Best Animated Film nominees

Contenders: Animated Film Oscar Nominees

Storied Japanese animator Hiyao Miyazaki was hardly ignored by the Academy, winning the second ever animation Oscar for “Spirited Away, ” and racking up further nominations with “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “The Wind Rises.” In spite of Miyazaki’s retirement, his Studio Ghibli continues to expand on his aesthetic, and all of the tranquil cel-animated beauty one associates with the studio is on display in “When Marnie Was There.” Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (who previously helmed Ghibli’s “The Secret World of Arrietty”), “Marnie” tells the story of a 12-year-old who meets a mysterious girl in on the island of Hokkaido.

Since 2001, when DreamWorks Animation's "Shrek" won the first animation Oscar, it's been a fun category that's nominated great films that push boundaries of storytelling. It's a category that doesn't recognize national borders or conventions of its fellow Oscar category races, happily tapping toons from Europe, Latin America and Asia, although usually rewarding Hollywood pics. However, in the last decade, more sophisticated toons have been popping up everywhere, and this year's contenders are a fresh batch of many genres and styles.

Directors: Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson

A wonder of a film, “Anomalisa” conveys real emotions, pathos and humanity through the artificiality of stop-motion animation. The banal world created by Kaufman and Johnson — a Cincinnati hotel, a bar, a lecture hall — is used in a very surreal, and very sophisticated, way. Some may puzzle over why Kaufman and Johnson chose stop-motion to tell a story that could have been told with real actors in a live-action film, but that question misses the point: However inventive the script, the artistry and craft of the puppets, set design, costume design and art direction of this R-rated drama makes it one of the most ambitious projects of its type.

Director: Ale Abreu

The Academy has grown far more adventurous in recent years, and its nomination for Brazil’s “Boy & the World” continues that welcome trajectory. The second feature from Ale Abreu — which won best feature at Annecy in addition to a fleet of festival prizes — “Boy & the World” boasts some of the most surrealistically simple character designs of any animated feature this year, as well as jaw-dropping explosions of color and sequences of exquisite fantasy. Like previous recognition for “Song of the Sea” and “Ernest & Celestine, ” the film’s Oscar nomination should help shine a light on one of the more forward-thinking and rewarding imaginations at work in feature animation, his work as universal and transporting as anything from the Disney-Pixar complex.

Director: Pete Docter

Pixar’s 15th feature is also its most abstract, starring an 11-year-old-girl’s emotions: Joy (voiced by a perfect Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith in a multifaceted and compelling v.o.), Anger (hilarious Lewis Black), Fear (jittery Bill Hader) and Disgust (pitch-perfect Mindy Kaling). The wildly gorgeous and colorful world inside Riley’s brain is filled with extremes, but in the end the Pixar team gives audiences what may be one of the most inventive and heartfelt features from the studio.

Directors: Mark Burton, Richard Starzak

It’s been exactly a decade since Britain’s erstwhile Aardman Animations studio won an Oscar, for “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, ” and just as long since a stop-motion pic claimed the big prize. However, with nominations for Aardman’s “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” and Laika’s “ParaNorman, ” “Coraline” and “The Boxtrolls, ” not to mention Wes Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox, ” the Academy has clearly shown a soft-spot for the handcrafted even if the prize has uniformly gone to computer-animated fare ever since. With “Shaun the Sheep Movie, ” Burton and Starzak offer a stripped-down yet impressively cinematic distillation of Aardman’s enduring style, a virtually dialogue-free kids’ film that nonetheless packs a wealth of detail and sophisticated references into its modest framework.

Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi

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