Nemo Sweeps 31st Annie Awards

It was non-stop cheering from the Pixar camp Saturday night as Finding Nemo made good on all nine of its nominations at the 31st annual Annie Awards. The ASIFA-Hollywood event was held at the Alex theater in Glendale, Calif.

In addition to taking the top award for Animated Feature with Nemo, Pixar sewed up the Short Subject category with the Oscar-nominated toon Boundin’, directed by Bud Luckey, character designer and story artist on A Bug’s Life and both Toy Story Movies. Boundin’ beat out Walt Disney Pictures’ Destino, Vinton Studios’ Ananda, Acme Filmworks’ Nibbles and Boys Night out from Bert Klein and Teddy Newton in association with Barley Films.

Nemo director Andrew Stanton was on hand to collect a few of Nemo‘s trophies. Upon accepting the Animated Feature Annie, he commented, "It’s a real honor to be in a category with all these other nominees. The other movies were just outstanding. I want to dedicate this to anybody who’s an artist working in animation. It’s kind of weird times right now. I just want to say kudos to everyone who’s gone out with whatever little influence they have or whatever major influence they have and just tried to make art in the face of such oppressive commerce." Also up for the award were Les Armateurs’ The Triplets of Belleville, Disney’s Brother Bear, Go Fish Pictures’ Millennium Actress and Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes: Back in Action.

As well as sharing the Directing in an Animated Feature award with co-director Lee Unkrich, Stanton joined fellow scribes Bob Peterson and Dave Reynolds on stage to receive the writing kudos. Also accepting awards for Nemo were production designer Ralph Eggleston, character designer Ricky Nierva, composer Thomas Newman, effects animator Martin Nguyen and character animator Doug Sweetland. Ellen DeGeneres took the Voice Acting Annie for her role as Dory in the film. While she was unable to be there, Stanton pretended to call her on his cel phone and relayed to the audience her praises of his directing.

On the television side, The Simpsons was the big winner, garnering the top award for Gracie Films. The show also received Annies for music (Alf Clausen, Ken Keeler, Ian Maxtone-Graham–"Dude, Where’s My Ranch?"), writing (Matt Warburton–"Three Gays of the Condo") and directing (Steven Dean Moore–"’Scuse Me While I Miss the Sky").

Samurai Jack and The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron were also well represented with two Annies each. Jack’s Scott Wills collected the award for production design while teammate Andy Suriano won for character design for his work on "Episode XXXV." Meanwhile, Jimmy Neutron nabbed top honors for Animated Television Production Produced for Children, prompting creator Steve Oedekerk to remark, "I’d like to thank Pixar for not being nominated in this category." Actor Jeff Garcia picked up the show’s second award for the voice role of Sheen Estevez in the special The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Nightmare in Retroville.

The storyboarding team from Disney’s The Jungle Book 2 were left to duke it out amongst themselves in the category of Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production. Sharon Forward won out over teammates and fellow nominees Holly Forsyth, Chris Otsuki and Dave Prince.

The crowd reeled in horror as a hideous goblin lifted up a toe nail and crawled in to spread his fungus. Still, Wild Brain Inc.’s Lamisil spot "It’s Alive" won the Animated Television Commercial award, beating out "Bombay Drift" from Psyop Inc., "Colorado Lottery Woodcut" from Acme Filmworks and "Wisconsin Lottery Casino," also from Acme Filmworks.

Receiving the prestigious Winsor McCay Award this year were Thurl Ravenscroft, Gene Deitch and John Hench.

Ravenscroft, whose long career in animation voice work includes being the first and only voice of Kelloggs’ Tony the Tiger, wasn’t able to attend but presenter and fellow voice actor Will Ryan got the audience to sing "Happy Birthday" to him on tape.

Upon receiving the award, maverick cartoonist and animation director Gene Deitch (The Record Changer, the Oscar-winning short Munro) said, "I don’t have to tell any of you people who are making animated films that there are hundreds of fantastically talented people who have done great things to make me look great. I can’t really thank all of them, but I have to thank my producer for the last 42 years. I secured her services by marrying her."

Sr. VP of Walt Disney Imagineering John Hench, who died of heart failure on Wednesday of last week, received the award posthumously. After receiving a standing ovation, former Walt Disney Co. Chairman Roy E. Disney remarked on the sad but appropriate timing of Hench’s passing, considering he worked with Salvador Dali in the early stages of the short Destino. "We just got back yesterday from Barcelona where we presented the film to the Prince of Spain and the Dali foundation," said Disney. "We got back to the hotel after that showing to find an e-mail [saying] that John had died and I think it was like a circle closing. He must have died sort of knowing that that film finally got to where it belonged."

For a full list of 2003 Annie Awards winners and nominees, visit www.annieawards.org.