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Acad toons in to 16 pix

'Flushed,' 'Scanner,' 'Cars' among titles eligible for animated feature Oscar

This story was updated at 5:59 p.m.

Sixteen toons are expected to compete for this year’s animated feature Oscar, which will likely boast five nominees for the first time in four years.

The pics deemed eligible by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences are “The Ant Bully,” “Arthur and the Invisibles,” “Barnyard,” “Cars,” “Curious George,” “Everyone’s Hero,” “Flushed Away,” “Happy Feet,” “Ice Age: The Meltdown,” “Monster House,” “Open Season,” “Over the Hedge,” “Paprika,” “Renaissance,” “A Scanner Darkly” and “The Wild.”

In recent years, the animated feature race has fallen short of the 16 films required to trigger a five-nominee slate. The last time the category maxed out was 2002, when a record 17 pics were eligible. The Oscar went to Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away.”

Three of this year’s contenders have not yet had their required Los Angeles releases, though they are scheduled to do so before the end of the year: Warner Bros.’ “Happy Feet” hits theaters Nov. 17; Sony Pictures Classics will unspool “Paprika” for an Oscar-qualifying run on Nov. 20; and The Weinstein Co. will release “Arthur and the Invisibles” on Dec. 15.

In the unlikely event that one or more of the three pics fails to open, the category would shrink to three nominees.

While most of the contenders are CG-animated kidpics, some are unusual media hybrids.

“Paprika,” the latest anime from “Tokyo Godfathers” helmer Satoshi Kon, blends hand-drawn animation with computer enhancements; “Arthur and the Invisibles,” director Luc Besson’s adaptation of his own children’s book, combines live-action and CGI; and “A Scanner Darkly,” Richard Linklater’s dystopic adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel, was shot in live-action and then rotoscoped.

Two of the pics deploy motion-capture technology: “Monster House,” produced by “The Polar Express” director Robert Zemeckis; and Miramax’s French-language “Renaissance,” a black-and-white futuristic noir.

“Flushed Away,” from DreamWorks Animation and Aardman Features, uses CG to reproduce the claymation look of Aardman’s “Wallace & Gromit” pics.

Universal’s “Curious George” is the lone pic to feature traditional 2-D animation.

Paramount distribbed DreamWorks productions “Flushed Away” and “Over the Hedge,” as well as “Barnyard.” Sony boasts “Monster House” and “Open Season,” the first offering from its fledgling animation division, in addition to Sony Classics’ “Paprika”; Warner is behind “The Ant Bully” and “Happy Feet” as well as Warner Independent’s “A Scanner Darkly.”

Disney is repped by “The Wild” and Pixar’s “Cars,” while 20th Century Fox has “Ice Age: The Meltdown” and baseball adventure “Everyone’s Hero.”

Nominees will be announced on Jan. 23.

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