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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Rango," starring Johnny Depp as the voice of a pet chameleon who tries to bring law and order to a town in the Wild West, won the Oscar for best animated feature film on Sunday.
Depp voices Rango, who ends up stuck in a desert town called Dirt, where he takes on the role of sheriff and leads a quest to replenish the town's water supply.
The film is directed by Gore Verbinski, the man behind three of the blockbuster "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies that also star Depp. "Rango" is Verbinski's first animated movie.
The film features references to classic movie westerns and is filled with sophisticated humor appreciated by adults.
"Someone asked me if this film was for kids," Verbinski said as he accepted the award. "It was certainly created by a bunch of grown-ups acting like children."
Asked backstage if he had hoped to win an Oscar for live action rather than animation, Verbinski said: "I'm feeling I'm dreaming right now. I don't think it matters."
"Rango" has won a slew of other awards, including a BAFTA and a People's Choice Award for favorite animated movie voice.
The movie distributed by Viacom Inc unit Paramount Pictures has taken more than $245 million at the worldwide box-office and also features the voices of Ilsa Fisher, Abigail Breslin, and Ned Beatty.
With an estimated $135 million budget, "Rango" was one of the most expensive animated films produced by Paramount's sister studio Nickelodeon Movies. Viacom had been said to be gearing up production by its animation studio in the event Paramount lost distribution rights to films made by Dreamworks Animation.
Dreamworks can end its distribution agreement with Paramount later this year and has been considering moving to another studio or distributing its own movies.
"Rango" triumphed at the Academy Awards over two movies from Dreamworks Animation -- sequel "Kung Fu Panda 2" and "Shrek"-spinoff "Puss in Boots."
For the first time, the animated feature nominees included two foreign-language films, "A Cat in Paris" and "Chico & Rita." Both used traditional hand-drawn animation rather than the computer images that dominate the category today.
"A Cat in Paris" is a French crime drama by Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gangol and Spanish romance "Chico & Rita" is from Javier Mariscal and past Oscar winner Fernando Trueba, who won the foreign language film award for 1993's "Belle Epoque."
Notably absent from this year's animation nominees was Walt Disney Co's celebrated Pixar studio. Pixar has won the animated feature Oscar six times since the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences instituted the award in 2002 with films such as "Up" and "Toy Story 3."
Pixar's "Cars 2" sequel was eligible this year, but the movie was panned by critics and did not land a nomination. It was a box office success, however, pulling in nearly $560 million around the world, according to website Box Office Mojo.
Writing by Andrea Burzynski and Lisa Richwine; Editing by Chris Michaud and Sandra Maler