The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AMPAS) will go ahead with its inaugural Best Animated Feature category this year after the board of governers voted in its favour at a meeting on Monday night.

Nine films were declared eligible to compete by the executive committee of the short films and feature animation branch of the Academy which then recommended to the board that the award should go ahead. A minimum requirement of eight eligible films was decreed when the category was first announced earlier this year.

A maximum of three nominees will be selected from the nine which must have opened in Los Angeles prior to Dec 31. They are: Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Marco Polo: Return To Xanadu, Monsters Inc, Osmosis Jones, The Prince Of Light, Shrek, The Trumpet Of The Swan and Waking Life.

The nominating process will begin with a 100-member screening committee chaired by Academy governor Tom Hanks and comprised half of animators and half of members of the Academy's other 13 branches. Nominees are announced on Feb 12.

Columbia Pictures released Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, while sister company TriStar Pictures opened The Trumpet Of The Swan; Paramount Pictures releases Jimmy Neutron on Dec 21; Buena Vista released Monsters Inc; Warner released Osmosis Jones; DreamWorks released Shrek and Fox Searchlight released Waking Life.

Marco Polo: Return To Xanadu is a US/China/Slovakia co-production directed by Ron Merk; The Prince Of Light tells the Indian legend of Ramayana and was produced by Krishna Shah.