Keith Staskiewicz
January 27, 2012 AT 05:00 AM EST

Stop all the anthropomorphized clocks, and cut off the toy telephone. Pixar’s astonishing Oscar streak has come to an end. After winning six of the first 10 Oscars for Best Animated Feature, Pixar saw its Midas touch tarnished this year, perhaps by motor oil. Cars 2 is the studio’s first feature film not to secure an Animated Feature nomination since the category was introduced in 2001. Also snubbed: Steven Spielberg’s 3-D motion-capture escapade The Adventures of Tintin, thought to be a sure thing since it won this year’s PGA Award and Golden Globe.

The Academy opted to recognize an unusual mix of mainstream hits and truly obscure indie cartoons from far outside the Hollywood system. Gore Verbinski’s Dalí-meets–Sergio Leone Western Rango earned a nod, and DreamWorks Animation scored double nominations for its 3-D blockbusters Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots. No one is happier about that fact than DWA honcho Jeffrey Katzenberg. ”We have 2,200 people here,” he says, ”and this represents all of last year’s work and many years before that.”

Perhaps the biggest surprise, though, was the shout-out to two foreign-language, mostly hand-drawn features: A Cat in Paris, a sumptuous-looking French caper, and Chico & Rita, a more adult-oriented tale of love and music set in Havana and New York City in the 1940s and ’50s. The NYC-based micro-distributor GKIDS is planning to roll out both films to wider U.S. audiences in the coming months. ”To be able to get the support of the Academy supporters when we say, ‘Hey, we think that animation is more than just a 3-D CGI opening on 3,000 screens,’ ” says GKIDS founder Eric Beckman, ”is a big win for independent animation, and animation in general. And it’s a very pleasant surprise.”

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