This month, Monsters, Inc. vies for an Oscar in a brand new category — best animated feature. No one's more thrilled by that than John Lasseter, head of the creative department at Pixar, the company that made Toy Story and A Bug's Life.

"I'm very excited that we have our own category," Lasseter tells TV Guide Online. "With animated features in the past, [the best] you have been able to hope for was nominations in maybe the music category, for song and score."

Sully and Mike will face tough competition on Oscar night, when they go up against Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and Shrek. Lasseter looks forward to it. "I'm very proud of the fact that all of the nominees for the inaugural year of this category are computer-animated," the 45-year-old enthuses. "When we were making Toy Story, there were a lot of people asking, 'Do you really think people are going to want to sit through an hour and a half of computer animation?'

"I always felt like if [Pixar] could make a good movie, it might open the door for others in the computer animation community," he continues. "If the first film had come out and not done well or bombed at the box office, then Hollywood would probably blame it on the technology... and others would never get a chance. Luckily, Toy Story came out and was the number-one movie of 1995."

And while it's still undecided if there will be a Toy Story 3, Lasseter and the Pixar staff already are hard at work on their next project, Finding Nemo (due out summer 2003). "It's all underwater, with tropical fish as characters," he says. "It's on a coral reef and in a big wide ocean, with sharks and whales and turtles and jellyfish who get caught and put into an aquarium."

"It just looks incredible," he boasts. "It's like a cartoon Jacques Cousteau."