When it comes to Academy Awards the omissions of the Academy often generate more buzz than actual winners. Frankly, they are often more buzz-worthy indeed. While in 2011's Academy Award nominations there aren't really any laughter inducing blunders among the actual Oscar nominees like the ones at the Golden Globes (*cough* The Tourist *cough*), there are still some noteworthy omissions. One of these is discussed here, and it is in the category for Best Animated Feature.
If you have been following the Academy Award nominations in this category in recent years you may have noticed that the number of nominations varies between three and five. For example, last year there were five Oscar nominees and this year we have three: Toy Story 3, How to Train Your Dragon and The Illusionist. This is because of a funny article in the nomination rules which defines a maximum of three nominees if there are less than fifteen submissions in the Best Animated Feature category and a maximum of five Oscar nominees if there are more than fifteen submissions. So in 2009 there were 20 movies submitted, which resulted in five nominees selected for the 2010 Oscars. And in 2010 there were 15 movies submitted resulting in three Academy Award nominations for the 2011 Oscars. One might wonder why the rules do not explicitly specify when to select four Oscar nominees and leave that to the discretion of the Nomination Committee.
The eligible movies for Best Animated Feature category were (in alphabetical order): Alpha and Omega, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, Despicable Me, The Dreams of Jinsha, How to Train Your Dragon, Idiots and Angels, The Illusionist, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, Megamind, My Dog Tulip, Shrek Forever After, Summer Wars, Tangled, Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue, Toy Story 3. It's a pretty decent line-up despite a few cringeworthy entries (but hey, it is a free country, any movie can be submitted if eligible). And the three Oscar nominees selected out of these fifteen are all solid movies. But as it ever(y) so often happens with the Academy Award nominations, the 2011 Oscar worthy title is not amongst them.
Before delving into that, a digression. The Academy has branches based on professional occupation. Most of the Oscar nominees are decided by members of the corresponding branch in a simple vote. The submissions collecting most votes are elected as nominees, which are then voted by all members of the Academy. This is actually reasonable because how many people can really judge the Sound Editing category, for example? So the sound nominations are decided by the Sound branch, the cinematography nominations by the Cinematographers branch, etc. This is not the case for all Awards, though. The Best Picture Oscar nominees are decided by all members. And some other categories are judged by committees. The chairman of a committee is appointed by the Academy president, and the chairman then invites people to serve on the committee. This is the procedure for most of the categories which don't have a corresponding branch in the Academy. And Animation is one of these "branchless" fields. So this is one of the categories that are not decided on a pure professional level. Which means that other factors come into play: politics, box-office and so on.
Follow the link to read the second part of our article Academy Award Nominations 2011: Best Animated Feature Oscar Nominees Criticism, Part II.