Sixteen toons submitted but the branch has yet to rule on whether they all qualify. Given the category’s rules, if just one falls out, the field shrinks to three nominees. The 15 entries below have been confirmed with their distributors, with one mystery player still to be announced.
“Alpha and Omega” (Lionsgate/Crest)
The Story: In this lupine twist on star-crossed love, two wolves from separate castes overturn social taboos that forbid them from coupling, while trying to stir up lots of 3D CG trouble along the way.
Voice Talent: Justin Long, Hayden Panettiere
Directors: Anthony Bell, Ben Gluck
Why It Would Get Nominated: If the animation branch were to poll their kids, this one could come out tops. . .
Why Not: . . .which is a nice way of saying that anyone old enough to know better probably knows better.
“Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore” (WB)
The Story: A top-secret network of spy dogs joins forces with a rival feline org to thwart rogue ex-agent Kitty Galore from world domination in this James Bond-style spoof set among animation-enhanced live-action animals.
Voice Talent: James Marsden, Bette Midler
Director: Brad Peyton
Why: It’s something of a visual effects triumph, with animators manipulating the faces and limbs of real cats and dogs to create anthropomorphic perfs.
Why Not: By the Academy’s own definition of animation, this probably won’t qualify, and if it does, it’s only to widen the race to five nominations.
“Despicable Me” (Universal/Illumination)
The Story: A second-rate super-villain and his army of adorable yellow minions plot to steal the moon, but in order to do so, he needs to adopt three orphans — and foster parenthood proves to me a much more difficult task.
Voice Talent: Steve Carell, Miranda Cosgrove
Director: Chris Renaud
Why: This freshman effort from Christopher Meledandri’s new CG animation outfit was a smash international hit, grossing nearly half a billion dollars.
Why Not: Critics were rather mixed, and some found the humor “too French” (a possible plus, given the sameness of other comedic American toons).
“How to Train Your Dragon” (DreamWorks Animation)
The Story: For generations, Vikings and dragons have been in constant battle, until one day the chief’s misfit son actually manages to befriend one, transforming the way the two species interact.
Voice Talent: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler
Directors: Dead DeBlois, Chris Sanders
Why: The CG toon caused many to reevaluate DWA, with its typically jokey output, as a place capable of telling sincere, heartfelt stories as well.
Why Not: While some consider this the studio’s best effort, with three toons in this year’s race, DreamWorks could end up canceling itself out — or scoring multiple noms.
“Idiots and Angels” (Bill Plympton Studios)
The Story: In the animated equivalent of an underground comic, a cranky businessman does his part to make the world a more miserable place, until one day he sprouts a pair of angel wings with a will of their own.
Director: Bill Plympton
Why: The celebrated one-man-show (who has been nommed twice before for his shorts “Guard Dog” and “Your Face”) still draws every frame himself.
Why Not: Plympton’s sensibility is a bit outre for the Academy. Though the branch respects independence, they may choose to honor his new short “The Cow Who Wanted to Be a Hamburger” instead.
“The Illusionist” (Sony Pictures Classics/Django Films)
The Story: The “Triplets of Belleville” director resurrects Jacques Tati via hand-drawn animation via a long-unproduced screenplay in which the aging showman befriends a young girl in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Voice Talent: Jean-Claude Donda, Edith Rankin
Director: Sylvain Chomet
Why: Handdrawn animation is losing the battle to CG, and Tati’s story (in which he faces dwindling audiences for his vaudeville-style magic shows) serves as a beautiful homage to the end of an era.
Why Not: The surreal, upbeat “Triplets” may have been nominated, but this film is of a very different tone, and not everyone responds to its brooding, melancholy tone.
“Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole” (Warner Bros./Animal Logic)
The Story: Moving from graphic novels to young-adult novels, the “300” director tackles this elaborate 3D computer-animated epic, in which rival owl clans battle it out against stunning photoreal backdrops.
Voice Talent: Jim Sturgess, Geoffrey Rush
Director: Zack Snyder
Why: Better reviewed than it was attended, this avian allegory for peaceful coexistence achieves a level of realism that earned comparisons to “Avatar” and “The Lord of the Rings.”
Why Not: The Academy loved the dancing penguins of “Happy Feet” (also rendered by Animal Logic), but killer owls are another question entirely.
“Megamind” (DreamWorks Animation)
The Story: This 3D CG satire flips the script on superhero movies, allowing the bad guy to win for once. After vanquishing Metro Man, a blue-headed villain must create a new rival to keep things interesting.
Voice Talent: Will Ferrell, Tina Fey
Directors: Tom McGrath
Why: It depends on the Academy’s sense of humor. The film scored big with audiences, earning nearly $50 million on opening weekend.
Why Not: The toon committee isn’t influenced by popularity, watching each submitted film in a vacuum, and DWA’s “How to Train Your Dragon” is likely to impress them more.
“My Dog Tulip” (New Yorker Films)
The Story: Billed as “an animated movie for adults” this scrappy, yet personality-rich adaptation of J.R. Ackerley’s memoir (drawn entirely via tablet) tells of the author’s ill-behaved Alsatian.
Voice Talent: Christopher Plummer, Lynn Redgrave
Directors: Paul Fierlinger, Sandra Fierlinger
Why It Would Get Nominated: The branch loves small, personal toons (a la “Persepolis”), and Fierlinger (a “Sesame Street” contributor) was nommed for his short “It’s So Nice to Have a Wolf Around the House” in 1979.
Why Not: Technique also counts for something, and “Tulip” may be seen as too lean in that department.
“Shrek Forever After” (DreamWorks Animation)
The Story: The final chapter in the lovable green ogre’s saga (and the first in 3D), this darker, more grown-up installment imagines what Far Far Away might be like had Shrek never been born.
Voice Talent: Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz
Director: Mike Mitchell
Why It Would Get Nominated: The first two “Shrek” pics were nominated in years with only three slots, and this one was better received by critics than the overlooked third installment.
Why Not: While still DreamWorks’ top-grossing franchise, “Forever After” earned less than the other three “Shrek” movies, indicating possible burnout with the character.
“Summer Wars” (Madhouse)
The Story: A cutting-edge “War Games” for the social network set, this mind-bending, eye-popping anime adventure pits a Japanese family against a rogue A.I.’s attempt to hijack the country’s infrastructure.
Voice Talent: Michael Sinterniklaas, Brina Pale
Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Why It Would Get Nominated: The latest from the acclaimed director of “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” wowed several fests and won the Japanese Academy Prize for animation this year.
Why Not: Unlike contemporary Hayao Miyazaki, Hosoda engineers his films to appeal to a local teenage audience, which means some of the wilder elements could get lost in translation.
The Story: This isn’t your grandma’s Disney fairytale. Instead, the Mouse House uses CG animation and an elastic, empowered heroine to deliver an updated Rapunzel story in stereoscopic 3D.
Voice Talent: Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi
Directors: Nathan Greno, Byron Howard
Why: Disney’s been known to snag multiple noms in a three-slot race before, as in the year “Wall-E” and “Bolt” both competed. Helmers Greno and Howard are both “Bolt” vets.
Why Not: Would Walt have approved? Though John Lasseter oversaw this project, “Tangled” is different enough from earlier Disney toons that its fresh approach could be a liability.
“Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue” (Disney)
The Story: In this third CG Tinker Bell story, the fairy gets trapped in a human house, revealing magic secrets to a little girl while trying to avoid the notice of her butterfly-collecting dad.
Voice Talent: Mae Whitman, Lauren Mote
Director: Bradley Raymond
Why: A long shot, since Disney submitted only to help boost the number of noms in the category (which fell short of the 16 needed to support five slots).
Why Not: If not for its one-week qualifying run at the El Capitan, this sequel would’ve gone straight to DVD.
“Toy Story 3” (Pixar)
The Story: Eleven years after “Toy Story 2,” the Pixar team revisits the characters who started it all, as Andy (now old enough to be heading off to college) must decide what to do with his favorite playthings.
Voice Talent: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen
Director: Lee Unkrich
Why: It made grown men cry, earned stellar reviews and outgrossed all Pixar films to date. The real question is whether “Toy Story 3” can also nab a best picture nom.
Why Not: It will. All seven of the Pixar movies released since the category was created have been nominated, five of which went on to win the Oscar.
“Yogi Bear” (Warner Bros./Rhythm & Hues)
The Story: Hanna-Barbera’s classic picnic basket-snatching bear gets a 3D CG upgrade in this live-action/toon hybrid, which finds the hungry hero joining forces with Ranger Smith to save Jellystone Park.
Voice Talent: Dan Aykroyd, Justin Timberlake
Director: Eric Brevig
Why: Assuming the movie actually qualifies (the “Alvin” pics did in previous years, so it should), “Yogi Bear” will have to be smarter than the average toon to land a nom.
Why Not: The film hasn’t screened for press yet, but the previews position it squarely in preschool territory — not exactly Oscar’s sweet spot.
New toons seek to establish fresh franchises | Veteran toon franchises wrap it up | 16 pics vie for Oscar nom