Eye on the Oscars: Animation Preview

BRAVE
(Disney/Pixar)
Directors: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman
Voice talent: Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson
In its favor: Pixar stretched beyond its comfort zone in this stunning-to-behold, Scotland-set CG fairy tale. Girl empowerment and mother-daughter themes are a plus.

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DR. SEUSS’ THE LORAX
(Universal/Illumination)
Director: Chris Renaud
Voice talent: Danny DeVito, Zac Efron
In its favor: Between the gorgeous animation and beloved source material, this color-saturated CG toon could overcome critically tepid reviews.

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FRANKENWEENIE
(Disney)
Director: Tim Burton
Voice talent: Charlie Tahan, Martin Landau
In its favor: Box office was soft, but reactions have been strong to this loving stop-motion homage to not just monster movies, but also man’s best friend.

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FROM UP ON POPPY HILL
(GKids/Studio Ghibli)
Director: Goro Miyazaki
Voice talent: Anton Yelchin, Sara Bolger
In its favor: After the disappointment of “Tales From Earthsea,” Hayao Miyazaki’s son earned the Japanese Academy’s top toon prize for this romantic period drama.

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HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA
(Sony Pictures Animation)
Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Voice talent: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg
In its favor: Admirers of cult TV toonster Tartakovsky (“Samurai Jack”) are happy to see him thrive in the 3D CG feature world. A nom would encourage him.

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ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT
(Fox/Blue Sky)
Directors: Steve Martino, Mike Thurmeier
Voice talent: Ray Romano, Denis Leary
In its favor: The first “Ice Age” got a nom, and the Acad has smiled on toon sequels before (“Shrek 2″ and “Toy Story 3″). Plus, this franchise’s popular appeal is undeniable.

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A LIAR’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY: THE UNTRUE STORY OF MONTY PYTHON’S GRAHAM CHAPMAN
(Brainstorm/Epix)
Directors: Bill Jones, Jeff Simpson, Ben Timlett
In its favor: It’s exciting to see the stylistic range as 14 toon studios contribute diverse (mostly CG) segments to this 3D retelling of the comic’s exploits.

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MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED
(DreamWorks Animation)
Directors: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, Conrad Vernon
Voice talent: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock
In its favor: This comic caper brings the zoo-break series full circle. Don’t be surprised if the toon branch flips for its loopy blend of Tex Avery-style gags and CG animation.

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THE PAINTING
(GKids/Blue Spirit/Be-Films)
Director: Jean-Francois Laguionie
Voice talent: Jessica Monceau, Adrien Larmande
In its favor: Like “Wreck-It Ralph” set in a painting instead of a videogame, this vibrant and imaginative French toon celebrates artistry and “egalite” alike.

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PARANORMAN
(Focus/Laika)
Directors: Chris Butler, Sam Fell
Voice talent: Kodi Smit-McPhee, John Goodman
In its favor: Another dark and dazzlingly realized stop-motion film from the makers of “Coraline.” Amid so many kidpics, this entry has grown-up appeal going for it.

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THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS
(Sony Pictures Animation/Aardman)
Director: Peter Lord
Voice talent: Hugh Grant, Imelda Staunton
In its favor: The Academy loves the stop-motion work of the studio behind Oscar winner “Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit,” even if this wasn’t quite the hit.

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THE RABBI’S CAT
(GKids)
Directors: Antoine Delesvaux, Joann Sfar
Voice talent: Francois Morel
In its favor: Last year, the branch nommed GKids’ hand-drawn “A Cat in Paris” over “Cars 2″ and “Tintin,” which bodes well for this theologically angled, French-made tale of a cat in Algeria.

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RISE OF THE GUARDIANS
(DreamWorks Animation)
Director: Peter Ramsay
Voice talent: Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin
In its favor: DWA’s most visually demanding CG toon yet, this imaginative all-star lineup of childhood heroes puts a fresh spin on characters such as Santa Claus and Jack Frost.

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WRECK-IT RALPH
(Walt Disney Animation Studios)
Director: Rich Moore
Voice talent: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman
In its favor: Disney seems to have found its groove again with this candy-bright, “Toy Story”-like look at how videogame folk spend their free time.

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ZARAFA
(GKids/Prima Linea)
Director: Remy Bezancon
Voice talent: Max Renaudin
In its favor: A success in France, this hand-drawn toon uses rich visuals and time-proven techniques to tell the story of the first giraffe transported to Paris.

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THE WILD CARDS

Here’s what little is known about half a dozen of this year’s more under-the-radar animated entries

“Adventures in Zambezia”
A lonely young falcon discovers an African city bustling with birds in this 3D CG entry from Triggerfish toon studios.

“Delhi Safari”

In this Indian-made 3D CG toon (from Krayon), wild animals attempt to reason with land-hungry humans.

“Hey Krishna”
Vying with “Delhi Safari” for dibs as India’s first 3D CG release, Reliance’s biopic traces God Krishna’s first 10 years.

“The Mystical Laws”
A number of respected anime artists collaborated on this propagandistic overview of the Happy Science religion.

“Secret of the Wings”
Disney’s latest CG Tinker Bell pic enjoyed a qualifying run at the El Capitan before DVD.

“Walter & Tandoori’s Christmas”
A Canadian fellow and his talking Indian chicken face ecological challenges in this humorous hand-drawn toon.

Eye on the Oscars: Animation Preview
Acad swoons for toon tunes | Cartoon contenders | Pixar pro hits with fast track | Live-action techniques bring life to stop-motion

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