When the HFPA voted last month to expand this year’s number of nominations for animated feature from three to five slots, it constituted a long-overdue recognition of animation’s increasingly high profile and box office heft. In addition to recognizing the sheer number of animated projects that deserve inclusion, the expansion also allows other contenders to join the club that has been dominated by Disney-Pixar, which has produced the previous three Globes winners: “Wall-E,” “Ratatouille” and “Cars.”
Not that Disney-Pixar’s “Up,” directed by Pete Docter, isn’t a strong contender this season, with its touching story about an unlikely hero, who happens to be a sour old widower and ex-balloon salesman.
Intriguingly, the Globes have also chosen some highly traditional, retro-styled projects to go up against “Up’s” state-of-the-art shiny, 3D CG imagery. Disney Animation Studios’ “The Princess and the Frog,” with Ron Clements and John Musker at the helm, took the old-fashioned 2D route with a hand-animated revamp of the classic fairy tale, now set in New Orleans with an African-American girl in the lead. And Fox’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” a more adult-friendly tale based on Roald Dahl’s novel, features the even more basic technique of stop-motion animation. Making his animation debut, director Wes Anderson endearingly combines low-tech puppets and painted backdrops with an edgy soundtrack powered by the Rolling Stones.
Another stop-motion fable, “Coraline,” from veteran director Henry Selick and based on the sinister Neil Gaiman book, marks the debut of Portland, Ore.,’s stop-motion studio Laika. This Focus Features release is more adult-friendly film than kidpic with its disturbing story about a girl who crawls into a weird parallel world.
Completing the lineup is “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” adapted from Ron and Judi Barrett’s beloved book, directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller and animated by Sony Imageworks. Kid-friendly in tone and storyline — an inventor creates a machine that turns rain into food — its 3D animation builds on Sony’s Oscar-nominated “Surf’s Up.”
The big losers?
The Globes shunned “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” and Robert Zemeckis’ performance-capture “Disney’s A Christmas Carol” — and even an amended rule addressing the ratio of animation and live action didn’t help “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” squeak in.