On the eve of the German Film Awards ceremony in Berlin on Friday evening, a group of German animation producers including Warner Bros. Willi Geike, Motion Works' Tony Loeser, Dreamin' Dolphin Film's Lilian Klages and Cartoon Film's Thilo Graf Rothkirch have called on State Minister for Culture Christina Weiss to introduce a nomination category for best animation feature.

The producers pointed out that animation now has its own category at the US Academy Awards and showed how the German animation feature film sector had become a significant commercial force in recent years.

With such films as Kleines Arschloch (3m admissions), Werner - Volles Roaaa!!! (2.7m) Der Kleine Eisbaer (2.6m) and Pettsson And Findus (1.1m), the 17 German animation films released since 1997 had been seen by almost 17m cinema-goers.

Moreover, the German animation industry has 18 new animation projects with a total production cost of Euros 165m set to be released in German cinemas between now and 2005.

The first of these - Trickompany's latest in the Werner franchise, Werner - Gekotzt Wird Spaeter! - will be released by Constantin Film on July 17 followed by Munich Animation's Till Eulenspiegel (Jester Till) and Motion Works' Globi.

In an initial response, Minister Weiss told the dpa news agency "it is not a question of how a film is technically produced, but whether it is good and thus worthy of a prize. In that case it will also be considered in the awarding of the German Film Prizes."

The minister may be also be aware of the financial considerations - if a separate category was created for animation, this would be mean her ministry having to find up to another Euros 375,000.

At the moment, animation films are only considered for one of the nominations in the children's/youth film category. This year, though, two live action films Das Fliegende Klassenzimmer and Bibi Blocksberg received the nominations worth Euros 125,000 each.