When humans watch animations which contain human-like characters in them, we seem to imagine that the animated individuals, whether they be photorealistic or mere stick figures, are human, or at least living, in some way. If I see a stick figure get his or her heart broken, I feel for them as if I were watching a character in a movie get their heart broken.
There is obvious nuance in that my emotions will likely be different in response to watching two situations which ceteris parabus only differ in that one has stick figure characters while the other has high-qualtiy photorealistic ones. However, there still seems to be something going on where the mind imbues entities with a perception of humanity, or at the very least of vitality.
So, my question is first and foremost whether or not there has been any research done our perception of other things as human/alive (this seems like something that would at least happen in child developmental fields), and if so, is there a particular region of the brain and/or pathway/mechanism that we know is involved with this behavior?