Ratatouille Cooks 10-Course Annie Sweep

It wasn’t exactly a big surprise when Brad Bird’s much-loved feature Ratatouille delivered a sweet ten-trophy sweep at the 35th Annual Annie Awards held Friday evening at UCLA’s Royce Hall in Los Angeles, Calif. The Pixar/Disney release, which has grossed over $620 million at the box office worldwide, took home the Best Animated Feature, Directing and Writing Annie (Brad Bird), best music (Michael Giacchino), video game, character animation (Michael Makarewicz), character design (Carter Goodrich), production design (Harley Jessup), storyboarding (Ted Mathot) and voice acting (Ian Holm). You can also count Jim Capobianco’s Best Animated Short subject Your Friend the Rat as part of the film’s overall sweep as the project was produced by the team at Pixar in conjunction with the Ratatouille DVD release.

‘When I was a kid, I used to look at grown-ups and think to myself that I don’t want to be these slow-moving, boring adults,’ said Bird during his acceptance speech. ‘But then I found out that you could be an adult and have these really cool jobs, and being an animator is one of those jobs. I’ve been fortunate to work on these amazing projects’and they all felt like protected guerilla operations’except for Iron Giant‘That was different, we felt like we were naked and running on that one!’ He also thanks his family, his team at Pixar and everyone in the animation community for creating the art that he loves.

Sony Animation’s Surf’s Up managed to snap away two categories away from the Pixar team. The underdog pic’s Deborah Carlson was the winner of the Best Animated Effects Annie and John Clark took home the Best Animation Production Artist for his work on the surfing penguin project.

The trophies were more or less evenly divided in the small-screen categories. Nickelodeon’s El Tigre was voted Best Animated TV Production for Children and Aardman Animation’s short-lived summer TV offering Creature Comforts America nabbed the Best Animated TV Production Annie. ‘When Sandra and I were in the desert in Mexico and dreamt of coming to America, I used to tell her, ‘Someday in America, they will let us make cartoons!” and now it has all paid off,’ joked El Tigre creator Jorge R. Gutierrez who shared the award with co-creator and wife Sandra Equihua and show director Dave Thomas. Guttierez also won the TV Character Design award for his work on the show.

Matt Groening and David X. Cohen provided one of the night’s several references to the writer’s strike as they approached the podium with strike signs to collect their award for Futurama: Bender’s Big Score (Best Home Entertainment Production). Cohen joked that the writers had granted the Annie Awards a waiver for that one category alone. After winning the Annie for Music in an Animated TV production, The Simpsons composer Alf Clausen thanked Groening for using L.A. studio musicians and a 35-piece orchestra for every episode of his long-running show. He was modest as always comparing himself to Elizabeth Taylor’s eighth husband. ‘I know what to do, but I don’t know how to make it interesting!’

After winning the Annie for Writing in an Animated TV Production, scribes Ian Maxtone-Graham and Billy Kimball (The Simpsons: 24 Minutes) thanked Brad Bird for not making Ratatouille: The TV Show and praised him in advance for reading their pitch for the show, which they said would be placed on the windshield of his car later that evening!

The night also included several key emotional moments during the Winsor McCay Award presentations for career contributions. The hugely talented trio of John Canemaker, Glen Keane and John Kricfalusi were this year’s recipients and they each offered heartfelt speeches which addressed their love for the medium and art of animation.

‘I love animation, its glorious past and exciting present and future, and I love all of you,’ said Canemaker, who received the Oscar two years ago for his short The Son and the Moon. Keane thanked Disney studios for allowing him to grow and try his hand at drawing a wild selection of character’from Beast and John Silver to Aladdin, Ariel, Pocahontas and Tarzan. He also tipped his hat to the magic of Disney’s legendary animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. Ren & Stimpy creator Kricfalusi thanked his parents and Ralph Bakshi for teaching him to rebel against authority. ‘I also want to thank Brad Bird for allowing me to participate in his night,’ he joked. ‘We’ve only begun to scratch. I’ll look at this award as a sign of encouragement to keep on scratching!

In addition to the emotional high notes, one of the reasons the Annie Awards have been so memorable in recent years is the show’s hugely talented and likeable host, Tom Kenny (aka the voice of SpongeBob). Not only did he manage to include snappy references to offbeat subjects’from Britney Spears to election robo-calls to airport sex, he also proved to be a beautiful loser. Yes, he lost the TV Voice Acting Annie to Eartha Kitt (The Emperor’s New School), but he and his fellow actors on the show (Bill Fagerbakke, Carolyn Lawrence and Rodger Bumpass) gave us what was arguably the funniest laugh-out-loud five minutes of this or any awards show in recent memory. Seriously, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen the SpongeBob-dubbed versions of Casablanca, Singin’ in the Rain and The Godfather!

Here is a complete list of the winners. For more info, visit.www.anniewards.org

Animated Feature: Ratatouille (Pixar)

Home Ent. Production: Futurama ‘Bender’s Big Score‘ (The Curiousity Co. in assoc with 20th Century Fox

Animated Short Subject: Your Friend the Rat (Pixar)

Animated TV Commercial: Power Shares Escape Average (Acme Filmworks)

Animated TV Production: Creature Comforts America (Aardman Animations)

Animated TV Production for Children: El Tigre (Nickelodeon)

Animated Video Game: Ratatouille (THQ)

Animated Effects: Deborah Carlson, Surf’s Up (Sony Pictures Animation)

Animation Production Artist: John Clark, Surf’s Up (Sony Pictures Animation)

Character Animation in a Feature: Michal Makarewicz, Ratatouille (Pixar)

Character Animation in a TV Production: Eric Towner, Robot Chicken (ShadowMachine)

Character Design in an Animated Feature: Carter Goodrich, Ratatouille (Pixar)

Character Design in an Animated TV Production: Jorge R. Gutierrez, El Tigre, ‘Fistful of Collars’ (Nickelodeon)

Directing in an Animated Feature: Brad Bird, Ratatouille (Pixar)

Directing in an Animated TV Production: Seth Green, Robot Chicken Star Wars (ShadowMachine)

Music in an Animated Feature: Michael Ciacchino, Ratatouille (Pixar)

Music in an Animated TV Production: Alf Clausen and Michael Price, The Simpsons ‘Yokel Chords: (Gracie Films, 20th Century Fox)

Production Design in an Animated Feature: Harley Jessup, Ratatouille (Pixar)

Storyboarding in an Animated Feature: Ted Mathot, Ratatouille (Pixar)

Storyboarding in an Animated TV Production: Steve Fonti, Family Guy ‘No Chris Left Behind (Fox TV Animation, Fuzzy Door Productions)

Voice Acting in an Animated Feature: Ian Holme, Ratatouille (Pixar)

Voice Acting in an Animated TV Production: Eartha Kitt, Emperor’s New School (Disney TV Animation)

Writing in an Animated Feature: Brad Bird, Ratatouille (Pixar)

Writing in an Animated TV Production: Iam Maxtone-Graham & Billy Kimball, The Simpsons, ’24 Minutes’ (Gracie Films)

Winsor McCay Career Contribution Winners: John Canemaker, Glen Keane, John Kricfalusi

June Foray Award: Jerry Beck

Ub Iwerks Technical Achievement Award: Jonathan Gay, Gary Grossman and Robert Tatsumi, the creators of Flash software

Special Achievement Award: Edwin R. Leonard, promoting the Linux open system for animation in studios and gaming software development

Certificates of Merit: Marcus Adams, Joseph Baptista, Steve Gattuso, Jon Reeves, Gemma Ross, Woodbury University