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'How to Train Your Dragon' takes a page out of 'Toy Story's' playbook

February 3, 2011 |  4:19 pm


"Toy Story 3" has been sold as the "best reviewed film of the year," "highest grossing release of the year," and "most successful animated film in history," in ubiquitous ads featuring Buzz Lightyear on a black background. Now the front page of Variety on Thursday features a black cover with the line, "Before You Vote, Have You Seen the Most Original Animated Film of the Year?" above an attached screener of "Toy Story 3's" biggest competitor, Dreamworks Animation's "How to Train Your Dragon." Not sure what qualifies as the most "original" movie of the year but it's a clever approach.

Perhaps the campaigners behind the beloved animated movie that has earned more than $215 million at the box office are emboldened after the movie won the Visual Effects Society's VES award for top animated feature earlier this week. Or maybe they just want to challenge "Toy Story 3," the film that has been essentially preordained as the obvious winner in the animated category as Disney fights harder for a win in the best picture category.

Will the strategy work? In the vein of making things interesting and considering Pixar's films have won seven years out of the nine the award has been around ("Monsters Inc." lost to "Shrek" in 2002 and "Cars" lost to "Happy Feet" in 2007) the underdog choice would at least shake things up.

 -- Nicole Sperling

Image: "How to Train Your Dragon." Credit: DreamWorks Animation