It's official: When 'Toy Story 3' wins the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, there will only be two losers in the category rather than four.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences rules state that if there are between eight and 15 eligible toons, the category has three nominees; if there are 16 or more, five are nominated. (If there are fewer than eight eligible animated features, the category is canceled.) The tallies are in, and 2010 has 15 contenders. So close!

This is the 10th year the category has existed, and three nominees is the norm -- it's only had five nominees twice (last year and 2002). The question is, which two movies will join 'Toy Story 3' in competition for the coveted Let's Avoid Having to Take Cartoons Seriously By Giving Them Their Own "Special" Category award? According to the Academy, these are the 15 movies in the running:

'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' and 'Toy Story 3.'
Note that 'The Illusionist,' 'Summer Wars,' 'Tangled' and 'The Dreams of Jinsha' haven't actually opened yet; the Academy is assuming they will do so before Dec. 31 as planned. Note also that 'Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore' is live-action but has enough animated elements to qualify. Note also that the Tinker Bell thing was basically a direct-to-DVD project that Disney put in theaters for a week just so it could qualify for this category. Note also that 'Alpha and Omega' is on the list, even though literally not one person ever saw that movie.

As previously implied, 'Toy Story 3' is a sure bet for one of the three nominations. (And yes, a movie nominated in this category can also be nominated for Best Picture, like 'Up' was last year.) 'How to Train Your Dragon' was hugely successful with critics and audiences and seems a likely candidate for one of the other two spots. And the third? 'The Illusionist' is by Sylvain Chomet, the director of 'Triplets of Belleville' AND is based on the work of beloved French whimsy-maker Jacques Tati. If that isn't Oscar street cred, I don't know what is.

Then again, we mustn't rule out the lesser-known but respectable entries. 'Persepolis' and 'The Secret of Kells' came out of nowhere to get nominations in recent years; could the indie drama 'My Dog Tulip' or Bill Plympton's 'Idiots and Angels' surprise everyone this year?

Eh, it doesn't matter. 'Toy Story 3' is going to win. The major philosophical question is this: Does the Best Animated Feature category ensure that no cartoon will ever win Best Picture, since voters aren't likely to reward the same film twice? Or does the category draw attention to movies that would otherwise be ignored? Also, if 'Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore' is an "animated" film, why wasn't 'Avatar'?

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Toy Story 3
G 2010
Based on 39 critics

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categories Oscars, Cinematical