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Annie Awards: A Celebration of Excellence in Animation

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Animated nominee Up
Pixar's Up picked up Best Animated Feature at the Annie Awards
The 37th annual Annies, the awards given to excellence in animation by the International Animated Film Society/ASIFA, provided a celebratory if somewhat insular presentation at UCLA’s Royce Hall on Feb. 6.

23 achievement awards from 2009 projects were dispensed for categories including Best Animated Feature Film, for Pixar’s Up, Best Animated Television Production, for Walt Disney Animation StudiosPrep and Landing, and other awards for animation in TV commercials, Home Entertainment projects, writing and directing achievements, and various specific aspects of animation production.

In fact, the Annies get very specific, awarding their own just as live-action films do in the Academy Awards, including an award for Best Animated Effects, Production Design, and Character Animation, which are analogous to crafts such as makeup, costumes, visual effects, and other design awards at the Oscars.

William Shatner proved an amiably wry host, bringing the streamlined ceremonies in at about an hour-and-twenty minutes.  Some celebrities were on site, including actors Clancy Brown and John Leguizamo, but the evening was mostly centered around the key craftspeople and talent within the animation community.  If there were a criticism to be found, it would be that many of animation’s usual suspects dominated the awards.  Of the 23 awards, more than half were won by stalwart studios Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks.  Other companies garnering acclaim included Laika, 20th Century Fox and Nickelodeon.  That left room for only two awards going to smaller independent productions.

Several lifetime achievement awards were offered, including one to an absentee Tim Burton who videoed in a bizarrely appropriate Japanese horror-spoof acceptance speech.  DreamWorks founder and animation advocate Jeffrey Katzenberg gave a pre-written speech in which he honored the craft of animation and discussed the passionate work done at DreamWorks Animation, which is easily the most successful and longest lasting of all of the DreamWorks operations. A handsome video retrospective of the late Roy Disney honored one of animations longtime advocates.  Also, Pixar vice president of creative development and particle systems pioneer William T. Reeves was given a lifetime technical achievement for his creation of key computer graphics technologies.  His research led to the development of new possibilities in animation, first realized in the “genesis effect” in 1982’s Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.   He later discussed how he started at the pre-Pixar Lucasfilm Computer Graphics Group in 1979.

In the post-awards tent, Coraline director Henry Selick discussed his departure from Laika Studios in Portland and his goal of moving his operations back to the Bay Area.  Meanwhile, Laika is prepping their next film, though all details were being kept secretive.  Even Laika investor and Nike founder Phil Knight was on-hand, though he noted that the next project after the current one would be 18-months away.  When asked if he was on the lookout for new projects and Nike clients, he simply said, “Always!”

Humble and genuine, winner for Character Animation in a Feature Production for The Princess and the Frog, Eric Goldberg spoke of his traditional hand-drawn craft, somewhat lost in the frenzy of computer-generated animation.  Of his beloved work, Goldberg noted, “It’s still very special; I hope that it doesn’t die.”

AwardOMeter

Venue: Royce Hall, like most of UCLA, is aging, but still stately and comfortable.

Parking: Lot 5 was adjacent to the event, but this reporter parked in Lot 4, which was marked for Royce Hall, leading to UCLA’s notorious 100-step walk to the event.

Tickets: $25 for the general public.

Seating: Nominees were seated in the orchestra while others could sit in general admission in the balcony, in welcomed proximity to the stage.

Attendance: With a capacity of 1833 seats, Royce Hall was about 90% full.

Food: The organization inside the food tent was chaotic, overcrowded, and random at first, but was all worth the wait, with tasty shrimp and calamari marinara, mini-pita pockets, and a superb dessert table with miniature-lemon meringue pies.

Swag: Nada

Program: Handsomely and basically produced with several informative articles and a healthy description of each nominee and his/her work.

Crowd: Lots of enthusiastic passionate animators eager to discuss their craft including upcoming projects – notable was co-director of How to Train Your Dragon Dean DeBlois who spoke of the rapid 18-month turnaround of his DreamWorks film.

Start Time: 7:05PM

End Time: 9:25PM

Overall Score: 8/10

37th Annual Annie Award Recipients

Best Animated Feature
Up, Pixar Animation Studios

Best Home Entertainment Production
Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder, The Curiosity Company in association with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Best Animated Short Subject
Robot Chicken: Star Wars 2.5, ShadowMachine

Best Animated Television Commercial
Spanish Lottery, “Deportees”, Acme Filmworks, Inc.

Best Animated Television Production
Prep and Landing, ABC Family/Walt Disney Animation Studios

Best Animated Television Production for Children
The Penguins of Madagascar, Nickelodeon and DreamWorks Animation

Animated Effects
James Mansfield, The Princess and the Frog, Walt Disney Animation Studios

Character Animation in a Television Production
Phillip To, Monsters vs. Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space, DreamWorks Animation

Character Animation in a Feature Production
Eric Goldberg, The Princess and the Frog, Walt Disney Animation Studios

Character Design in a Television Production
Bill Schwab, Prep and Landing, Walt Disney Animation Studios

Character Design in a Feature Production
Shane Prigmore, Coraline, Laika

Directing in a Television Production
Bret Haaland, The Penguins of Madagascar – Launchtime, Nickelodeon and DreamWorks Animation

Directing in a Feature Production
Pete Docter, Up, Pixar Animation Studios

Music in a Television Production
Guy Moon, The Fairly OddParents: “Wishology-The Big Beginning,” Nickelodeon

Music in a Feature Production
Bruno Coulais, Coraline, Laika

Production Design in a Television Production
Andy Harkness, Prep and Landing, Walt Disney Animation Studios

Production Design in a Feature Production
Tadahiro Uesugi, Coraline, Laika

Storyboarding in a Television Production
Robert Koo, Merry Madagascar, DreamWorks Animation

Storyboarding in a Feature Production
Tom Owens, Monsters vs. Aliens, DreamWorks Animation

Voice Acting in a Television Production
Tom Kenny, Voice of SpongeBob, SpongeBob SquarePants, Truth or Square, Nickelodeon

Voice Acting in a Feature Production
Jen Cody, Voice of Charlotte, The Princess and the Frog, Walt Disney Animation Studios

Writing in a Television Production
Daniel Chun, The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror XX, Gracie Films

Writing in a Feature Production
Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach, Fantastic Mr. Fox, 20th Century Fox

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