And the winner was … ‘The Incredibles
“The Incredibles” had no real competition in the Oscar toon race, since the film was universally hailed by crix, as well as auds who turned it into a blockbuster. Its win last year proved that an old-fashioned story is key to a successful animated feature, something that may push “Wallace & Gromit” ahead of the pack.

Only three films made the cut for the animation Oscar this year: Hayao Miyazaki’s “Howl’s Moving Castle,” “Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride” and “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit,” directed by Steve Box and Nick Park. None of the three is done in CGI. And this is the first year that a traditional born-and-bred Disney-branded animated film (it merely distribs Miyazaki’s films in the U.S.) has not received a nom in this category, making Robert Iger’s pickup of Pixar look even smarter.

Good, old-fashioned and painstakingly crafted animation characterize all three films: Miyazaki is considered a god among animators and still shuns CGI for traditional cel animation. “Corpse Bride” and “Wallace & Gromit” are both stop-motion feasts for the eyes. Whereas “Bride” uses state-of-the-art “robots” to help animate its characters, “Wallace & Gromit” relies on claymation techniques, with just one scene done in CGI.

With such a rich field, it’s hard to predict where the Academy voters might go.

“Wallace & Gromit” stars beloved characters, and distrib DreamWorks is enjoying the film’s DVD launch, adding to its recognition factor.

“Corpse Bride” might be too macabre for voters, but WB recently released it on DVD, upping its profile as well.

Miyazaki received a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Fest last year, but it’s a good bet that many Acad voters didn’t get to the local multiplex to see the film, which topped out at around $5 million domestically.

Howl’s Moving Castle

Oscar pedigree: “Spirited Away” win (2001) for Hayao Miyazaki
Current kudos: N.Y. Crix (win), Annies (noms), Online Crix (nom), Satellite (nom)
Why it’ll win: Miyazaki is revered in animation circles.
Why it won’t: It’s too esoteric.

Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride

Oscar pedigree: none
Current kudos: NBR (win), Annies (win), Online Crix (nom), PGA (nom), Satellite (nom)
Why it’ll win: Visually, it’s a treat with an offbeat story.
Why it won’t: The macabre but humorous subject matter turns off some Acad voters.

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Oscar pedigree: 3 animated shorts wins for helmer Nick Park
Current kudos: Boston Crix (win), L.A. Crix (win), Online (win), PGA (win), Toronto Crix (win), Annies (wins), BAFTA (nom), Satellite (noms), VES (nom)
Why it’ll win: The “acting” in the film dazzles.
Why it won’t: Lead characters are not well known in the States.