By now, you’ll have heard about the successful Toy Story 3 Oscar nomination campaign, and seen some of the fantastic posters. If not, you can read about it here. It is certainly hard to argue with the strength of the campaign. If any film can claim to be 2010’s big success story, it is easily Toy Story 3.

Last year, Toy Story 3 became the highest grossing animated movie of all time. Not really a massive surprise, considering it was based on one of the best loved animated film series in cinematic history. Pixar scored big with the first two installments, and in the last few years have raised the bar for animated movies with the critically acclaimed Wall*E and Up.

In fact, it was just last year that Up transcended its genre and became the first computer animated movie to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. It was perhaps a fortunate beneficiary of the decision to expand the number of nominees for Best Picture from 5 to 10. With the Oscar nominations recently announced, maybe Toy Story 3 will go one better and win the Gold statue. After all, it received almost unanimous reviews across the board. Why stop there though? If an animated movie can be considered for Best Picture, surely it’s possible that an animated character could be nominated for Best Actor?

This would have sounded crazy to me a couple of years ago. I was never a huge fan of animated films, and though I appreciated the brilliant mix of child-friendly action and adult humour inherent in animated films nowadays, and the Toy Story series particularly, I still wasn’t able to take them seriously enough. This past year however I have watched both Up and Wall*E as part of the HeyUGuys IMDb250 Project, and my eyes have been opened to just how poignant and affecting an animated story can be.

It was because of my experiences with these two movies that I found myself for the first time since childhood actually looking forward to going to see an animated film, and went along to watch Toy Story 3 in a theatre. Whilst the storyline isn’t necessarily anything groundbreaking or original in comparison to the previous two movies, the themes explored and the way they are written are beautiful, provoking a genuine emotional response. I found the journey of these fictional, animated characters truly affecting, and must now finally concede that an animated movie can be just effective, if not more so, than a live action picture.

So far this year, we have seen very few obvious Oscar contenders. The traditional season for the Academy Award hopefuls has been and gone, and it was hard to pick many movies other than Toy Story 3 from the first three quarters of the year as definites for the shortlist. As for the Best Actor category, I have not really seen any performances yet that I think are good enough to be recognised by the Academy either, and I honestly feel that so far the best performance I have seen could be that of an animated character – Buzz Lightyear. Over the course of a 90 minute movie, Buzz plays hero, villain, amnesiac, Spaniard, soldier and, most importantly, family man. Lightyear shows fantastic range, and versatility, and is perfectly believable throughout. He displays a vulnerability, and an inner strength, that show as much humanity as any man or woman has managed on screen so far in 2010. He makes you love him and, in one particular scene at the movie’s climax, touches your soul with just one simple look. I felt an emotional connection to the character possibly greater than i have felt in any other film I’ve seen this year.

I got to thinking seriously about this because it was in stark contrast to the feeling that i got watching Leonardo Di Caprio in Inception. I loved Inception, and Di Caprio is undoubtedly one of the best actors around right now. He is certainly no stranger to awards season. In Inception, however, I just did not feel the same emotional connection to his character as I did with Buzz Lightyear, a fictional toy. I’m a big fan of Di Caprio, and realise that I’m being a little unfair. He wasn’t given as much to work with as he has had in his previous roles, and that I bought his character’s motivations and relationships at all are testament to his ability.

As much as anything this situation pays tribute to how far the animators in the industry have come. The biggest stumbling block to an animated character like Buzz Lightyear winning an actors award is that it could not be attributed to one man. Tim Allen voices Buzz, but as a voice actor Allen is only half of the story, if that. It is the team of animators behind Lightyear and the other Toy Story characters that give them life and soul, and whilst i am sure they will win some technical awards in March it would be a shame if they did not receive some formal recognition for the way they have enabled a computer graphic to provoke such a tangible emotional response.The director and writers have clearly played their part too, making one of the year’s best performances a real collaborative effort.

I realise that it is highly unlikely that Buzz, Woody or any other animated creations are going to be honoured at the Academy Awards. I do feel, however, that at this rate, with the fantastic work by Pixar and the lifelike creations of James Cameron and his team on Avatar, we are fast reaching a point where some kind of recognition is going to be required to reward the increasingly great work that is being done in the field of artificial character creation. Technology is advancing, the ambitions of those that use it are growing, and it must surely be only a matter of time before the performance of a computer generated character is held up as being comparable to that of some human actors. I now find myself looking forward to that day. Of course, when it does happen, we are one step closer to Judgement Day…

Bazmann – You can follow me on Twitter at