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Oscars 2016: In the animation race, some favorites and some little-seen gems

Oscars 2016: In the animation race, some favorites and some little-seen gems
Pixar's "Inside Out" is the story of a girl's competing emotions, personified as, from left, Anger, Disgust, Joy, Fear and Sadness. (Pixar)

Pixar's blockbuster about sadness, Charlie Kaufman's Kickstarter dream project, Hayao Miyazaki's (probable) lush swan song, England's swashbuckling silent film starring a sheep and a Brazilian boy's kaleidoscopic journey are the animated features earning Oscar nods this year.

The odds-on favorite to win is director/co-writer Pete Docter's "Inside Out," last summer's mammoth hit that collected more than $855 million in global box office receipts. The film, led by Amy Poehler's ebullient Joy, deconstructs the emotional journey of a girl as she's uprooted from the Midwest for a new life in San Francisco.

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FOR THE RECORD

Jan. 15, 3:05 p.m.: Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki did not work on the film "When Marnie Was There," and the studio has at least one more film coming out, "The Red Turtle," set for release in Japan in September.

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"We spoke from a very personal place," said Docter in a call from his home in Piedmont, Calif. "I really feel like animation has a unique ability to talk about things that you can't talk about in any other medium. How do we represent personality? How do you talk about that? That took a lot of experimenting."

Docter has earned five other Oscar nods in the genre, including for co-writing "Toy Story" in 1995, for animated feature for "Monsters, Inc." in 2001, for original screenplay for "Wall-E" in 2008 and for "Up" in 2009, which earned him a statuette.

Paramount Pictures' "Anomalisa," a critically lauded stop-motion story of a self-help author's struggle with life's banality, earned director Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman an Oscar nod. Kaufman is a four-time nominee, who won for original screenplay for "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" in 2004.

"The thing that's different [is] we put it together ourselves with no studio involved," said Kaufman in a call from Detroit, where he's promoting the film. "There's so many difficulties in making it. And so many times we thought we wouldn't finish it. The fact that we did finish it and it's been getting positive response from people — it's very gratifying."

Writer-directors Mark Burton and Richard Starzak earned their first nomination with Aardman Animation's "Shaun the Sheep Movie," a stop-motion film, based on the long-running TV series.

"It's been tinged with a bit of sadness because we lost Alan Rickman," Burton said in a call from Britain, speaking of the English actor who died on nominations morning. "But we're delighted. It's a group effort."

It's another big year for newcomer GKIDS, a New York-based distributor since 2010 specializing in indie animation. The company released Brazil's "Boy & the World" and Japan's lush drama "When Marnie Was There," both of which were nominated this year after playing in a very limited number of theaters.

This is the third straight year in which the distributor has earned two nominations. It also marks eight Oscar nods for GKIDS since 2010, five more than Pixar earned during the same period.

Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, "When Marnie Was There" was adapted from the 1981 novel about girlhood and friendship. The film is the latest — and potentially the last — released by Japan's venerable Studio Ghibli, which was founded by the Oscar-winning Japanese auteur and anime master Miyazaki.

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"The selection of the film truly is a tribute to the entire production staff of the film, to whom I express my sincere appreciation," said Yonebayashi in a statement.

"Boy & the World," directed by Brazilian artist Alê Abreu is a colorful, impressionistic story of one boy's journey into the city to find his father amid the threats of modern life.

"I am so honored and happy to have our film recognized by the academy, I have no words," Abreu said in a statement. "It was a great year for animation around the globe, and the academy's continued recognition of our work will continue to inspire."

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