How did the French 'toon sneak past 'Despicable Me' and 'Tangled' for the third Animated Feature nom?

One of this year’s bigger Oscar upsets came in the Animated Feature category, where French filmmaker Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist pulled a nomination out of its hat and joined Toy Story 3 and How to Train Your Dragon as one of only three picks. It may not have taken magic, but it’s still an impressive feat for a $20 million, mostly hand-drawn animated film to edge out big-budget Hollywood hits like Tangled and Despicable Me.

It helps that The Illusionist has an Oscar pedigree: Chomet’s last feature, The Triplets of Belleville, was nominated in 2004 for both this award and Best Original Song. And The Illusionist is based on a previously unproduced script by Gallic comedy titan Jacques Tati, whose 1958 movie Mon Oncle won a Best Foreign Language Film statuette.

Plus, members of the Academy’s animation branch have consistently nominated smaller films from abroad, from the work of Hayao Miyazaki to 2007’s Persepolis to last year’s The Secret of Kells. ”They’ve always supported the idea that animation is a broad church with many different types of members,” says Illusionist producer Bob Last. ”It’s about filmmaking — it’s not about what technology you used or how much money you spent.”

The Illusionist
  • Movie
  • 109 minutes