Oscar update: 16 Animated Feature contenders means five nominees (maybe)

With 16 films eligible for Animated Feature at this year's Oscars, there can be up to five nominees. But be warned, the same scoring method that saw Best Song reduced to just two nominees four years ago, could limit this playing field as well. To reap an Oscar bid, an animated film must first pass muster with a screening committee.

As part of the ongoing process to expand the number of members who take part in the process, only half of this committee will be drawn from the 400 members of the Animated branch. This also avoids the bloc voting that has besieged the Annie Awards. And gone is the requirement that a committee member must attend at least 80% of the special Sunday screenings at the academy's Beverly Hills HQ. Rather, screeners will be allowed and voting will be done via mail rather than in person. 

To take part, a member must watch at least two-thirds of the contenders — i.e., 11 of this year's 16 entries — and then assign a score to each between 10 (excellent), 8 (good), 7 (fair) and 6 (poor). Only those films that receive an average score of at least 7.5 are even eligible for nomination. That threshold has been the stumbling block for Best Song in the past.

Pixar has dominated this category since it was created in 2001, winning seven times out of nine nominations.  Indeed, only two Pixar pictures have failed to earn at least a bid: "Cars 2" in 2011 and "Monsters University" last year. This year the studio has one strong contender in the already-opened "Inside Out" and another in the Thanksgiving release "The Good Dinoasaur."  

DreamWorks Animation, which has "Home" in the running, has racked up two wins from 11 nominations. Among the other studios Paramount, which will be releasing "Anomalisa at year-end, and Aardman ("Shaun the Sheep Movie") have gone one for two.

Sony ("Hotel Transylvania 2") and 20th Century Fox ("The Peanuts Movie") are still looking for their first wins after two bids apiece as is one-time contender Universal ("Minions").  

Which of the 16 animated feature entries, is likely to make the cut with the screening committee? Below, we consider the merits of the 12 films already released and the four upcoming titles. 

After reading this recap, be sure to update your predictions for Best Animated Feature as three films that we thought would be eligible — "Extraordinary Tales," "Strange Magic" and "Zarafa" — are not among those listed. And five new titles — "The Boy and the Beast," "Boy and the World," "The Laws of the Universe: Part 0," "Moomins on the Riviera" and "Regular Show: The Movie" — are in contention. 

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The dozen films already released, listed chronologically:

"SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water" – Feb. 6 (Paramount)
Genre: Animated/live action
Sequel to: "Spongebob Movie" (2004)
Running Time: 92 minutes
Critical Reception: Rotten Tomatoes: 78; MetaCritic: 62
Box Office: $312 million
DirectorPaul Tibbitt 
ScreenplayJonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger
Synopsis/Voice Talent: Burger-Beard the Pirate (Antonio Banderas) steals the Krabby Patty secret formula using a magical book that makes any text written upon it come true. SpongeBob (Tom Kenny), Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown), Squidward (Rodger Bumpass), Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke), Sandy (Carolyn Lawrence) and Plankton (Mr. Lawrence)  must travel to the surface and confront Burger-Beard in order to get the formula back.

"When Marnie Was There" – Feb. 27 (GKIDS)
Genre: Animated
Running Time: 103 minutes
Critical Reception: Rotten Tomatoes: 89; MetaCritic: 71
Box Office: $31 million
DirectorHiromasa Yonebayashi
ScreenplayKeiko Niwa, Masashi Andō, Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Synopsis/Voice Talent: Sent from the city to a small seaside town, a young foster child, Anna (Hailee Steinfeld), makes a new friend, Marnie (Kiernan Shipka), who soon becomes a mysterious presence in her life. 

"Home" – March 27 (DreamWorks Animation)
Genre: 3D computer animated
Running Time: 94 minutes
Critical Reception: Rotten Tomatoes: 45; MetaCritic: 55
Box Office: $387 million
DirectorTim Johnson ("Over the Hedge," "Antz")
ScreenplayTom J. Astle and Matt Ember adapted Adam Rex's 2007 children's book "The True Meaning of Smekday."
Synopsis/Voice Talent: The Boov, an alien race led by Captain Smek (Steve Martin) invade Earth. Tip (Rihanna), a young girl separate from her mother Lucy (Jennifer Lopez), avoids capture and goes on the run with Oh (Jim Parsons), a friendly Boov. 

Moomins on the Riviera” – May 17 (Nordisk Films)
Genre: Traditional animation
Running Time: 80 minutes
Critical Reception: Rotten Tomatoes: 81
DirectorsXavier PicardHanna Hemilä
Screenplay: Based on Moomin comic strips by Tove Jansson and Lars Jansson.
Synopsis/Voice Talent: The Moomins (Russell ToveyNathaniel ParkerTracy Ann Oberman) along with Little My (Ruth Gibson) and Snorkmaiden (Stephanie Winiecki) take a sea journey to the  Riviera, a place that puts their unity to the test.

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"Inside Out" – June 19 (Disney/Pixar)
Genre: 3D computer animated
Running Time: 94 minutes
Critical Reception: Rotten Tomatoes: 98; MetaCritic: 94
Box Office: $704 million 
DirectorPete Docter
ScreenplayMeg LeFauveJosh CooleyPete Docter; Story by Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen
Synopsis/Voice Talent: This imaginative tale is set in the mind of a young girl (Kaitlyn Dias) as her five emotions — Joy (Amy Poehler), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Bill Hader), and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) — guide her through life.

"Minions" – July 10 (Universal)
Genre: 3D computer animated
Prequel to: "Despicable Me" (2010); "Despicable Me 2" (2013)
Running Time: 91 minutes
Critical Reception: Rotten Tomatoes: 54; MetaCritic: 56
Box Office: $1 billion 
DirectorsPierre Coffin & Kyle Balda
ScreenplayBrian Lynch
Synopsis/Voice Talent: The Minions serve only villains, whom they inevitable end up accidentally killing. In 1968, looking for a new boss, they make their way to Orlando with the help of the Nelsons (Michael KeatonAllison Janney) and end up working for Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock) and her unwitting inventor husband Herb (Jon Hamm). Scarlet plots to overthrow the Queen (Jennifer Saunders). Geoffrey Rush provides the narration. 

"Shaun the Sheep Movie" – Aug. 5 (Aardman)
Genre: Stop-motion animation
Running Time: 85 minutes
Critical Reception: Rotten Tomatoes: 99; MetaCritic: 81
Box Office: $75 million 
DirectorsRichard Starzak & Mark Burton
Screenplay: Richard Starzak & Mark Burton based on the TV series "Shaun the Sheep" by Nick Park.
Synopsis/Voice Talent: When Shaun (Justin Fletcher) decides to seek adventure away from the farm, he unwittingly causes an accident that see the Farmer (John Sparkes) suffer from amnesia and end up in the Big City. Shaun must lead the flock there in an attempt to right his wrongs.  

"The Prophet" – Aug. 7 (GKIDS)
Genre: Hybrid: Traditional/computer animation
Running Time: 84 minutes
Critical Reception: Rotten Tomatoes: 70; MetaCritic: 61
Director: Roger Allers ("The Lion King")
Screenplay: Roger Allers adapted "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran
Synopsis/Voice Talent: Mustafa (Liam Neeson), a prophet is deemed to be a dissident and placed under house arrest. Kamila (Salma Hayek) seeks to help him while her daughter Almitra (Quvenzhane Wallis) learns lessons from him. 

Which Pixar movies got Oscar hugs and which were cruelly shunned?

Regular Show The Movie” – Aug. 14 (Cartoon Network)
Genre: Traditional animation
Running Time: 68 minutes
DirectorJ. G. Quintel
Screenplay: J. G. Quintel, Sean Szeles
Synopsis/Voice Talent: After a high school lab experiment goes horribly wrong, and accidentally creating a "timenado" the universe is on the verge of being destroyed and it’s up to the slackers Mordecai (J. G. Quintel) and Rigby (William Salyers) to go back in time and make things right.

"Hotel Transylvania 2" – Sept. 25 (Columbia/Sony Animation)
Genre: 3D computer animated
Sequel to: "Hotel Transylvania" (2012)
Running Time: 89 minutes
Critical Reception: Rotten Tomatoes: 41; MetaCritic: 44
DirectorGenndy Tartakovsky
ScreenplayRobert Smigel
Synopsis/Voice Talent: Mavis (Selena Gomez) and Johnny (Andy Samberg) have a baby who is not showing any signs of becoming a vampire, much to the chagrin of Mavis' father Count Dracula (Adam Sandler). He enlists his pals Frankenstein (Kevin James), Wayne the werewolf (Steve Buscemi), Griffin the invisible man (David Spade) and Murray the mummy (Keegan Michael-Key) to put the boy through vampire training while dealing with his own disapproving father Vlad (Mel Brooks). 

The Laws of the Universe Part 0” – Oct. 2 (Eleven Arts)
Genre: Anime
Running Time: 100 minutes
DirectorIsamu Imakake
Screenplay: Isamu Imakake
Synopsis/Voice Talent: Five students battle an alien invasion that has taken over the minds of their fellow students. 

"The Peanuts Movie" – Nov. 6 (20th Century Fox)
Genre: 3D computer animated
Running Time: 92 minutes
Critical Reception: Rotten Tomatoes: 83; MetaCritic: 67
DirectorSteve Martino
Screenplay: "Peanuts" creator Charles Schulz's son Craig Schulz and grandson Bryan Schulz along with Cornelius Uliano
Synopsis/Voice Talent: A series of vignettes featuring the characters from the beloved comic strip that ran for 50 years beginning in 1950. Among these: Snoopy (Bill Melendez) goes up against his nemesis the Red Baron and Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp) woos the Little Red-Haired Girl (Francesca Capaldi), who has just moved to the neighborhood.

Click here to see odds and rankings of our 23 Oscar Experts

And the four upcoming releases, ordered by release date:

"The Good Dinosaur" – Nov. 25 (Disney/Pixar)
Genre: 3D computer animated
Running Time: TBD
DirectorPeter Sohn
ScreenplayEnrico Casarosa, Bob Peterson
Synopsis/Voice Talent: In a world where dinosaurs are not extinct, a young Apatosaurus named Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) loses his father (Jeffrey Wright) in a tragic accident. Separated from his mother (Frances McDormand), he befriends a human caveboy that he names Spot (Jack Bright).

Boy and the World” – Dec. 11 (GKIDS)
Genre: Traditional animation
Running Time: 80 minutes
DirectorAle Abreu
Screenplay: Ale Abreu
Synopsis/Voice Talent: Cuca is a boy who lives in a distant world, in a small village in the interior of his mythical country. One day, he sees his father leaving in search of work, embarking on a train towards to an unknown capital. The weeks that follow are of anguish and confusing memories. 

"Anomalisa" – Dec. 30 (Paramount)
Genre: Stop-motion animation
Running Time: 90 minutes
DirectorsCharlie Kaufman,Duke Johnson,
Screenplay: Charlie Kaufman
Synopsis/Voice Talent: Motivational speaker Michael Stone (David Thewlis) has issues connecting with people and hears them all as having the same voice (Tom Noonan). One night at a hotel, all of that changes when he meets a woman (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who sounds absolutely beautiful.

The Boy and the Beast” – TBD (Funmation)
Genre: Traditional animation
DirectorMamoru Hosoda
Screenplay: Mamoru Hosoda
Synopsis/Voice Talent: A lost boy in Tokyo, Kyuta, slips into an alternate universe, where he is raised by a bear-man, Kumatetsu, who fights for a living. Kumatetsu trains Kyuta in the art of fighting over the years, but eventually Kyuta is thrust into a cataclysmic adventure which spans both worlds.

Click here to see ups and downs of Oscar races over entire awards season

After reviewing the contenders, make your Oscar predictions using the easy drag-and-drop menu at the bottom of this post.  You could earn a place of honor on our leaderboard and a starring role in next year's Top 24 Users (the two dozen folks who do the best predicting this year's Oscar nominations).

Last year the Top 24 Users led the way with an accuracy rate of 76.67% when it came to predicting the Oscar nominations. Next up were Gold Derby's Editors with 74.44%, followed by the Experts with 71.11% and all Users with 68.09%. (Click on any of these groups to see what they got right and wrong last year.)

Which group will be victorious this year?

Meet the guy who won our contest to predict the Oscar nominations last year — and learn how he did it and how you can be our next Gold Derby superstar.

As some of our Users turn out to be our smartest prognosticators, it's important that you give us your predictions. Your picks influence our Users racetrack odds, which also factor into our official combined odds.

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