Will ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ pull off Oscar upset over Best Animated Feature frontrunner ‘Zootopia’?

Laika, the stop-motion animation studio owned by Nike co-founder Phil Knight, has reaped Oscar bids for all four of its feature films but has yet to prevail. Laika’s first two films — “Coraline” (2009) and “ParaNorman” (2012) — lost to the Pixar powerhouses “Up” and “Brave ” respectively while “The Boxtrolls” lost two years ago to Disney’s “Big Hero 6.” Could this year’s contender, “Kubo and the Two Strings,” break that streak?

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This fantasy film about a boy with magical powers is ranked second by our Oscar experts in the race for Best Animated Feature behind Disney’s “Zootopia,” an adventure set in a world of anthropomorphic animals.

“Kubo and the Two Strings” is the best-received of Laika’s four films to date, scoring an impressive 97% at Rotten Tomatoes (which uses a pass/fail system) compared to 98% for “Zootopia.” And over at MetaCritic (which uses a sliding scale) it has the edge with 84 versus 78.

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Disney also has another entry in the race,”Moana,” which could split the vote. That film and “Kubo and the Two Strings” are the only two Best Animated Feature nominees which contend in another category. As with many animated films before it, “Moana” reaped a Best Song bid (“How Far I’ll Go”). However, “Kubo and the Two Strings” became only the second animated film to earn a nomination for Best Visual Effects, 22 years after “The Nightmare Before Christmas” broke down that barrier.

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