Golden Globes Race

It’s been another strong year for animated features, both creatively and at the box office. And the HFPA can nominate five, with the winner possibly making the Oscar list of best pics.

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
Classic precursor: “Casablanca” meets “Around the World in 80 Days.”
Chances for a nom: It has all the right ingredients — Steven Spielberg directing his first animated film, ground-breaking 3D motion capture (based on Jim Cameron’s animation process developed for “Avatar”), Peter Jackson producing, and Daniel Craig, Jamie Bell and Andy Serkis doing voice-overs. Glowing reviews and huge B.O. overseas — where it was strategically released first — only increase its Globe chances.

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Arthur Christmas
Classic precursor: “Elf” and”Santa’s Workshop.”
Chances a nom: The 3D computer-animated fantasy comedy is co-produced by Sony and respected U.K. animation house Aardman (“Wallace & Gromit”) and features the right seasonal ingredients and a top Brit voice-over cast that includes Globe noms James McAvoy as Santa’s son Arthur and Imelda Staunton as Mrs. Santa, Globe fave Hugh Laurie (six noms, two wins) and Globe winner Bill Nighy.

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Rango
Classic precursor: “Pinocchio” with some “High Noon” thrown in.
Chances for a nom: Boasting a bunch of firsts, Paramount’s “Rango” showcased state-of-the-art animation and visual effects by industry powerhouse ILM, and was the first animation film for both ILM and “Pirates of the Caribbean” veteran Gore Verbinski. With a stellar cast that includes Globe winner Johnny Depp — charming as the swashbuckling green, bug-eyed chameleon — and Isla Fisher as his love interest, the lizardy Western was a global smash, raking in more than $242 million and critical plaudits.

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Puss in Boots
Classic precursor: “Shrek” franchise
Chances for a nom: Beautifully animated in 3D, this prequel to the “Shrek” films stars Antonio Banderas as the title character in full Zorro/Latin lover mode, and was directed by “Shrek 3’s” Chris Miller. The $130 million production also features the vocal talents of Salma Hayek as Kitty Softpaws and Zach Galifianakis as Humpty Dumpty in a redemption tale that should appeal to all HFPA cat-lovers.

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Kung Fu Panda 2
Classic precursor: 2008’s $631 million global smash “Kung Fu Panda”
Chances for a nom: Starring a Globe-friendly cast that includes Angelina Jolie and Dustin Hoffman, the well-received sequel earned $653 million worldwide — making it the highest-grossing film ever directed by a woman, Jennifer Yuh — who won an Annie for her work on the first film.

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Cars 2
Classic precursor: 2006’s “Cars”
Chances for a nom: While the sequel was lovingly developed and directed by Pixar head John Lasseter, and ended up grossing over $551 million worldwide (significantly, just half of what last year’s “Toy Story 3″ grossed), “Cars 2″ failed to live up to (maybe too high) expectations. Critical reception was also mixed, and this year may offer competitors a real chance to knock Pixar off its perch.

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Gnomeo & Juliet
Classic precursor: Offspring of Walt Disney, Mario Puzo and the Bard
Chances for a nom: The kitschy, kid-friendly tale of rival tribes of English garden gnomes features a strong voice-over cast (James McAvoy and Emily Blunt as the title characters) and an even stronger score from Elton John, who also exec produced and collaborated with Lady Gaga on “Hello, Hello.”

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Rio
Classic precursor: “101 Dalmatians”
Chances for a nom: The irresistible Carnival vibe of “Rio,” the 3D CG extravaganza from native son director Carlos Saldanha (“Ice Age”) and Blue Sky, was a $484 million global hit and seems tailor-made for the party-loving Globes.

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Happy Feet Two
Classic precursor: 2006’s $385 million grossing Globe-winner “Happy Feet.”
Chances for a nom: The popular penguin dance party teams four-time Globe winner Robin Williams with Globe winners Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, throws in newcomers Sofia Vergara, Pink and Common, and also showcases an eco-sensitive plot.

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GOLDEN GLOBES RACE
Tops in tubthumps?
Best Picture: Drama | Best Picture: Comedy or Musical | Television | Animation

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