The Annies’ Special Honorees
The drama of the ceremony may be fleeting, but the work of those honored with juried awards will live on.
Winsor McCay Awards Presented in recognition for career contributions to the art of animation. A veteran of 45 years in animation, Dale Baer’s influence on animation is greatly underrated. Breaking in at Disney via its then-new training program, Baer earned a reputation as one of the studio’s most thoughtful animators, bringing to life comic characters on features ranging from Robin Hood and The Rescuers to The Lion King, Frozen, Zootopia and Moana. Outside Disney, he worked for Ralph Bakshi, headed up the L.A. unit on Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and had his own company, which was renowned for its work on commercials. He won an Annie is 2001 for Best Animation for the characters Yzma and Yzma Kitty in Disney’s The Emperor’s New Clothes. Caroline Leaf is known for emotional and graphic animated films, as well as for the unusual hand-crafted animation techniques she developed to make them. She studied animation at Radcliffe College in the late 1960s under Derek Lamb, and her early films earned her an invitation to come to Montreal and work with the National Film Board of Canada. There, she made such renowned films as The Owl Who Married a Goose (1974); the Oscar-nominated The Street (1976); The Metamorphosis of Mr. Samsa (1977), adapted from Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis; Interview (1979); and Two Sisters/ Entre Deux Soeurs (1990), an original story etched in the layers of 70mm film emulsion. Leaf has made a small number of commercial animations, working with Studio Pascal Blais in Montreal, and Acme Filmworks in Los Angeles, with which she created a short film commissioned by the Underground Railroad National Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. Few filmmakers have had as much impact on anime as Mamoru Oshii, director of the global smash hit feature Ghost in the Shell. A graduate of Tokyo Gakugei University, Oshii started his career in television, directing and storyboarding the Urusei Yatsura TV series and films at Studio Pierrot. In the late 1980s, he joined the filmmaking group Headgear, directing the popular mecha TV series and movies Patlabor. Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, the sequel to the 1995 original, became the first — and to date only — anime to compete for the Palme d’Or at Cannes. His other recent films include The Sky Crawlers (2008), and some live-action projects. He also has written numerous novels, screenplays and manga.
Ub Iwerks Award Presented to people or companies for technical advancements that make a significant impact on the art or industry of animation. Google Spotlight’s Virtual Reality Platform — through its Spotlight Stories projects — has been the clearest example of the technology’s impact on animation, creating cinema-quality immersive 360-degree video technology for Android and iOS phones. The first project created for the technology was Windy Day, directed by Jan Pinkava. It was followed by Duet, created by Glen Keane and nominated for an Oscar in the Animated Short category. Other hit projects include Shannon Tindle’s On Ice, Felix Massie’s Rain or Shine and Patrick Osborne’s Pearl, which is nominated for a Best Animated Short Film Oscar this year. Headed by Pinkava, Karen Dufilho-Rosen, and filmmaker Justin Lin, Google Spotlight points the way for the future of animation in virtual reality.
Special Achievement Award Presented to people, companies or projects for outstanding achievement in animation not recognized by other Annie Award categories. Based on journalist Ron Suskind’s book, Roger Ross Williams’ documentary about the life of Owen Suskind, who was unable to speak as a child until he and his family discovered a unique way to communicate by immersing themselves in the world of classic Disney animated films, is a touching example of how animation can communicate in profound ways.
June Foray Award Presented to people who have made a significant and benevolent or charitable impact on the art and industry of animation. Bill and Sue Kroyer have both had long careers in animation and are renowned for their benevolent and public-spirited influence within the industry. Both worked at Disney, where Bill saw the future of computer animation while working on the 1982 feature Tron. In 1986, the Kroyers left Disney and founded Kroyer Films, one of the first studios to combine computer and handdrawn animation, creating projects like the short Technological Threat, and the feature film FernGully: The Last Rainforest. Bill Kroyer is a governor of the Short Films and Feature Animation Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and also serves as co-chairman of the Academy’s Science & Technology Council. He is the director of the Digital Arts Program at the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman University. Susan is a lecturer at Dodge.
Certificates of Merit Presented to people or organizations for service to the art, craft and industry of animation. Ezeh is the ASIFA-Hollywood volunteer coordinator. Perkovac is ASIFA-Hollywood’s office manager.
74th annual Golden Globes Best Motion Picture — Animated: Zootopia 28th annual Producers Guild
Awards Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures: Zootopia, producer: Clark Spencer Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television: James L. Brooks ( The Simpsons) Visionary Award: Party, Dogs) 67th annual ACE Eddie Awards Best Edited Animated Feature Film: Zootopia, Fabienne Rawley & Jeremy Milton 64th Motion Picture Sound
Editors Golden Reel Best Sound Editing — Feature Animation — nominees” Finding Dory Kubo and the Two Strings Moana The Little Prince Zootopia Sing The Red Turtle Best Sound Editing — Feature Musical — nominees Florence Foster Jenkins La La Land Moana Sing Street Trolls Best Sound Editing — Direct to Video Animation — Nominees Batman: Bad Blood LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League — Cosmic Clash LEGO DC Comics Superheroes: Justice League — Gotham City Breakout Open Season: Scared Silly Space Dogs: Adventure to the Moon 53rd annual Cinema Audio
Society Awards Motion Picture — Animated — Nominees Finding Dory Kubo and the Two Strings Moana The Secret Life of Pets Zootopia
IFollowing traditional principles and pushing yourself beyond perceived limits quickly overcomes a static performance and staleness.
n the age of über-computers, photorealistic effects in film, flawless motion capture and CG stunt doubles that are sometimes hard to spot, even with a veteran’s eye, the need to rekindle traditional animation principles becomes even more important.
One of the biggest, most instantly recognizable shortcomings in character animation is the lack of traditional principles. Aside from the beautiful hand-sketched line work of the old masterpieces, perhaps one of the most appealing qualities of traditional animation was the fact that everything on the screen had pliable volumes. When a tiger turned its head, there were slight deviations in perspective and in the overall form of the tiger simply because artists drew these cels with their own hands, not their CPUs. Characters elongated and shortened whenever they performed strong actions to emphasize their pose and attitude. Even a character’s face would squash and stretch based on their emotion. That was one of the true beauties of this art form. In the CG world, by default, all volumes are perfect. A sphere is a perfect sphere, a box is a perfect box, and a character retains perfect form and volume from every angle unless it is rigged and animated to do otherwise.
Too often, squash and stretch is neglected with today’s character animation. Check your own work to make sure this traditional principle abounds. Not only in global volumes (such as a character’s body when it jumps and lands), but in the character’s head and face when it talks, changes expression, or even looks around. Study the old cartoons and you’ll see how abundantly this was used. You may be surprised how far you can push this principle before it feels like too much. Without squash and stretch, a character can come off as flat, plastic or mechanical. Characters should exude an elastic reality, one where they are able to shift their form and volume to emphasize a movement, pose or emotion well beyond what physics in the real world would dictate.
Push the Envelope If your character animation seems to be lacking something, that joie de vivre that you just can’t seem to put your finger on, try rigging your characters to allow a much greater range of motion and extreme facial expres- sions than you think necessary. Chances are you are not pushing your poses and phonemes far enough and not incorporating enough traditional animation principles. You really need to stretch your comfort zone well beyond current boundaries, even if it feels like you’re going too far. Exaggerate everything from poses to timing to squash and stretch to facial expressions and more. Once you recoil and take a few steps back from these new too-far limits, you will still be much further from the previous point of stagnation and quite possibly end up at the perfect spot.
Additionally, if your character is rigged to accommodate extreme facial expressions and body positions without breaking, you are virtu- ally guaranteed that anything within the realm of normalcy will function flawlessly.
With many CG tools available today and countless ways to rig a character for animation, the tendency is to over-engineer a rig and add as many limits and restrictions as possible. Because, hey, if a person’s arm can’t rotate a certain way in reality or if a person’s elbow should probably not be able to hyper-extend, by golly, that’s how the character should be rigged for animation. Wrong. A character should be set up to have abilities and a range of motion far beyond an actor in the real world. Instead of making it a game to see how many limitations can be placed on a character rig, why not flip the script and see how many limitations can be lifted? Let the animator decide how far they want to push their character as opposed to requiring them to work within predefined limits established by a rigger. Sure, the animation needs to be consistent regarding style and quality established by a director, but character rigs should be created to empower the animator, not inhibit them. When your character animation feels stale or when you simply want to boost your quality, refer to the traditional animation principles and see which ones you’re missing.
Regardless of how far technology has come, the best examples of character animation tend to be the ones that best use the most traditional principles. [ Martin Grebing is president of Funnybone Animation and can be reached via www. funnyboneanimation.com.