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'The Pirates!,' Spanish 'Wrinkles' and Czech 'Alois Nebel' are European Animated Film Noms

Three very different animated features made the short list for this year's European Film Prize.

COLOGNE, Germany - British claymation feature The Pirates! Band of Misfits (also knows as The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists) is the 800 lbs gorilla in this year's race for best animated feature at the European Film Awards (EFA)

Pirates! from U.K. production house Aardman Animation and directed by Peter Lord, was among three features nominated in the EFA's Animated Feature Film category, alongside the Spanish feature Wrinkles from director Ignacio Ferreras and the black-and-white drama Alois Nebel from director Tomas Lunak.

Judged by commercial performance alone, Pirates! easily swashbuckles through its European competition. The feature, which Sony distributed, earned northwards of $120 million worldwide, several times the total take of both Alois Nebel and Wrinkles combined.

But that commercial success could actually work against Pirates! at the EFAs, European Cinema's equivalent of the Academy Awards. The EFA voting body, members of the European Film Academy, often go in for films deemed more artistically worthy over audience favorites. Last year, for example, the Best European Film honor went to Lars von Trier's Melancholia, not the global box office smash - and Oscar Best Picture winner - The King's Speech.

Wrinkles and Alois Nebel certainly have the critical credentials going into this year's EFA race. Ferreras' feature, about two men who form a friendship in a nursing home, took Spain's Goya for best animated film and was nominated for best feature at this year's prestigious Arnie Awards in Los Angeles.

Alois Nebel, a stark black and white tale set in a lonely dispatcher station on the Czechoslovak border that owes much to film noir, won three Czech Film Academy Lions: for art direction, music and sound.

The 2,600 members of the European Film Academy will vote for the winners of this year's EFAs, which will be announced at a ceremony in Malta on Dec. 1.