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.
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKQUEL (Fox)
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.
CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS (Sony Pictures Animation)
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.
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.
DISNEY’S A CHRISTMAS CAROL (Disney/ImageMovers)
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 DOLPHIN: STORY OF A DREAMER (Fox/Dolphin)
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.
ICE AGE: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS (Fox/Blue Sky)
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 MISSING LYNX (Kandor Moon)
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 PRINCESS AND THE FROG (Disney)
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 SECRET OF KELLS (GKIDS/Cartoon Saloon)
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.
TINKER BELL AND THE LOST TREASURE (Disney)
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.
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.
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.