Set in the Mission District of San Francisco and released last February, “Kitbull” — a cartoon about a wayward kitten’s unlikely friendship with a misunderstood pit bull — has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short.

Offering scenery familiar to any local viewer, “Kitbull” races along graffiti-laden streets and sprawling views of the city from Bernal Heights Park in a directorial debut from USF alum Rosana Sullivan.

The Pixar storyboard artist, writer and producer told Deadline it was her love of cat videos as a form of stress relief that spawned the heartstring-tugging short.

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“I just wanted to draw a kitten being a kitten, because I never saw that done in animation, at least not often. Usually, they’re anthropomorphized,” she said in a December interview. “It then evolved into onething about connection and friendship between two outcast characters, because that was onething that I had struggled with as a kid. Just that feeling when you don’t feel connected to the larger world.”

Sullivan enrolled at USF in 2004 as a biology major with plans to become a veterinarian, but it was a course in portrait painting – a required art credit – that changed her trajectory forever.

“I was spending more time behind the canvas in XARTS studio than studying for my science classes,” she said in a 2015 interview. She later sketched scenes for “The Good Dinosaur,” the prehistoric Pixar film released that same year.

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“Kitbull” was the third in a series of six films released by Pixar’s workers in what Pixar President Jim Morris described as a goal to generate wide-ranging ideas from people across different backgrounds at the company.

The film is up against four other nominees: “Hair Love,” “Sister,” “Daughter” and “Mémorable.”

Amanda Bartlett is an SFGATE associate digital reporter. Email: amanda.bartlett@sfgate.com | Twitter: @byabartlett