‘Pinocchio’ ‘Puss in Boots’ ‘New Gods’ Among Record Number of Animated Features Set for Oscar Race

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In the early days of the Academy’s animated feature Oscar, there were questions as to whether enough films would qualify each year for the award to be given. Not anymore! This year sees a record number of contenders across a wide variety of genres, styles and audiences, from serious, adult-targeted films (like “Charlotte” and “Eternal Spring”) to boffo offerings from Hollywood’s top toon studios — and that doesn’t even count such anime franchise sensations as “One Piece Film: Red” and “Jujutsu Kaisen 0,” which didn’t submit but further illustrate the vitality of the form.

Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood

Director: Richard Linklater

Voices: Glen Powell, Zachary Levi, Jack Black

Studios: Minnow Mountain, Submarine, Detour Filmproduction

Distributor: Netflix

A time capsule made possible through a sophisticated blend of 2D, 3D and rotoscope techniques, allows the “Boyhood” director to revive the style of “Waking Life” and his own 1960s Texas boyhood.

The Bad Guys

Director: Pierre Perifel 

Voices: Sam Rockwell, Marc Maron, Awkwafina

Studio: DreamWorks Animation

Distributor: Universal Pictures

A gang of animal criminals (“criminimals”?) attempt to shape up in this slick, joke-driven DWA offering, which takes its style cues from European comics.

The Bob’s Burgers Movie

Directors: Loren Bouchard, Bernard Derriman 

Voices: H. Jon Benjamin, Dan Mintz, Eugene Mirman

Studio: 20th Century Animation 

Distributor: 20th Century Studios

In the tradition of “The Simpsons Movie,” this big-screen expansion of the popular Fox TV series about a restaurant-operating family feels like four episodes smooshed together — on a sesame bun.

Charlotte

Directors: Éric Warin, Tahir Rana

Voices: Keira Knightley, Brenda Blethyn, Jim Broadbent

Studio: January Films

Distributor: Good Deed Entertainment

The results might not be as polished as the category’s flashier contenders, but the key thing here is the choice to tell painter Charlotte Salomon’s life story (and Holocaust fate) via hand-drawn animation.

DC League of Super-Pets

Director: Jared Stern

Voices: Dwayne Johnson, 

Kevin Hart, Kate McKinnon

Studio: Warner Animation Group

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

For anyone who thinks the DC superhero movies take themselves too seriously, this 3D CG comedy about Supes’ canine sidekick offers an amusing reprieve — and a hilarious villain in evil guinea pig Lulu.

Drifting Home

Director: Hiroyasu Ishida

Voices: Asami Seto, Mutsumi Tamura, Ayumu Murase

Studio: Studio Colorido

Distributor: Netflix

A handful of kids sneak into an abandoned apartment complex, which mysteriously drifts off to sea in this stylistically surreal but emotionally grounded anime from the director of “Penguin Highway.”

Eternal Spring

Director: Jason Loftus

Voice: Daxiong

Studio: Lofty Sky Pictures

Distributor: Lofty Sky Distribution

Like last year’s “Flee,” this Canadian-made documentary — about artist Daxiong’s involvement in China’s Falun Gong protest actions — could compete in three categories: animation, doc and international.

Goodbye, Don Glees!

Director: Atsuko Ishizuka

Voices: Natsuki Hanae, Yûki Kaji, Ayumu Murase

Studio: Madhouse

Distributor: GKids

A trio of childhood friends confront changes to their club as they grow up in this anime from the Japanese company that previously collaborated with the likes of Satoshi Kon and Mamoru Hosoda.

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

Directors: Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson

Voices: Ewan McGregor, David Bradley, Christoph Waltz

Studios: Netflix Animation, the Jim Henson Co., ShadowMachine

Distributor: Netflix

Few realize the “Pan’s Labyrinth” director started his career in animation. Decades later, the visionary auteur offers his own emotionally grounded, stop-motion spin on the Carlo Collodi classic.

Inu-Oh

Director: Masaaki Yuasa

Voices: Avu-chan, Mirai Moriyama, Tasuku Emoto

Studio: Inu-Oh Film Partners

Distributor: GKids

The anime brain behind “Mind Game” delivers a hand-drawn musical from left field, reimagining a disfigured biwa player from the 14th century as a kind of glam-rock Noh superstar.

Little Nicholas: Happy as Can Be

Directors: Amandine Fredon, Benjamin Massoubre 

Voices: Simon Faliu, Laurent Lafitte, Alain Chabat

Studios: ON Entertainment

Distributor: Buffalo 8

More than just an adaptation of the beloved kid-lit phenom, this Annecy-winning biopic uses the book’s signature hand-drawn style to reveal his origin story — as the brainchild of two French cartoonists.

Lightyear

Director: Angus MacLane 

Voices: Chris Evans, Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn

Studio: Pixar Animation Studios

Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

In a spinoff that also felt like something of a departure, Pixar gave the “Toy Story” space ranger his own adventure, in which Buzz must face off against … himself. 

Luck

Director: Peggy Holmes

Voices: Eva Noblezada, Simon Pegg, Jane Fonda

Studio: Skydance Animation

Distributor: Apple Studios

The toon studio had a promising concept — and intermittently inspired follow-through — with their first animated feature, about a young lady who stumbles into the source of good luck.

Mad God

Director: Phil Tippett

Voices: Alex Cox, Niketa Roman, Satish Ratakonda

Studio: Tippett Studio

Distributor: Shudder

Like a blast of heavy metal on an easy-listening radio station, the “Star Wars” FX maestro’s years-in-the-making (mostly) stop-motion epic is a grungy descent into a Dante-esque underworld.

Marcel the Shell With Shoes On

Director: Dean Fleischer-Camp

Voices: Jenny Slate, Isabella Rossellini, Dean Fleischer-Camp

Studio: Chiodo Bros. Prods.

Distributor: A24 Films

The duo behind the adorable one-eyed gastropod (and viral video sensation) tapped the studio behind “Team America: World Police” to help them adapt the rudimentary stop-motion style to the big screen.

Minions: The Rise of Gru

Director: Kyle Balda

Voices: Steve Carell, Pierre Coffin, Alan Arkin

Studio: Illumination

Distributor: Universal Pictures

By far the most popular animated characters since those two other yellow fellows, Pikachu and SpongeBob, the Minions return in this flat-out hilarious prequel-sequel set in the age of disco.

My Father’s Dragon

Director: Nora Twomey

Voices: Jacob Tremblay, Gaten Matarazzo, Ian McShane

Studio: Cartoon Saloon

Distributor: Netflix

Netflix teamed with Oscar-nominated “The Breadwinner” helmer Twomey to make this lovely (if slightly less indie-feeling) 2D adaptation of Ruth Stiles Gannett’s beloved mid-century children’s book.

New Gods: Yang Jian

Director: Ji Zhao

Voices: Kai Wang, Guanlin Ji, Lihong Li

Studios: Light Chaser Animation 

Distributor: GKids

The visually impressive sequel to stunningly detailed “New Gods: Nezha Reborn” puts a modern spin on Chinese mythology by setting these stories in the clouds, amid floating cities and flying ships. 

Oink (Knor)

Director: Mascha Halberstad

Voices: Hiba Ghafry, Kees Prins, Johnny Kraaijkamp

Studio: Holy Motion Studio

Distributor: Synergetic Distribution

Something of an acquired taste, this scatological stop-motion oddity from Netherlands centers on a sausage-making contest and the pet piglet destined for the meat grinder.

Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank

Directors: Rob Minkoff, Mark Koetsier, Chris Bailey

Voices: Michael Cera, Richy Gervais, Mel Brooks

Studio: Cinesite

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

The voice work is terrific and the action sequences are pretty clever, too, in this computer-animated kung fu spoof on “Blazing Saddles” co-directed by one of “The Lion King” helmers.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

Director: Joel Crawford

Voices: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, John Mulaney, Harvey Guillen

Studio: DreamWorks Animation

Distributor: Universal Pictures

It’s been more than a decade since the last “Shrek” movie and (and its 2011 cat-toon spinoff), giving DWA room to test out a more artful CG style and deeper themes on a new generation.

Run, Tiger, Run!

Directors: Joey Zou, Stanley Tsang

Voices: Qi Lü, Nianci Shen, Dawei Liang

Studio: Soular Animation

Distributor: Soular Animation

This Chinese computer-animated feature focuses on a kid who wants to be a caravan guard. While few saw the film, its polished look demonstrates the region’s potential to compete with big American studio fare.

The Sea Beast

Director: Chris Williams

Voices: Karl Urban, Zaris-Angel Hator, Marianne Jean-Baptiste

Studios: Netflix Animation, Sony Imageworks

Distributor: Netflix

“Moana” co-director Williams returns to the high seas in this gorgeous CG offering, in which an orphan girl teaches a Captain Ahab-like monster hunter that the fearsome creatures can be friends.

Strange World

Director: Don Hall

Voices: Jake Gyllenhaal,  Dennis Quaid, Jaboukie Young-White

Studio: Walt Disney Animation Studios

Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

A diverse cast — including an openly gay teen — and equally colorful environments are the draw in a Jules Verne-inspired adventure film in the vein of “Treasure Planet” (also from producer Roy Conli).

Turning Red

Director: Domee Shi

Voices: Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse

Studio: Pixar Animation Studios

Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

This ultra-original first feature from the Oscar-winning director of “Bao” addresses the stresses of adolescence by “poofing” its teen protagonist into a cuddly red panda, much to her immigrant mom’s horror.

Wendell & Wild

Director: Henry Selick

Voices: Keegan-Michael Key,  Jordan Peele, Lyric Ross, Tamara Smart

Studio: Netflix Animation, Gotham Group, Monkeypaw Prods.
Distributor: Netflix

Selick, the stop-motion visionary behind “Coraline,” hatches a complicated contemporary tell of renegade demons and dastardly real estate developers, featuring cubist character design and
distinctive visuals. 

Source: Variety


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