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Will 'Dragon' Take the Oscar From 'Toy Story'?

How To Train Your Dragon

Can dark horse How To Train Your Dragon overtake Toy Story 3's momentum to claim the Oscar for animated feature?

It was a question that entered some minds at the Visual Effects Society Awards, Tuesday at the Beverly Hilton. At the VES Awards, Dragon swept all three categories for animated features: Outstanding animation, outstanding effects animation and outstanding animated character (Toothless).

Still, the final chapter in the Toy Story series is the most successful animated film in history, with more than $1 billion in worldwide box office receipts. Toy Story 3 has already collected a string of accolades from critics associations as well as a Golden Globe. And, it has one key recognition that Dragon doesn't: An Academy Award nomination for best picture.

The truth is, both were incredibly well received films, and both were considered Oscar frontrunners long before awards season began.

The next stop for Dragon and Toy Story is Saturday's Annie (animation) Awards, presented by the International Animated Film Society, ASIFA-Hollywood.

DreamWorks Animation's How to Train Your Dragon is the most nominated movie with 15 nods, and Pixar Animation Studio's Toy Story 3 has just three. But the competition itself has been the subject of ongoing controversy.

Earlier this year, Disney and Pixar announced they would no longer participate in the annual awards because of their concerns over how the event is judged. The procedures were such that anyone who bought a membership in the organization was eligible to vote, and Disney contended that has favored DreamWorks in recent years. Disney and Pixar didn't submit entries for this year's Annies, according to a well placed source (though a jury can add a film that wasn't entered, according to ASIFA).

According to ASIFA-Hollywood president Antran Manoogian, anyone can join ASIFA, but only animation professionals are eligible to vote, per a new rule established for this year's competition. Manoogian added that the society "doesn't disclose information on members" when asked about animation studio representation in the voting.

Some VES members said Tuesday that the VES wins were not a complete surprise, as they praised the quality of Dragon. A few were pleased to see some competition, as Pixar has dominated the animation arena in recent years.

Dragon's wins at the VES Awards also meant that a few animation insiders -- concerned with the possibility that new Annie controversy might develop should Dragon win big this weekend -- were breathing a sigh of relief.