Competitive year for Oscars' animated short films

Nick Park has slight edge but underdog could pull upset

Surprises were to be found among the nominees for best animated short film, with Pixar's "Partly Cloudy" -- easily the most visible of the nominees thanks to its theatrical run with "Up" -- not making the cut.

That seemingly makes the race Nick Park's to lose. The director of "Wallace and Gromit in A Matter of Loaf and Death" has won the animated short film Oscar three times  -- even beating himself once on a double nomination in 1991. He also has an animated feature Oscar on his shelf for 2004's "Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were Rabbit."

Ramin Zahed, editor in chief of Animation magazine, says this was a good year for shorts and all the nominees are competitive -- with Park maybe having a slight edge due to his track record. "The Academy loves Nick Park, and it would make sense that they'd give him yet another Oscar," he says.

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But animator Tom Sito and Zahed say the short film race this year was as strong as the feature field, and that any of the other nominees -- "French Roast," "Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty," "The Lady and the Reaper" and "Logorama" -- could upstage even a favorite like Park.

"The money's on 'Up' and 'Wallace and Gromit,' but I personally like 'The Old Lady and the Reaper,' " Sito says. "It's very clever and very funny."

Maltin and Sito agree that sometimes the animation branch prefers to go with the underdog from time to time.

"The committee members favor younger, untried or up and-coming filmmakers," film critic Leonard Maltin says. "I understand the sentiment, but sometimes I think that comes at the expense of honoring really superior work."