Field of 20 means category expands to five finalists

With 20 films competing, the category expands to five noms. These are the animated features chasing those slots.

The Story: Three CG chipmunks meet their match in the Chipettes while wreaking live-action havoc.
Voice Talent: Justin Long, Anna Faris
Why it would get nominated: Hit end-of-year toons are often rewarded with a nom (think “Happy Feet” or “Bolt”).
Why not: Even if the Academy deems it “animated enough,” the branch may not.

ASTRO BOY (Summit/Imagi)
The Story: After his son dies in a weapons-testing accident, a scientist builds an android superhero in the child’s image.
Voice Talent: Freddie Highmore, Nicolas Cage
Why: Updates the look of Tezuka Osamu’s seminal 1952 manga for the modern CG age.
Why not: Critical consensus seems to be that the result is merely mediocre.

BATTLE FOR TERRA (Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions)
The Story: Humans are the bad guys in this sci-fi parable about a female alien who helps a shipwrecked pilot, even those his people want to exploit her planet.
Voice Talent: Evan Rachel Wood, Luke Wilson
Why: Clever fans have pointed out striking similarities to James Cameron’s “Avatar.”
Why not: Low-budget CG animation leaves much to be desired.

The Story: The weather gets weird after a failed inventor creates a device that can turn water into food.
Voice Talent: Bill Hader, Anna Faris
Why: Like Sony’s Oscar-nominated “Surf’s Up,” this CG toon advances the technology in service of a genuinely entertaining script.
Why not: A bit of an underdog against bigger hits from Pixar, DreamWorks and Blue Sky.

CORALINE (Focus/Laika)
The Story: Bored with her life, a girl crawls through a corridor to a rich parallel world run by her sinister “Other Mother” in this adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel.
Voice Talent: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher
Why: Directed by stop-motion maestro Henry Selick (“The Nightmare Before Christmas”), pic was a critical and box office hit.
Why not: It opened way back in February. Voters may need some reminding.

The Story: Charles Dickens’ holiday classic gets a state-of-the-art upgrade, showing how far performance capture has evolved since “The Polar Express.”
Voice Talent: Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman
Why: More than any other toon helmer, Robert Zemeckis seems determined to push the medium to new heights.
Why not: Many in the branch don’t think of motion capture as animation (though “Monster House” made the cut in 2007).

The Story: A CG dolphin breaks from his pod in search of undersea adventure — imagine “Finding Nemo” if Nemo weren’t missing.
Voice Talent: Robbie Daymond, Robert Howard
Why: Who doesn’t love dolphins (except the fisherman exposed by “The Cove” perhaps)? And it’s based on a beloved book to boot.
Why not: The movie opened in Latin America last month. Otherwise, no one has seen it.

FANTASTIC MR. FOX (Fox Searchlight)
The Story: A dapper fox jeopardizes his family by stealing from three bellicose farmers in this stop-motion tale from live-action wiz Wes Anderson.
Voice Talent: George Clooney, Meryl Streep
Why: More adult-friendly than the competition (despite its clear kidpic pedigree), this offbeat adaptation expands the world of Roald Dahl’s novel to reflect Anderson’s own sensibility.
Why not: The director’s quirky style isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

The Story: Three-toed sloth Sid adopts three dinosaur eggs, hatching trouble that leads the gang to a primeval world beneath the surface.
Voice Talent: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo
Why: It’s the top-grossing toon of all time — and the first “Ice Age” pic released in stereoscopic 3D.
Why not: Only one sequel (“Shrek 2”) has ever been nominated.

MARY AND MAX(IFC/Sundance Selects)
The Story: An Australian girl and a New Yorker with Asperger’s strike up an unlikely pen-pal relationship.
Voice Talent: Toni Collette, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Why: This is the first feature from stop-motion director Adam Elliot, who won an Oscar for his 2003 short “Harvie Krumpet.”
Why not: After its short qualifying run, the toon went directly to VOD.

The Story: The title puns on evolution, though the plot centers on species extinction as an endangered feline helps other critters escape a big-game hunter.
Voice Talent: Stephen Hughes, Jose Luis Martinez
Why: This CG talking-animal romp is the most eco-friendly toon since “Happy Feet.”
Why not: Judging by past nominees, it takes a far artier indie to impress the Acad.

MONSTERS VS. ALIENS (DreamWorks Animation)
The Story: When aliens attack Earth, the government unleashes a secret team of 1950s monster-movie types.
Voice Talent: Seth Rogen, Reese Witherspoon
Why: DreamWorks has a pretty good track record with the Academy. Plus, it’s hard to argue with nearly $200 million at the box office.
Why not: Silly sells, but it doesn’t necessarily win Oscars.

9 (Focus/Starz Animation)
The Story: A postapocalyptic epic starring nine sack creatures, who represent all that remains of humanity’s soul after an evil robot destroys all life on the planet.
Voice Talent: Elijah Wood, Christopher Plummer
Why: Director Shane Acker already earned one Oscar nom for the short-film version he made in 2005.
Why not: At feature length, the story feels thin and the animation cheap.

PLANET 51 (TriStar/Ilion Animation)
The Story: : Flipping the alien-invasion hysteria of 1950s pics on its head, this sci-fi comedy reveals an alien race’s terror when a human astronaut steps foot on their planet.
Voice Talent: Dwayne Johnson, Justin Long
Why: Though produced in Spain, the sense of humor and CG style are readymade for American auds (albeit young ones).
Why not: The concept is stronger than the execution. Even Sony would probably rather see “Cloudy” nominated.

PONYO (Disney/Studio Ghibli)
The Story: A boy discovers a magic goldfish, who transforms herself into a human, in this surreal love story from Oscar winner Hayao Miyazaki (“Spirited Away”).
Voice Talent: Liam Neeson, Tina Fey
Why: Miyazaki’s late-career masterpiece is also his biggest domestic hit to date.
Why not: Though more accessible than his last (“Howl’s Moving Castle”), many of “Ponyo’s” charms are lost in translation.

The Story: The old fairy tale (transposed to New Orleans) backfires when a magic kiss transforms a princess into a frog.
Voice Talent: Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos
Why: With “The Little Mermaid” co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker at the helm, toon heralds a triumphant return to Disney’s 2-D roots.
Why not: It’s also risky on many levels, from the film’s African American characterizations to its old-fashioned style.

The Story: A 9th-century Irish boy disobeys his guardian and learns the art of manuscript illumination, helping to create a famous 9th century text.
Voice Talent: Brendan Gleeson, Evan McGuire
Why: A terrific pic for kids, this inspirational, handdrawn entry already snagged one of three noms in the European Film Awards’ toon category.
Why not: Some dismiss 2-D animation as TV fodder, since it is so seldom seen on the bigscreen.

The Story: This polished CG prequel explores the origins of the popular “Peter Pan” fairy.
Voice Talent: Mae Whitman, Anjelica Huston
Why: A long shot, since Disney submitted only to help boost the number of noms in the category.
Why not: If not for its one-week qualifying run at the El Capitan, this sequel would’ve gone straight to DVD.

A TOWN CALLED PANIC (Zeitgeist/Pic Pic Andre)
The Story: Plastic-toy Cowboy and Indian celebrate their friend Horse’s birthday in this crude (in style, not humor) Belgian stop-motion comedy.
Voice Talent:
Why: The ultimate counter-programming choice, pic is funny enough to trump its polished American competition.
Why not: In a year of four stop-motion entries, this is the least polished of the lot.

UP (Disney/Pixar)
The Story: Rather than move to a retirement facility, a crotchety old widower uses helium balloons to sail his house to South America for one last adventure.
Voice Talent: Ed Asner, Jordan Nagai
Why: Every Pixar feature released since the category was created has been nominated.
Why not: The real question is whether “Up” can also score a best picture nom.

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