In what could be a bellwether for the Oscars race, the Best Animated Feature contenders have just been announced for the 38th annual Annie Awards.
In announcing all its nominations Monday, the International Animated Film Society, ASIFA-Hollywood said the five finalists for animated feature are: "Despicable Me" (Illumination Entertainment), "How to Train Your Dragon" (DreamWorks Animation), Disney's "Tangled," Django's "The Illusionist" and Disney/Pixar's "Toy Story 3."
(Among the bigger-budgeted films left off that list were DreamWorks/Paramount's "Megamind" and Warner Bros.' "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole.")
Disney/Pixar also received a nomination in the Best Short Subject category, where its "Day & Night" will go up against "Coyote Falls" (Warner Bros. Animation), "Enrique Wrecks the World" (House of Chai), "The Cow Who Wanted to Be a Hamburger" (Plymptoons Studio) and "The Renter" (Jason Carpenter).
Besides those nominations, Disney also takes centerstage for the Special Achievement Annie Award: The recipient is the documentary "Waking Sleeping Beauty," about the roller-coaster renaissance at Disney Animation between 1984 and 1994, when such talents as John Lasseter and Tim Burton passed through Disney's doors -- and the animation department returned to relevance as it created such films as "The Lion King," "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast."
In addition, Brad Bird -- director of Disney/Pixar's "The Incredibles" and "Ratatouille" -- will receive the Winsor McCay Award for career contributions to animation, along with Eric Goldberg ("Pocahontas" and "Fantasia/2000") and "The Simpsons" creator Matt Groening.
Groening is also spotlighted in the Best Animated Television Production category, in which his "Simpsons" (Gracie Films) and "Futurama" (The Curiosity Company / 20th Century Fox) will compete against "Kung Fu Panda Holiday" (DreamWorks Animation), "Scared Shrekless" (DreamWorks Animation) and "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" (Lucasfilm Animation, Ltd.).
The winners will be announced Feb. 5 in a black-tie ceremony at UCLA's Royce Hall.
Update: Because ASIFA membership is not restricted to industry professionals, Disney withdrew its support from the Annies and ASIFA's open judging, Variety reported.