LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Toy Story 3" won the Oscar for best animated feature on Sunday, becoming the fourth Pixar release to win the category in as many years.
In perhaps the least surprising result at the Academy Awards, the hit cartoon beat out another Hollywood crowd-pleaser, "How to Train Your Dragon," and the British-French co-production "The Illusionist."
"Toy Story 3," the most popular film at the box office last year with worldwide sales of $1.1 billion, marked the third film in a series about a group of action figures and toy-chest favorites who come to life when humans are not looking.
"Thank you to audiences all over the world who came out in historic numbers, and embraced a movie about talking toys that hopefully had something very human to say," said the film's director, Lee Unkrich.
"Toy Story 3" was also nominated in the best picture category but lost out to "The King's Speech".
The crew is headed by the bold astronaut Buzz Lightyear, voiced by Tim Allen, and the more diffident Woody the cowboy, voiced by Tom Hanks. The new film saw the beloved toys suffer a grim fate in a daycare center. Mattel mainstays Barbie and Ken made their debuts.
Pixar, a unit of Walt Disney Co, won this category last year with "Up," in 2009 with "WALL-E," and in 2008 with "Ratatouille." It also won in 2004 with "Finding Nemo" and in 2005 with "The Incredibles." The award was instituted in 2002, six years after Pixar chief John Lasseter was given a special Oscar for his team's work on the first "Toy Story" film.
At an animation symposium last week, Unkrich said despite Pixar's great success over the years, the company's upstart attitude has not changed much, from when he started there as an editor on the original "Toy Story" released in 1995.
"You would think we know what we're doing at this point, but I don't think that anyone (at the company) would say that we do," he said.
Aspects of "Toy Story 3" were inspired by Unkrich's own life, such as the death of his grandmother from cancer.
Unkrich said he tried to infuse the emotion from the last time he saw his grandmother into a scene at the end of the film where Andy, a young man who grew up with the toys, says goodbye to the playthings before heading off to college.
When he accepted the Oscar, Unkrich said his grandmother "always insisted that she'd see me up here one day."
Additional reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Sandra Maler