Providing a quick advance of where the Animated Feature category of the Oscars is heading, Disney Animation's "Frozen” and Pixar's “Monsters University” led the feature film nominations for the 41st Annie Awards nominations with 10 each, while Universal/Illumination's “Despicable Me 2″ and DreamWorks Animation's “The Croods” followed with nine. Filling out the seven slots were three 2-D foreign-language films: GKIDS' “A Letter to Momo” (Japan) and “Ernest & Celestine” (France) and Japan's historic “The Wind Rises," possibly legendary Studio Ghibli founder Hayao Miyazaki's final film, released by Disney. (Our Studio Ghibli story is here.)
The Annies sometimes but not always presage the Oscars. They went with "Wreck-It-Ralph" last year over "Brave," which took home the gold statue. This year, Disney totaled 31 noms in film and television, followed by DreamWorks Animation (19) and Pixar (18).
Disney's return to the princess musical “Frozen” is considered a frontrunner in the Oscar race, with flashy visuals, a strong score and songs, as well as boffo initial box office behind it as it builds momentum heading into the holidays. Pixar’s “Monsters University” ($470 million worldwide) is a prequel to "Monsters Inc.," which earned four nominations and one win for Randy Newman for Best Song in 2002.
DreamWorks' “The Croods” ($573 million worldwide) is considered the animation studio's stronger awards contender over the disappointing “Turbo,” which did land five Annie noms. Sequel “Despicable Me 2″ delivered the year's second highest gross ($918 million worldwide).
Landing directing noms were Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco (“The Croods"), David Soren (“Turbo"), Chris Wedge (“Epic"), Benjamin Renner, Vince Patar and Stephane Aubier (“Ernest & Celestine”) and Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee for “Frozen," leaving out "The Wind Rises," "A Letter to Momo," "Despicable Me 2" and "Monsters University."
Left out of the feature race were Blue Sky's “Epic” (which looks like an animated retread of "Avatar") and Sony Animation’s sequel “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2.”
Animated short nominees are “Despicable Me 2 — Puppy,” “Get a Horse,” “Gloria Victoria,” “My Mom Is an Airplane” and “The Numberlys.” Only two shorts, “Get a Horse,” “Gloria Victoria," overlap with the Oscar shortlist.
The 41st Annie Awards ceremony hosted by Patrick Warburton is on Saturday, February 1 at UCLA's Royce Hall, when this year's Winsor McCay Award will be presented to director Steven Spielberg ("The Adventures of Tintin"). The complete list of nominees are here.