- Associated Press - Saturday, March 1, 2014

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) - Leave it to John C. Reilly to turn a question and answer session with this year’s animated feature Oscar nominees into a gut-wrenching comedic affair.

The funny actor, who voiced the title character in Disney’s “Wreck-It Ralph,” read the synopsis of nominee “Despicable Me 2” he’s pulled from Wikipedia and tried to speak botched French to the filmmakers of the French-Belgian production “Ernest and Celestine.”

“What I really like is that the Oscar voting is closed,” said Reilly at Friday evening’s event honoring the animated feature nominees. “Now it’s pure appreciation. No one is sucking up for votes.”

The academy cast its final ballots at the top of the week and Disney’s “Frozen” is said to be the favorite in the animation category. Still, the film’s co-director, Jennifer Lee, is skeptical.

“I’m from Rhode Island and we believe in our superstitions,” said Lee, searching for wood to knock on at the motion picture academy headquarters after being asked if she was ready for the win at the Oscars on Sunday.

“Frozen” is up against “The Croods,” ”Despicable Me 2” ”Ernest and Celestine” and “The Wind Rises.”

Earning over $980 million worldwide, “Frozen” is the highest grossing original animated release ever and marks the first time a female has co-directed one of the studios features. Co-director Chris Buck admitted the story line was going down the “evil queen road” until Lee came on board.

“We do revenge stories all of the time,” said Lee, who plans to take her sister with her to the Oscars on Sunday. “Love over fear was something we hadn’t done.”

“The Croods” also shifted from the original vision of the film. “It was meant to be a stop-motion film,” said writer-director Chris Sanders. “‘Crood Awakening’ was the original title.”

The “Despicable Me” franchise has led to spin-off “The Minions” with characters voiced by Sandra Bullock and Jon Hamm. “What am I, chopped liver?” joked Reilly of not getting a part in the film, which is currently in production.

“We always wanted a sequence where we’d see the minions being created,” said “Despicable Me 2” director Pierre Coffin. “But we always removed those sequences and luckily for us we did because we’ve found our way in.”

“The Minions” is scheduled to release in 2015.

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Follow AP Film Writer Jessica Herndon on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/SomeKind

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