Hangin’ with the Cool Kids

Dedicated to honoring the year’s greatest toon achievements, the 37th Annual Annie Awards promise to offer lots of laughs, cool celeb sightings and some way-out-of-the-left-field surprises.

Critics of awards shows often rant about the fact that there are way too many of them around, but the animation community is always pleased that ASIFA-Hollywood plans a wonderful evening around the annual Annie Awards. After all, where else can a fantastic indie effort like Cartoon Saloon’s The Secret of Kells, which flies under the radar of most other big studio-promoted shows, get some much-deserved recognition?

This year’s feature category is dominated by Henry Selick’s Coraline (Laika, Focus Features), which is leading the race with 10 nominations, followed closely by Peter Docter’s Up (Disney/Pixar) with nine nominations and Ron Clements and John Musker’s The Princess and the Frog (Disney) with eight. The three films are all in the running for Best Animated Feature along with Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (Sony), Tomm Moore’s The Secret of Kells (Cartoon Saloon) and Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox (Fox Searchlight).

Coraline leads the feature race with 10 nominations.

‘It’s been one of the most amazing years for animation in recent memory,’ says Antran Manoogian, the man who has been ASIFA-Hollywood’s hard-working president for the past 20 years. ‘Along with all the CG-animated releases, we have also seen quite a few stop-motion movies, and with projects such as Princess and the Frog and Secret of Kells we are also witnessing a return to the traditional 2D animation. It signals an interesting development in our field which many are hoping will be the way things will be in the years ahead as well.’

Since last year, there were a few feathers ruffled about the way the winners were determined by the general ASIFA membership, Manoogian notes that the voting procedure was changed slightly to reflect this concern. ‘The nomination procedure is the same, but the general membership will be only voting in the production categories, not the individual ones,’ he notes. ‘This year, special selection committees will be determining the individual category winners. The fact of the matter is that the Annies have evolved to a point where the entire entertainment community is looking at them as the award given by the animation industry. So we are addressing that issue by looking at our voting and selection process very carefully and making more changes in the years ahead as well.’

Another interesting development about this year’s award was that six titles were nominated in the Best Feature category. ‘The committee said that they couldn’t narrow the field down to five films in all fairness,’ says Manoogian. ‘They petitioned the board to get six films on the ballot.’

In the TV categories, Nickelodon had the most nods with 12 nominations, including Best Animated TV Production for Children nominees SpongeBob SquarePants, The Mighty B! and Penguins of Madagascar. However, the goods were evenly distributed so that a wide range of small-screen favorites’from Cartoon Network’s The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack and Disney’s Prep and Landing all received recognition.

According to Manoogian, a lot of work is going into making the actual awards ceremony a fun and entertaining way to spend a few hours with the animation community. A champagne reception is planned for 5 p.m. and the show will begin at 7 p.m., an hour earlier than usual since it’s a Saturday night. At press time, there was no word on whether the show would be hosted by the dynamic and hilarious Tom Kenny (Mr. SpongeBob SquarePants himself) as it has been for the past few years.

Great to be Nominated

Here are some of the Annie nominees in the top production & juried categories:

Best Animated Feature:

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs ‘ Sony Pictures Animation

Coraline ‘ Laika

Fantastic Mr. Fox ‘ 20th Century Fox

The Princess and the Frog ‘ Walt Disney Animation Studios

The Secret of Kells ‘ Cartoon Saloon

Up ‘ Pixar Animation Studios

Best Home Entertainment Production:

Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas ‘ Universal Animation Studios

’ Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder ‘ The Curiosity Company in association with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

’ Green Latern: First Flight ‘ Warner Bros. Animation

Open Season 2 ‘ Sony Pictures Animation

SpongeBob vs. The Big One ‘ Nickelodeon

Best Animated Short Subject:

Pups of Liberty ‘ Picnic Pictures

Robot Chicken: Star Wars 2.5 ‘ ShadowMachine

Santa, The Fascist Years ‘ Plymptoons

The Rooster, the Crocodile and the Night Sky ‘ Barley Films

’ The Story of Walls ‘ Badmash Animation Studios

Best Animated TV Production:

’ Glenn Martin, DDS ‘ Torante, Cuppa Coffee Studios & Rogers Communications

’ Merry Madagascar ‘ DreamWorks Animation

Prep and Landing ‘ ABC Family/Walt Disney Animation Studios

’ The Simpsons ‘ Gracie Films

Best Animated TV Production for Children:

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse ‘ Disney Television Animation

SpongeBob SquarePants ‘ Nickelodeon

The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack ‘ Cartoon Network Studios

The Mighty B! ‘ Nickelodeon/Polka Dot Pictures/Paper Kite Productions

’ The Penguins of Madagascar ‘ Nickelodeon and DreamWorks Animation

Winsor McCay Award: Tim Burton, Bruce Timm, Jeffrey Katzenberg

June Foray Award: Tom Sito

Ub Iwerks Award: William T. Reeves

Special Achievement: Martin Meunier and Brian McLean

Certificate of Merit: Myles Mikulic, Danny Young and Michael Woodside

The 37th Annual Annie Awards are scheduled for Saturday, February 6, 2010 at UCLA’s Royce Hall in Los Angeles, California. For more info and to buy tickets, visit www.annieawards.org