Oscar animators ready to be taken seriously

Associated Press
FILE - This publicity film image released by Disney shows Edgar "E" Gore, voiced by Atticus Shaffer in a scene from "Frankenweenie." The Disney film has been nominated for an Academy Award in the Animated Feature Film category. The 85th Academy Awards are on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, in Los Angeles.  (AP Photo/Disney, file)
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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — In the animated feature film category at this year's Oscars, there's a film set in medieval Scotland, another that features old-school video game characters, one that relies heavily on dry British humor, while the other two take inspiration from the supernatural.

It's not exactly kid stuff — and that's how the directors like it.

"I think this year with these films — and so many more — the envelope for animation is being pushed," said "Brave" director Mark Andrews at an Academy Awards event Thursday night honoring the animated feature film nominees. "We keep seeing more risky, deep films that we wouldn't have seen 10 years ago coming out. I wanna be one of those guys pushing it more and more and more because it's not only an awesome medium, but there's so many more stories that we can tell."

The Scotland-set "Brave," a darker fable from Pixar about a rebellious red-headed princess named Merida, will face off against four other animated films at Sunday's 85th annual Academy Awards. The category was first introduced at the 2002 ceremony, with "Shrek" winning the inaugural trophy.

Despite the less lighthearted tone of this year's animated nominees, none cracked the best picture category for a spot alongside the likes of "Argo," ''Lincoln" and "Zero Dark Thirty." (Only three animated films have ever been nominated for best picture at the Oscars: "Beauty and the Beast," ''Up" and "Toy Story 3.")

"Edward Scissorhands" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas" mastermind Tim Burton could take home his first-ever Oscar at the Dolby Theatre ceremony for "Frankenweenie," his black-and-white stop-motion film based on his 1984 live-action short film of the same name.

"Frankenweenie" is among three of the five Oscar nominated films this year that employ stop-motion, the intricate and time consuming animation method that use miniature sculptures and sets. Despite a strong stop-motion presence at this year's Oscars, Burton cited finances, not the omnipresence of computer animation, as the reason that more stop-motion films aren't produced.

"In the case of 'Frankenweenie,' it's not like it was a studio wish-list to-do: 'Let's make black-and-white stop-motion animation,'" said Burton. "You hope it can survive. We all love it."

The other stop-motion nominees are the English seafaring comedy "Pirates! Band of Misfits" from director Peter Lord and the undead tale "ParaNorman" from directors Sam Fell and Chris Butler.

"Wreck-It Ralph" director Rich Moore told the crowd at the motion picture academy's Beverly Hills headquarters that he never envisioned the video game adventure from Disney as a musical, but "Book of Mormon" co-writer Robert Lopez and his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez did create an original song for the film.

"It didn't work, so it's not in the movie," said Moore. "That's our process. We try lots of stuff. We throw it against the wall, and the stuff that sticks stays in the movie. It's a very organic process making films like this."

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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/derrikjlang.

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