Crop of Oscar hopefuls brings large selection of toon techniques to table

If the Academy’s animated feature noms are a snapshot of the state of the industry, the Oscar-nominated shorts often portend the shape of things to come.

After all, “Wallace & Gromit” helmer Nick Park won three shorts statuettes — two of them for truncated “W&G” toons. Meanwhile, computer graphics were virtually developed in Academy Award-winning short films years before “Toy Story” introduced the technique to longform.

This year’s crop of Oscar hopefuls brings a large selection of animation techniques to the table, representing work from the major studios as well as from promising newcomers, veteran independents and renowned international filmmakers.

Thirty-three shorts qualified for this year’s Oscar animation competition.

Among the films with the most buzz: John Canemaker’s autobiographical “The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation,” featuring the voices of John Turturro and Eli Wallach; “The Fan and the Flower” by animator Bill Plympton and writer Dan O’Shannon (“Fraiser”) with narration by Paul Giamatti; Koji Yamamura’s impressive pencil-drawn anime “The Old Crocodile”; and Michael Sporn’s 9/11 tribute, “The Man Who Walked Between the Towers,” narrated by Jake Gyllenhaal.

Other contenders include: Anita LeBeau’s traditionally animated “Louise,” which is being entered by the National Film Board of Canada (winner of numerous past awards in this catagory); Henry Selick’s CG children’s fable “Moongirl,” entered by Portland’s Laika studios; and Weta Digital animator Shane Acker’s 11-minute sci-fier “9.”

With no feature film in this year’s feature race, Pixar is represented with a four-minute short, “One Man Band,” directed by Mark Andrews. Other major studio hopefuls this year include DreamWorks’ “A Christmas Caper,” featuring the penguins from “Madagascar,” and Warner Bros.’ slapstick Tom & Jerry cartoon “The Karateguard,” which boasts a story by the series’ 94-year-old creator, Joseph Barbera.

The 33 Oscar-contending animated shorts has already been whittled to an undisclosed list of 10 semifinalists. In January, an Academy review committee will tap a final list of noms.

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