Cartoon contenders

A rundown of the possible nominees

THE ANT BULLY (Playtone/DNA/Warner Bros.)
Tired of being picked on, an ant colony shrinks the local brat down to their size so they can teach him a lesson.
Voice talent: Nicolas Cage, Julia Roberts
Why it would get nominated: Tom Hanks took his son’s advice and commissioned this children’s book. Pic plays like “Star Wars” in your own backyard.
Why it wouldn’t: Hanks’ involvement didn’t get “The Polar Express” nominated.

ARTHUR AND THE INVISIBLES (Europa Corp./MGM/the Weinstein Co.)
Threatened with losing his grandfather’s house, a live-action boy enters the land of the animated Minimoys to find a treasure.
Voice talent: David Bowie, Snoop Dogg
Why it would get nominated: Opening in limited release Dec. 14, family-friendly idea from director Luc Besson could be a charmer.
Why it wouldn’t: Voters may decide that too much of the movie is live action.

BARNYARD (O Entertainment/Paramount/Nickelodeon)
When the humans aren’t looking, these party animals bring down the barn — until a pack of wolves forces them to defend the farm.
Voice talent: Kevin James, Danny Glover
Why it would get nominated: Relatively inexpensive by toon standards, popular CG pic managed to milk more than $72 million at box office.
Why it wouldn’t: The bulls with udders are the least of this movie’s design problems.

CARS (Pixar/Walt Disney)
John Lasseter pays tribute to Route 66 America by stranding a hotshot NASCAR racecar in a town populated by retro cars.
Voice talent: Owen Wilson, Paul Newman
Why it would get nominated: After “Pirates” sequel “Dead Man’s Chest,” “Cars” was 2006’s top earner. Pixar has won two of the five animated feature Oscars to date.
Why it wouldn’t: Generally regarded as Pixar’s most disappointing feature — which still places it way ahead of most in the race.

In his bigscreen debut, the beloved monkey makes all sorts of trouble for the Man in the Yellow Hat.
Voice talent: Will Ferrell, Drew Barrymore
Why it would get nominated: Sunshine-bright cel animation stands out from look-alike CG competition. Jack Johnson songs match eye-popping color.
Why it wouldn’t: Story skews extremely young. Cartoony designs don’t exactly match the books.

With the help of a talking baseball, a 10-year-old kid must return Babe Ruth’s stolen bat to the slugger so he can win the 1932 World Series.
Voice talent: Whoopi Goldberg, Rob Reiner
Why it would get nominated: Christopher Reeve was working on this project when he passed away. Friends and fans stepped up to finish the CG toon for him.
Why it wouldn’t: A minor-league entry, at best.

FLUSHED AWAY (Aardman/DreamWorks Animation)
A spoiled Kensington house rat ends up trying to fend for himself in the sewers of London in Aardman’s first CG feature.
Voice talent: Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet
Why it would get nominated: The Academy loves Aardman’s quirky sense of humor, awarding the studio seven noms (and four wins) for its stop-motion work over the years.
Why it wouldn’t: Much of the charm is lost in the transition to CG.

HAPPY FEET (Warner Bros.)
A misfit emperor penguin is ostracized because he can’t sing — but uses his tap-dancing talents to prove his worth.
Voice talent: Elijah Wood, Robin Williams
Why it would get nominated: Great-looking visuals, lively music, heartwarming story and save-the-world environmental message make this a front-runner.
Why it wouldn’t: If the CG movie doesn’t win over auds at the box office, it could get left out in the cold.

ICE AGE: THE MELTDOWN (Blue Sky/Fox Animation)
The big freeze is over, the ice is melting, forcing the animals to high land. Meanwhile, Manny the mammoth must find a love interest or risk extinction.
Voice talent: Ray Romano, Queen Latifah
Why it would get nominated: Auds loved it. Studio’s CG style has evolved dramatically since first pic.
Why it wouldn’t: Weak storyline and sequel status could turn off voters.

MONSTER HOUSE (Amblin Entertainment/Sony Pictures Animation)
On Halloween eve, the neighborhood kids discover that the creepy house across the street is possessed.
Voice talent: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Steve Buscemi
Why it would get nominated: Creative retro-styled story might have been too dark for tots, but not for voters searching for top-quality toon.
Why it wouldn’t: Some animators look on motion-capture CG as cheating (even though results have evolved considerably since “The Polar Express”).

OPEN SEASON (Sony Pictures Animation)
A trained bear and daffy deer are set loose in the woods just as hunting season is starting.
Voice talent: Martin Lawrence, Ashton Kutcher
Why it would get nominated: Impressive CG technique puts this debut release from Sony’s new toon department on par with its competition.
Why it wouldn’t: Arrived late in the overcrowded talking-animal-toon season and doesn’t distinguish itself personalitywise.

OVER THE HEDGE (DreamWorks Animation)
An endearing bunch of wild animals made popular by a comicstrip invade the neighboring development in search of junk food.
Voice talent: Bruce Willis, Steve Carell
Why it would get nominated: Amusing CG comedy delighted adults and kids alike. Character design is tops.
Why it wouldn’t: Voters seem to prefer toons with auteur sensibility, and DreamWorks’ approach is sometimes considered too commercial.

PAPRIKA (Mad House/Sony)
A scientist with a superhero alter ego must track down a missing device that allows strangers to see into people’s dreams in this Japanese release.
Voice talent: Subtitled
Why it would get nominated: David Lynch would be proud of the way this imaginative pic straddles the line between fantasy and reality.
Why it wouldn’t: Unless it’s Miyazaki, most anime doesn’t seem to cut it with the Academy.

In the future, an all-powerful corporation tries to hide its controversial genetic experiments from a nosy cop.
Voice talent: Daniel Craig, Romola Garai
Why it would get nominated: Dramatic black-and-white motion-capture style lends film an elegant look inspired by graphic novels and films noir.
Why it wouldn’t: Conventional sci-fi story might as well have been live action, leaving toon industry asking, “Why was this animated?”
Why it wouldn’t: Conventional sci-fi story might as well have been live action, leaving toon industry asking, “Why was this animated?”

A SCANNER DARKLY (Warner Independent)
An agent for a top-secret police unit infiltrates a den of drug users — or is it the other way around?
Voice talent: Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr.
Why it would get nominated: Applies the surreal look of “Waking Life” to a celebrated Philip K. Dick novel.
Why it wouldn’t: Animators don’t seem especially fond of Richard Linklater’s rotoscoping style; auds just said “no” in theaters.

THE WILD (C.O.R.E. Animation/Walt Disney)
When a lion cub is accidentally sent back to Africa, his zoo pals break out to rescue him.
Voice talent: Kiefer Sutherland, Eddie Izzard
Why it would get nominated: The Disney nameplate still commands respect, even if this title was produced out of house.
Why it wouldn’t: Virtually identical to “Madagascar” in story, and that pic wasn’t nominated last year.

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