By now, you no doubt know that the three nominees for the Best Animated Feature Oscar are Cars, Happy Feet and Monster House.
I find it odd that Arthur and the Invisibles was disqualified for not being 75% animation, yet Happy Feet and Monster House qualify. How much of those films are animated and how much are motion captured? From my perspective, motion capture is not animation, merely a technique whose look imitates animation. The Academy has decided how much animation is necessary for a film that's mixed with live action, but somehow, motion capture is not held to the same standard.
We have to be clear that the animated feature category exists for a technique and not a genre. There is no category for comedy or science fiction films. There is no category for family films, even though this year's animation nominees all fall squarely within that genre. The technique of animation is what stops these films from competing against live action films, for better or worse. Having created the category, the Academy should be vigilant about what it accepts. I would make the analogy that motion capture is like steriod use in professional sports, except that I don't think that motion capture is performance enhancing.
I don't believe much in awards except as a marketing tool, and clearly that's what the Oscars are all about. The films nominated today are the same films they were yesterday; only the perception of those films has changed. Now, they're nominees; in several weeks one will be an Academy Award winner, though it's still the same film.
However, that winning film will probably go on to earn more money on DVD and for TV sales than it would have without the award. The creative team behind that film will most likely be able to charge more for its services and may have opportunities that wouldn't have existed otherwise.
Which is exactly why it's so important that the Best Animated Feature award actually go to an animated film. I wrote here about the issue of fashion; if motion capture is perceived to be better than keyframed animation, motion capture becomes the style and keyframing's opportunities (and the opportunities of its practitioners) are diminished.
I'm not a member of the Academy but I would hope that the members of the animation branch would take this very seriously. It took roughly 60 years from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for animated features to grow enough in terms of releases and public acceptance to warrant an award from the Academy. It would be a shame if one of the animation industry's main marketing tools is generalized to any film that looks like animation.