The “Drudge siren” headline this year is that Pixar’s uncharacteristically horrible Cars 2 will, after a completely unbroken, eight-for-eight string of nominations (and, in most cases, also wins) stretching all the way back to this category’s inception back in 2001, probably keep the house that Woody built completely out of the race. And that’s despite the presence of enough eligible candidates to allow for five nominations. The rules are vaguely worded, but say any year in which “16 or more animated features are released, a maximum of 5 motion pictures may be nominated.” Given they had to include The Smurfs, Mars Needs Moms, and Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked among their finalists to reach that benchmark, one would’ve hoped the Academy put that all-important “maximum” in all caps. Still, it would be worth it for a five-deep slate to include all three of those cartoons for especially moronic children if only just to make a point to Pixar: Class up or ship out.
But Pixar is hardly alone in their shame. Shrewd, crass sequels to proven (in this context: previously nominated) properties were popping up everywhere this year, and it’s hard to tell if they’ll be able to keep them all out of the lineup, no matter how much money they made. History says they’ll try. Only two sequels have ever been slated, and for that fact alone, iffy contenders Rio and Arthur Christmas can feel better about their chances (along with no-discussion-necessary presumptive nominees The Adventures of Tintin and Rango). And even though Puss in Boots is technically warmed-over kiddie litter brought to you by the studio that just can’t stop milking the Shrek franchise, its status as a spin-off (not a sequel), makes it a safe bet as well. Smart money would probably go with those five, but most years, the branch of animators find a way to slip at least one critically acclaimed, snob-approved entry. And since Pixar let us down this year, we’re feeling good about the chances of Fernando Trueba’s Chico and Rita.