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Annie Awards Spread Around the Love

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Disney won the best animated feature award for Frozen.
Disney won the best animated feature award for Frozen.
At the annual Annie Awards, celebrating the finest in animated work in films, television and other media, many companies shared in the new-found wealth.  While in earlier years, the Annies served as a battleground between stalwarts DreamWorks and Disney, at the 2014 awards, held in its usual spot at UCLA’s Royce Hall, a horde of companies and individuals accepted the onstage accolades in this steadfastly emerging facet of the entertainment industry.

Within Disney itself, still largely regarded as the crown prince of animation companies, there are now several factions creating works for film and TV.  In point, while Walt Disney Animation Studios won the coveted best animated feature award for its wildly successful film Frozen, artists in other areas in the company took home awards for preschool TV animation, character design in a TV production, and directing for television.  This diversification has not diluted Disney’s former dominance in the animation arena; in fact, Disney, in addition to full-length features, now produces short films, traditionally animated films, computer-graphics-based films (including its coveted Pixar division in addition to other divisions), television films and series, and even releases competing foreign animated projects, all of which garnered recognition at the Annies in the form of awards in various categories.

DreamWorks won awards for the character design and character animation in The Croods.
DreamWorks won awards for the character design and character animation in The Croods.
Moreover, while DreamWorks was well-represented with awards from its 2013 centerpiece film, The Croods, many additional companies garnered awards, including Illumination Entertainment, Blue Sky Studios, Industrial Light + Magic, Weta Digital, Nickelodeon Animation Studio, 20th Century Fox TV, Moonbot Studios and others.  Surely, every major feature film studio has either directly created or partnered with an outside animation facility in the production of original animated content, and with good reason.  Where animated feature films faced a serious decline in production in the 1970s and 1980s, after the hand-drawn animated Disney explosion beginning with Oliver and Company in 1988 and continuing on an unprecedented run thereafter, most notably with The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King and others, the entire industry was put on notice as to the box office potential of well-made animated work.  Combined with the equally if not superior Pixar run of the mid-1990s till the present, animation became a presence on par with, if not more potent than, live-action studio films.  Even though animation operations are still considered a separate entity at most major studios, the pioneering box office returns of the aforementioned films has unquestionably raised the recent level of respect animation has received in the industry.

20th Century Fox Television won best animated TV/broadcast production for Futurama.
20th Century Fox Television won best animated TV/broadcast production for Futurama.
Of note, Frozen, which also won awards for directing, music, production design, and voice acting, has already broken records as of the Annies, with a release in China still to come.  With a domestic take of $360 million to date, Frozen is the 26th all-time earner after less than three months in release, with only five animated films having grossed higher amounts thus far.  The aforementioned Lion King and 2013’s Despicable Me 2 (whose only 2014 win was for a TV commercial) are the only non-Pixar/DreamWorks animated films still ahead of Frozen, making the latter an unqualified smash and one of the most successful animated projects ever created.

Across the aisle, Pixar’s Monsters University, part of a run of Pixar sequels in recent years, did win for editorial and storyboarding but was not recognized on par with its parent company’s prize of the year.  Not nearly a clean sweep for Frozen, the Annies also recognized Disney’s competitor DreamWorks which won awards for character design and character animation in The Croods.

In television, the grand prize went to Futurama which airs on Comedy Central but is owned by 20th Century Fox, having been created by Fox’s secret weapon, Matt Groening.  Outsourced to Rough Draft Studios in Glendale, California, Futurama, now in its 10th season, at its peak employs 70 people to create episodes of the comedy show.

Gertie the Dinosaur
Gertie the Dinosaur
In a unique category, the Certificate of Merit went to the documentary I Know That Voice, a feature-length project which pays homage to legendary voice-over artists, many of whom are physically unrecognizable to the general public but whose voices grace many beloved animated productions.

Among the Annies’ most touching moments was a heartfelt tribute given to Alice Davis who had designed costumes for Disney in everything from its classic feature films to Disneyland rides.  Making the moment especially poignant, Davis’ June Foray award was actually presented by longtime voice actress Foray, now 96. Known as The Cartoon Queen, Foray was instrumental in the very creation of the Annie Awards.

Additional lifetime achievements, The Winsor McCay Award, were given to animation director Katsuhiro Otomo, producer and advocate Steven Spielberg, and stop-motion and computer-generated animation forerunner Phil Tippett.

Rounding out the three-hour evening was a tribute to McCay himself who 100 years ago wrote, animated, produced and directed the landmark short film Gertie the Dinosaur.  A friendly animated brontosaurus, Gertie was one of the first films to show audiences that the new medium of cinema had infinite possibilities, and that animation, in equal stead to live action, could entertain movie audiences.

The winners of the 41st Annie Awards are:

Production Categories

Best Animated Feature
Frozen, Walt Disney Animation Studios

Annie Award for Best Animated Special Production
Chipotle “Scarecrow,” Chipotle Creative Department, Moonbot Studios

Best Animated Short Subject
Get A Horse!, Walt Disney Animation Studios

Best Animated TV/Broadcast Commercial
Despicable Me 2, Cinemark, Universal Pictures

Best General Audience Animated TV/Broadcast Production For Preschool Children
Disney Sofia the First, Disney Television Animation

Best Animated TV/Broadcast Production For Children’s Audience
Adventure Time, Cartoon Network Studios

Best General Audience Animated TV/Broadcast Production
Futurama, 20th Century Fox Television

Best Animated Video Game
The Last of Us, Naughty Dog

Best Student Film
Wedding Cake, Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg – Viola Baier, Iris Frisch

Individual Achievement Categories

Animated Effects in an Animated Production
Jeff Budsberg, Andre Le Blanc, Louis Flores, Jason Mayer
The Croods, DreamWorks Animation

Animated Effects in a Live Action Production
Michael Balog, Ryan Hopkins, Patrick Conran, Florian Witzel
Pacific Rim, Industrial Light & Magic

Character Animation in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production
Kureha Yokoo
Toy Story OF TERROR!, Pixar Animation Studios

Character Animation in an Animated Feature Production
Jakob Jensen
The Croods, DreamWorks Animation

Character Animation in a Live Action Production
Jeff Capogreco, Jedrzej Wojtowicz, Kevin Estey, Alessandro Bonora, Gino Acevedo
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Gollum, Weta Digital

Character Design in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production
Paul Rudish
Disney Mickey Mouse, Disney Television Animation

Character Design in an Animated Feature Production
Carter Goodrich, Takao Noguchi, Shane Prigmore
The Croods, DreamWorks Animation

Directing in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production
Angus MacLane
Toy Story OF TERROR!, Pixar Animation Studios

Directing in an Animated Feature Production
Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Frozen, Walt Disney Animation Studios

Music in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production
Christopher Willis
Disney Mickey Mouse, Disney Television Animation

Music in an Animated Feature Production
Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez, Christophe Beck,
Frozen, Walt Disney Animation Studios

Production Design in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production
Angela Sung, William Niu, Christine Bian, Emily Tetri, Frederic Stewart
The Legend of Korra, Nickelodeon Animation Studio

Production Design in an Animated Feature Production
Michael Giaimo, Lisa Keene, David Womersley
Frozen, Walt Disney Animation Studios

Storyboarding in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production
Daniel Chong
Toy Story of TERROR!, Pixar Animation Studios

Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production
Dean Kelly
Monsters University, Pixar Animation Studios

Voice Acting in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production
Tom Kenny as the voice of Ice King
Adventure Time, Cartoon Network Studios

Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production
Josh Gad as the voice of Olaf
Frozen, Walt Disney Animation Studios

Writing in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production
Lewis Morton
Futurama, 20th Century Fox Television

Writing in an Animated Feature Production
Hayao Miyazaki
The Wind Rises, Studio Ghibli/Touchstone Pictures/The Walt Disney Studios

Editorial in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production
Illya Owens
Disney Mickey Mouse, Disney Television Animation

Editorial in an Animated Feature Production
Greg Snyder, Gregory Amundson, Steve Bloom
Monsters University, Pixar Animation Studios

JURIED AWARDS

Winsor McCay Award – Katsuhiro Otomo, Steven Spielberg & Phil Tippett

June Foray – Alice Davis

Ub Iwerks – Dragonframe

Special Achievement – Creative Talent Network (CTN) Animation eXpo

Certificate of MeritI Know That Voice (Documentary)

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