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A Sneak Peek at This Year’s Annie Awards

Voice actor Tom Kenny (SpongeBob SquarePants) and the late actress Cloris Leachman entertained audiences at the 41st Annie Awards. [Photo: David Yeh]

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A Sneak Peek at This Year’s Annie Awards

***This article originally appeared in the May ’21 issue of Animation Magazine (No. 310)***

While Los Angeles begins to loosen its COVID-19 restrictions, the organizers of this year’s Annie Awards are planning an unforgettable virtual edition of the annual event which honors the year’s best animation. The recently announced first batch of presenters promises a lively ceremony, with Josh Gad, Matthew Rhys, Philippa Soo, Eva Whittaker, Michael Giacchino, Sergio Pablos, Jill Culton, Nora Twomey and the cast of Critical Role set to take the “stage.”

“Shifting our awards ceremony to a virtual format has been challenging, but exciting,” says ASIFA-Hollywood president Sue Shakespeare. “It’s given us the opportunity to reimagine how we recognize the fantastic talent intrinsic to our industry and the amazingly creative projects produced by so many.”

Jerry Beck, Sue Shakespeare, Frank Gladstone

Jerry Beck, Sue Shakespeare, Frank Gladstone

Shakespeare, who is also the president of L.A.-based Creative Capers Ent. design and animation studio, promises a virtual ceremony that will be different and new. “It will likely be shorter than a live ceremony, and while there won’t be the terrific parties before and after, it will be heartfelt, funny, moving and representative of our community. A great benefit of going virtual is that more members of our worldwide community will be able to participate.”

As ASIFA-Hollywood exec director Frank Gladstone tells us, “The virtual show will be about 90 minutes long. As anyone who has attended the Annies knows about half an hour of the live show is just people walking to the stage, so that’s why the taped presentation will be shorter.”

Gladstone points out that all 154 of the nominees are sending in recorded acceptance videos while only 31 will actually get the award. He adds, “I have seen some of them already and they are terrific. We also have some animation produced for the show by Six Point Harness and some great graphics by Russell Frazier who helps us out every year.”

Adds Jerry Beck, ASIFA-Hollywood’s vice president, “The Annies will be particularly special this year because we all spent our working hours in our little home studios. The virtual Annies this year give us all a reason to come together to raise a glass of champagne and welcome the return to normalcy.”

Actor Bill Farmer (voice of Goofy) and actress Margaret Kerry (model for Tinker Bell) charmed the audience with their anecdotes at the 2020 Annie Awards. [Photo: David Yeh]

Actor Bill Farmer (voice of Goofy) and actress Margaret Kerry (model for Tinker Bell) charmed the audience with their anecdotes at the 2020 Annie Awards. [Photo: David Yeh]

Since the world came to rely on animation more than ever in 2020, ASIFA received over 2,000 submissions for Annie consideration — a number much higher than previous years. “Early on, we worried that we could see a serious reduction in our voting numbers this year, but that was not the case at all; our membership numbers have remained on par and even nudged up a bit,” Shakespeare points out. “This exemplifies ASIFA-Hollywood’s resilience and strong support from the animation community. This is something we never take for granted.”

One thing that sets the Annies apart from other awards shows is that it has two different best animated feature categories — one dedicated to “studio” releases and the other to indies. Shakespeare says the organization had to re-evaluate how to make this determination this year, because in previous years the distinction was made by the size of theatrical distribution.

“Last year we began accepting streamed-only productions in the independent category, so this year we expanded that to the feature category as well,” explains Shakespeare. “We identified several distinguishing characteristics that would facilitate this determination. Our key parameters included: production budgets, financing ratios and initial language the film is produced in. How we approach this next year and beyond has not been yet codified. It may take a few more years’ experience of what’s going on in the industry, before we can establish our finely adjusted guidelines.”

This year, ASIFA relied on the studios and distributors to submit in the category they felt was most appropriate, with the proviso that the org would have the right to move a project if they thought the submission belonged in the other category. “I’m happy to be able to report that, while this certainly was not an exact science, it worked out well,” says Shakespeare.

Both Shakespeare and Beck point out that it has been a surprisingly good year for animation, despite the fact that theaters were closed for the most part. “It turns out we have a real race, which I admit I wasn’t sure we would 12 months ago,” says Beck. “All the Annie (and Academy) nominees are truly worthy of an award. Who will win? I can’t wait to find out myself.”

Klaus director Sergio Pablos received the Annie for Best Animated Indie feature in 2020. [Photo: David Yeh]

Klaus director Sergio Pablos received the Annie for Best Animated Indie feature in 2020. [Photo: David Yeh]

Outreach, Preservation, Scholarship and More

Despite the pandemic, ASIFA-Hollywood has had a very busy year, presenting 60 events, including screenings, panels and Q&As for its members. As Shakespeare tells us, “While continuing our charitable initiatives through our Animation Aid Foundation, we established a special COVID relief fund to assist our members in need. The Animation Educator’s Forum (AEF) awarded in excess of $50,000 in student scholarships and faculty grants, and we’re currently  initiating a new round for 2021. Through our preservation initiatives, we saved a lost Betty Boop short and were instrumental in facilitating the donation of a major collection of Akira production art into the (AMPAS) Academy Archives. We are also starting a new endeavor with the UCLA Film & TV Archive which will save at least four films this year.

“Finally, as this pandemic year has revealed some of the systemic problems simmering beneath the surface in our country, it has also brought about a recognition of these problems within our own industry. We are considering ways ASIFA can help address these problems, in some tangible, concrete, sustainable way. One early effort was to open our Annie Award nomination judging applications to members outside of ASIFA, inviting Women In Animation, Black N’ Animated, LXiA , Native American and Asian organizations to participate in the process. This year, more than half of our nomination judges were industry members from outside of our general membership.”

For more info about the event, visit annieawards.org. 

48th Annie Awards Best TV/Media: General Audience nominees.

48th Annie Awards Best TV/Media: General Audience nominees.

Major Categories at a Glance

Here are the nominees in some of the major categories of the 48th Annie Awards (find all the nominees listed here):

Best Feature
Onward (Pixar)
Soul (Pixar)
The Croods: A New Age (DreamWorks)
The Willoughbys (Netflix/BRON/Creative Wealth)
Trolls World Tour (DreamWorks)

Best Indie Feature
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (StudioCanal/Aardman/Anton Capital/Netflix)
Calamity Jane (Maybe Movies)
On-Gaku: Our Sound (Rock’n Roll Mountain/Tip Top)
Ride Your Wave (Science SARU)
Wolfwalkers ( Cartoon Saloon/Melusine/Apple/GKIDS)

Best Direction: Features
Calamity Jane (Rémi Chayé)
Over the Moon (Glen Keane)
Ride Your Wave (Masaaki Yuasa)
Soul (Pete Docter, Kemp Powers)
Wolfwalkers (Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart)

Best Special Production
Baba Yaga (Baobab)
Libresse / Bodyform – #WombStories (Chelsea Pictures)
Nixie & Nimbo (Hornet)
Shooom’s Odyssey (Picolo Pictures)
The Snail and the Whale (Magic Light Pictures)

Best Short Subject
Filles Bleues, Peur Blanche (Miyu)
KKUM (Open the Portal)
Souvenir Souvenir (Blast Production)
The Places Where We Live: Cake (FX Productions)
World of Tomorrow Episode Three (Don Hertzfeldt)

Best TV/Media: Preschool
Buddi, “Snow” (Unanico)
Muppet Babies, “Wock-a-bye-Fozzie” (Oddbot/Disney Junior)
Stillwater, “The Impossible Dream/Stuck in the Rain” (Apple/Gaumont/Scholastic)
The Adventures of Paddington, “Paddington Digs a Tunnel to Peru” (Blue-Zoo, Nickelodeon)
Xavier Riddle and the Secret Movie: I Am Madam President (9 Story/ Brown Bag Films)

Best TV/Media: Children
Hilda, “Chapter 9: The Deerfox” (Silvergate, Netflix)
Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, “Finale Part 4: Rise” (Nickelodeon)
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, “Heart Part 2” (DreamWorks)
Star Wars: The Clone Wars, “Shattered” (Lucasfilm Animation)
Victor and Valentino, “The Lonely Haunts Club 3: La Llorona” (Cartoon Network)

Best TV/Media: General Audience
Close Enough, “Logan’s Run’d/Room Parents” (Cartoon Network)
Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal, “Coven of the Damned” (Cartoon Network)
Harley Quinn, “Something Borrowed, Something Green” (Eshugadee Prods, Warner Bros.)
Rick and Morty, “The Vat of Acid Episode” (Rick & Morty LLC)
The Midnight Gospel, “Mouse of Silver” (Titmouse, Netflix)

Best Student Film
100,000 Acres of Pine (Jennifer Alice Wright)
Coffin (Yuanqing Cai, Nathan Crabot, Houzhi Huang, Mikolaj Janiw, Mandimby Lebon, Théo Tran Ngoc)
La Bestia (Marlijn Van Nuenen, Ram Tamez, Alfredo Gerard Kuttikatt)
Latitude du Printemps (Sylvain Cuvillier, Chloé Bourdic, Théophile Coursimault, Noémie Halberstam, Maÿlis Mosny, Zijing Ye)
O Black Hole! (Renee Zhan, Jesse Romain)

Juried Awards
The Winsor McCay Award:
Willie Ito, Sue Nichols and Bruce Smith.

The June Foray Award:
Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi.

The Ub Iwerks Award:
Epic Games for its Unreal Engine

Special Achievement Award
Howard (Directed by Don Hahn)

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