Gromit Sweeps Annie Awards

The 33rd Annual Annie Awards turned out to be the Nick Park and Steve Box show as the directors took the stage to accept award after award for their clay-animated feature, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. The DreamWorks/Aardman film completely ran the feature categories, snagging a total of 10 Annies Saturday night at the Alex Theatre in Glendale Calif.

The ever-growing awards ceremony was again hosted by animated actor Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants and other popular cartoon characters. Kenny couldn’t resist taking some expected pop-culture jabs, noting, ‘Last year, SpongeBob was under attack for being gay, and now what’s the biggest movie of the year? Brokeback Mountain. You see? Animation was there first!’ The audience was then treated to the signature ‘I wish I could quit you’ line as spoken by the yellow, absorbent one.

The animation industry’s biggest awards event featured appearances by actor William Shatner (Boston Legal, Over the Hedge), writer/director Brad Bird (The Incredibles, The Iron Giant), actor Craig T. Nelson (The Incredibles, The Family Stone), actor Jason Alexander (Seinfeld, The Hunchback of Notre Dame) and TV toon creator Seth McFarlane (Family Guy, American Dad). A number of other Tinsel Town luminaries handed out trophies for the year’s best animation before a packed house of industry insiders.

An overwhelming number of those golden zoetropes are headed across the pond to Bristol, England, home of Aardman Animations. In addition to the top feature award, Wallace & Gromit garnered kudos for animated effects (Jason Wen), character animation (Claire Billett), character design (Nick Park), directing (Nick Park, Steve Box), music (Julian Nott), production design (Phil Lewis), storyboarding (Bob Persichetti), voice acting (Peter Sallis) and writing (Steve Box, Nick Park, Bob Baker, Mark Burton).

Upon accepting the writing award, Park quipped, ‘I’d like to thank the folks at DreamWorks for their copious notes. Your notes were like, how should I put it, fresh manure on our vegetables.’ The three-time Oscar winner made sure to clarify his remark later as he accepted the voice acting award for Wallace voicer Peter Sallis, whom Park referred to as ‘a warm pair of slippers in a very uncertain world.’

The Wallace & Gromit directors were called up so many times that Kenny joked, ‘We’re having a diamond land to the stage put in just for Nick Park.’ Park seemed almost embarrassed by the sweep. ‘I’m really sorry about this,’ he said as he accepted the Best Animated Feature award. ‘I want to feel really proud of this, but I’m really humbled to be among all these wonderful nominees.’ Box added, ‘When Nick asked me to co-direct this film, it took me exactly 4 frames to say yes!’

Pixar Animation Studio didn’t have a film in contention this year, but its merger with Disney was, of course, a hot button for host Kenny, who quipped, ‘I want to thank Bob Iger for bringing jobs back to Disney’Steve Jobs, that is. You can use an iMac to update your resumes.’

A Certificate of Merit was presented to Larry Loc, director of Dream on Silly Dreamer, a documentary about the demise of Disney’s 2D studios and the many talented artist who found themselves unemployed. ‘I dedicate this award to all of the out-of-work animators out there,’ Loc declared, drawing thunderous applause. ‘Let’s get these people working again.’

Bill Plympton’s The Fan and the Flower from Atomic Television and Plymptoons Prods. took Best Animated Short Subject. Known for his edgy animation style and penchant for comic gore, Plympton remarked, ‘Everyone expected the old lady to get her head cut off by the fan, but (writer) Dan O’Shannon said to keep it cool, keep it romantic.’

The award for Best Animated Television Production went to Cartoon Network’s Star Wars: Clone Wars II, a micro-series directed by Samurai Jack creator Genndy Tartakovsky. The rest of the TV kudos were evenly divided among Cartoon Network, FOX and Nickelodeon. Cartoon Network’s Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends picked up a pair for music (James L. Venable) and production design (Phil Lewis), while Fox’s Family Guy was recognized with trophies for creator Seth McFarlane’s voice acting and Peter Shin’s directing. Nickelodoen’s popular anime-inspired series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, won for storyboarding while the network’s SpongeBob SquarePants earned the writing award for C.H. Greenblatt, Paul Tibbitt, Mike Bell and Tim Hill.

Windsor McCay Award recipient Fred Crippen recalled how legendary toon studio UPA served as his animation school and how he would stay late at night to work on pencil tests. Before leaving the podium, he stated, ‘I’m a damn good animator and designer, and I can animate and design as well as I ever could. That’s my pitch, anyway.’

Also accepting the juried Windsor McCay Award this year was Cornelius (Corny) Cole III, of whom June Foray Award winner Mark Kausler said, ‘If animation is art on film, then Corny is our poster boy.’ Currently a faculty member in the animation department at California Institute for the Arts, Cole worked in the animation industry for more than 50 years and counts among his credits Disney’s Lady and the Tramp, Chuck Jones’ Gay Purr-ee and The Phantom Tollbooth and the Academy Award-winning short Is it Right to be Right?

‘My heart hasn’t beat like this since I met my wife,’ remarked felly Windsor McCay honoree Tyrus Wong, who lamented never meeting Walt Disney during the three years he worked as a designer on Bambi. ‘Walt, I call on you now,’ he said, ‘You must be floating around here somewhere.’

Other 2005 Annie Award Winners:

Best Home Entertainment Production

Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch has a Glitch

DisneyToon Studios

Best Animated Television Production

United Airlines ‘Mr. Pants’

Acme Filmworks

Best Animated Video Game

Ultimate Spider-Man

Activision/Treyarch

Ub Iwerks Award for Technical Acheivement

Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride