In an increasing effort to clarify and bring a sense of fairness to the Visual Effects and Animation categories, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announced three major rule changes today that will affect the nomination process for the 83rd Academy Awards.

Visual Effects has long been under the limit of just three nominees a year.  The contenders are selected through an exhaustive "bake-off" process that usually leaves one clear front runner and two also-rans that were just as worthy as some films not selected.  Now, five nominees will be the norm.  The last time that was possible was between 1977-79 and since 1996 there have only been three nominees.  This pundit's take is that it could make the category much more competitive in the long run which is always a good thing for a three-hour long (or more) awards show.

Also expanding the field, but not "officially" will be Best Animated Feature Film.  Previously, only submissions over 70 minutes long were considered "feature length" for animation.  This was odd since both feature film and documentary only had a 40 minute minimum.  By lowering the timeframe, the pool of animated submissions should increase and the "will there or won't there" concern over reaching 16 required contenders required for five nominations (as there earlier this year) will diminish.  This should end up providing more equal footing to the Animation Feature Film category without having to make five nominees mandatory (which saves the Academy from the potential embarrassment of having films such as "Hoodwinked" make the cut).

On the other hand, the final new rule is a bit perplexing.  Obviously reacting to concerns over motion capture films such as "A Christmas Carol" and "Monster House" being considered animated films, the Academy has added the following line to their rule regarding Best Animated Feature Film:

“An animated feature film is defined as a motion picture with a running time of greater than 40 minutes, in which movement and characters’ performances are created using a frame-by-frame technique. Motion capture by itself is not an animation technique. In addition, a significant number of the major characters must be animated, and animation must figure in no less than 75 percent of the picture’s running time.”

Somehow, that seems more confusing than before.  Including the "by itself" line doesn't mean motion capture is or isn't considered animation which is part of the problem.  And how does 75% or  60% or 70% of a film's animation technique determine wither it's considered animated or not?  Needless to say, expect more debate on future candidates in this category until there is a further qualification that all sides can get on board. Or, does this mean we just a few years away from Best Motion Capture Animated Feature Film?  Let's hope not.

The new rules changes were voted on by the Academy governors at their June 22nd meeting, but were just announced today.

What do you think of the new rules?

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