we haven’t gotten to 16 … but maybe, just maybe, it’s in sight.