When Toons Rule Hol­ly­wood

Hosted by Pa­trick War­bur­ton, this year’s An­nie Awards prom­ise a fes­tive night, packed with in­dus­try stars, great jokes and lots of suprises.

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Hosted by Pa­trick War­bur­ton, this year’s An­nie Awards prom­ise a fes­tive night, packed with in­dus­try stars, great jokes and lots of suprises.

Those of us who are weary of how many ma­jor awards shows treat an­i­mated movies and TV shows like sec­ond-class cit­i­zens have a spe­cial night to look for­ward to in Fe­bru­ary: Yes, we’re talk­ing about the an­nual An­nie Awards, which honor all the hard-work­ing men and women who toil away all year round on an­i­mated and vfx­driven con­tent. The 41st edi­tion of the show, which will take place Fe­bru­ary 1 at UCLA’s Royce Hall, prom­ises to be another ex­cit­ing event, packed with top-notch toon tal­ent and Hol­ly­wood glit­er­atti and, as ASIFA-Hol­ly­wood Frank Glad­stone tells us, we are def­i­nitely in for a high-class show this year.

“We’re hop­ing to make the cer­e­mony more di­rect and el­e­gant,” says Glad­stone, an in­dus­try vet­eran who has been the pres­i­dent of ASIFAHol­ly­wood since early 2011. “We are very happy to have a great host—Pa­trick War­bur­ton—who had been want­ing to do this for years, but his sched­ule never al­lowed him to do it be­fore, but we man­aged to have him com­mit to us early.”

Among this year’s spe­cial high­lights are the three juried Win­sor McCay awards, which will be handed out to Steven Spiel­berg, Kat­suhiro Otomo and Phil Tip­pett for their ca­reer con­tri­bu­tions to the art of an­i­ma­tion; the June Foray Award, which will go to Alice Davis for her sig­nif­i­cant, char­i­ta­ble com­mit­ments; and the Cer­tifi­cate of Merit which goes to I Know That Voice, the ac­claimed doc­u­men­tary about our fave voice-over artists, di­rected by Lawrence Shapiro and pro­duced by Shapiro, Tommy Reid and John DiMag­gio.

Glad­stone says im­prove­ments were made this year to the online vot­ing process, so that mem­bers could skip en­tries if they didn’t feel like they were qual­i­fied to pick a win­ner in a cer­tain cat­e­gory. He also points out that over a thou­sand awards sub­mis­sions were made in 2013, which is a very healthy num­ber. He adds, “As usual, we were lob­bied to add new cateo­gires, but we feel that if we add any more awards, then we will have to ex­pand the event into two sep­a­rate cer­e­monies, which is what they do for the Academy Awards. That will mean more in­fra­struc­ture and plan­ning, and we’re on the cusp of do­ing that. I think that is some­thing that we have to do even­tu­ally.”

Of course, awards watch­ers will be keep­ing an eye on who will be pick­ing up the big prizes. One of the best things about the An­nies is that more of our fa­vorite movies and TV shows are able to share the glory. There is usu­ally a nice bal­ance of how the awards are spread out be­tween the indies and the big stu­dio ti­tles. For ex­am­ple, in the fea­ture race, CG heavy­weights such as Dis­ney’s Frozen, DreamWorks’ The Croods, Uni­ver­sal/ Il­lu­mi­na­tion’s De­spi­ca­ble Me 2 and Pixar’s Mon­sters Univer­sity will be com­pet­ing with hand-drawn fa­vorites GKIDS’ Ernest and Ce­les­tine and A Let­ter to Momo and Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises. We’ll be lucky if we see all seven ti­tles show­ing up in the Os­car race. (The Hol­ly­wood For­eign Press only picked three stu­dio ti­tles for the Golden Globe An­i­mated Fea­ture cat­e­gory.)

The TV cat­e­gories also pro­vide a wide range of con­tenders: The Best An­i­mated TV se­ries nom­i­nees are Car­toon Net­work’s Ad­ven­ture Time, Warner Bros.’ Be­ware the Bat­man, Dis­ney TV’s Grav­ity Falls, Nick­elodeon’s Kung Fu Panda: Le­gends of Awe­some­ness, Car­toon Net­work’s Reg­u­lar Show, Nel­vana’s Scaredy Squir­rel and Warner Bros.’ Teen Ti­tans Go!, while the Gen­eral Au­di­ence TV show race fea­tures FX’s Archer, Bento Box/ Fox’s Bob’s Burg­ers, Dis­ney TV’s TRON: Up- ris­ing, Fox’s Mo­torcity.

The Fu­ture Is Here

As Glad­stone sees it, tech­nol­ogy is mak­ing it pos­si­ble for indies to find au­di­ences along­side the big stu­dio fran­chises. “Of course, we’d like to see more in­de­pen­dent films be­ing done lo­cally here in the U.S. and not just over­seas,” he says. “I’d also like to see more over­seas rep­re­sen­ta­tion in our nom­i­nees, and I think we’re be­gin­ning to see more of that each year. Over­all, as you look at the in­dus­try, four or five ti­tles in the top-10 block­busters of 2013 are an­i­mated. We are also see­ing 2D rep­re­sented in the in­de­pen­dent field. You can see it as a con­tin­uum, a march to­wards a va­ri­ety of topics and styles us­ing new tech­nolo­gies.”

Of course, ad­vance­ments in tech­nol­ogy are also mak­ing it pos­si­ble for ASIFA to stream an edited ver­sion of the awards show on its web­site, only two or three weeks af­ter the ac­tual cer­e­mony. “We will take the show and edit it a lit­tle, cut down the ex­tra long walks to the podi­ums, but we’ll leave all the speeches,” prom­ises Glad­stone. “Ev­ery­one can watch the show at their leisure. We’re also toy­ing with a na­tional broad­cast … some­one is al­ways in­ter­ested in do­ing it, but it’s a com­pli­cated process. One of th­ese years, we’ll do it be­cause there’s in­ter­est in the show from an­i­ma­tion fans all over the world.”

Af­ter all the awards sea­son hoopla set­tles down, it’s all about cel­e­brat­ing the ex­cep­tional work that is done by an­i­ma­tion in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als all year long. “When the An­nie Awards started all those years ago, it was the award that hon­ors our in­dus­try, by our in­dus­try for our in­dus­try,” re­calls Glad­stone. “It’s re­ally about get­ting to see the peo­ple in our field that we don’t get to see on a daily ba­sis. We gather to cel­e­brate the ac­com­plish­ments that we all know are not easy to do at all. That’s why I think the An­nies are im­por­tant and that’s why they have grown so much.”

To learn more about this year’s An­nie Awards, visit www.an­nieawards.org.

Phil Tip­pett Frank Glad­stone Steven Spiel­berg Pa­trick War­bur­ton Kat­suhiro Otomo

Rich Moore won the An­nie for di­rect­ing Wreck-it Ralph last year.

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