Last week, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its final nominees for this year's Academy Awards, with the usual controversial additions and omissions to get movie fans' blood boiling. In the category of Best Animated Feature, the most notable exclusion from the hallowed list was The LEGO Movie, a universally loved box-office hit. With the art of animation in all its amazing incarnations hitting its creative stride in recent years, and while our LEGO furor is still fresh, let's dive into this year's 10 nominees for Best Animated Feature and Best Animated Short to see which ones might see the glint of gold come Oscar Night on Feb. 22, 2015.
Sample each nominated selection below and shout out which ones were your favorites ...
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Oregon-based Laika Animation's stop-motion steampunk fable about a society of underground trolls who raise an orphan boy named Eggs, and their attempt to thwart the town villain and save the town of Cheesebridge. Laika created the worlds of Coraline and Paranorman, and this latest animated confection could have some serious momentum with its Halloween-time release and Burtonesque charm.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
Toothless and Hiccup expand the wild dragon society of Berk in this sequel to 2010's mega-hit How To Train Your Dragon, which some say surpasses the original. Here Hiccup discovers his long-lost mother and faces a formidable new foe named Drago. With The LEGO Movie kicked to the curb, this crowd-pleasing followup from the folks at DreamWorks could have a clear flight path to Oscar gold.
THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA
Here's a meditative, mystical folktale that celebrates the art of hand-drawn animation, lovingly rendered from Studio Ghibli (The Wind Rises, Spirited Away) and director Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies). Hailed as a masterful achievement in visionary storytelling, this old-school animated masterpiece might be this year's sleeper to steal the storied statue.
BIG HERO 6
This is Disney's heavyweght CGI entry into the race, with a lovable healthcare bot named Baymax joining forces with a spunky kid inventor and his gang of young inventors to become the unlikely champions of San Fransokyo. Big Hero 6 was a critical and box-office slam dunk, and without competition from those little Danish bricks, this candy-colored entry is by far the favorite.
SONG OF THE SEA
A lush and lyrical Irish fable about a lighthouse keeper's children and the last of the mythical sea creatures called Selkies. This hand-drawn animated feature was directed by Tomm Moore, who was also nominated for Best Animated Feature for 2009's The Secret of Kells. A long shot in the race, but a worthy addition to this year's fantastic group of nominees.
BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
THE DAM KEEPER
A poignant, 18-minute tale of a pollution-choked future and a young pig's job to keep the town's windmill dam's sails spinning. Directed by Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi, this children's storybook tale has a simple beauty and charm that could entice Academy members to punch its ticket to glory.
THE BIGGER PICTURE
Using a blend of traditional animation, stop motion, motion graphics and time-lapse techniques, this modern meditation on aging and the elderly has a trippy, phantasmagoric quality that resonates long after the end. Director Daisy Jacobs used life-size sets for her animated sonnet about caring for an elderly relative. Totally absobing and innovative, and a worthy underdog.
Disney's touching short about a stray puppy and its relationship to its owner's love life through the enticing continuity of food. Screened before last summer's Big Hero 6, Feast was directed by Patrick Osbourne, a lead animator on Wreck-It-Ralph, Tangled and Bolt, and carries that Disney-fied CGI gloss we've all become accustomed to. Definitely the one to beat.
A SINGLE LIFE
Pia, a carefree woman, experiences a wild ride through space and time as a strange vinyl record allows her to leap between stages of her life. Directed by Joris Oprins, this whimsical offering comes from the Netherlands and is considered an admirable opponent despite its long-shot status.
ME AND MY MOULTON
From Torill Kove, the Academy Award-winning director of the 2006 animated short The Danish Poet comes the funny story of three sisters living in an eccentric, unconventional Norwegian family who yearn for a bicycle. Told in an amusing, primary-colored style that might find its way into Academy voters' hearts.
And that's your field. Now that you've absorbed a taste of them all, chime in and tell us who'll win Oscar evening.