CATEGORIES Movies, Oscars
There's been a lot of discussion this year over Oscar's decision to increase the field of Best Picture nominees from five to 10, but there's another category quietly experiencing it's own expansion: Best Animated Feature Film.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, a record 20 animated features have been submitted for consideration, which likely will lead to five pictures being in contention this year as opposed to the usual three. There's been a lot of discussion this year over Oscar's decision to increase the field of Best Picture nominees from five to 10, but there's another category quietly experiencing it's own expansion: Best Animated Feature Film.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, a record 20 animated features have been submitted for consideration, which likely will lead to five pictures being in contention this year as opposed to the usual three.

The number is not being changed due to imperial fiat like the Best Picture race, however; Academy rules simply stipulate that the number of nominees must be capped at three if there are fewer than 16 submissions. Since the category was introduced in 2001, that figure has only been reached on one previous occasion.

That's about to change in a big way, though, thanks to an unusually large -- and strong -- field of animation contenders. So who is in the mix this year? As usual, Pixar must be considered the frontrunner thank to their acclaimed blockbuster 'Up', which left critics swooning and grossed over $293 million this summer. Also in the mix is perennial favorite Hayao Miyazaki for his Disney-released fable 'Ponyo'; the legendary Japanese director previously won the award for 'Spirited Away' in 2002 and was nominated for 'Howl's Moving Castle' in 2005.

Other possible nominees include Disney's CGI version of 'A Christmas Carol' and their more traditional fairy tale 'The Princess and the Frog', which opens on December 11. 'Monsters vs. Aliens' from DreamWorks has a shot, as does this month's Fox release 'The Fantastic Mr. Fox', while Focus Features is fielding two strong dark horse candidates in 'Coraline' and '9'. And Sony's family comedy 'Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs' may be in the running as well.

The rest of the field includes studio pieces, indie and foreign releases, which in the past have proven to be wildcards (such as France's 2003 nominee 'The Triplets of Belleville'). Up for consideration this year: Disney's 'Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure'; Fox's 'Dolphin -- The Story of a Dreamer', 'Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel' and 'Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs'; 'Planet 51' from Sony; 'Astro Boy' from Summit; 'Battle for Terra' from Lionsgate; IFC's 'Mary and Max'; 'The Missing Lynx' from Kandor Graphics and YaYa! Films; 'A Town Called Panic' from Zeitgeist Films; and GKids entry 'The Secret of Kells'.

Nominations will be announced February 2, with the ceremony taking place on March 7.