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Award Season Focus

‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’ and Mickey Mouse Shorts Dominate Annie Awards

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After a difficult week for DreamWorks in which they announced the largest layoff ever, the studio dominated the Annie Awards tonight. Their film How to Train Your Dragon 2 won the Annie Award for best feature film, which now sets it up as the favorite to win the Oscar.

Dragon 2 also picked up five other honors, including directing (Dean DeBlois), character animation (Fabio Lignini) and music (John Powell and Jónsi).

A number of other features took home one or two awards apiece. The LEGO Movie won best writing (Phil Lord and Chris Miller), The Book of Life won character design (Paul Sullivan, Sandra Equihua, Jorge R. Gutierrez), Big Hero 6 won animated effects (Michael Kaschalk, Peter DeMund, David Hutchins, Henrik Falt, John Kosnik), and The Boxtrolls won production design (Paul Lasaine, Tom McClure, August Hall), and voice acting (Sir Ben Kingsley).

On the TV side, Disney’s Mickey Mouse shorts dominated the voting categories with a surprising six wins. Also, The Simpsons won best general audience TV program, Gravity Falls won TV program for children, Tumble Leaf won TV program for preschool. The latter series, which was produced for Amazon, marks the first time that an Internet streaming series has won a TV prize at the Annies.

Disney’s latest short Feast, directed by Patrick Osborne, won the short subject category, while Jason Rayner’s My Big Brother, a film from Savannah College of Art and Design, won the best student film. My Big Brother premiered online last year as one of the winners of Cartoon Brew’s Student Animation Festival.

The thing that perhaps stood out most to me as I watched the ceremony via livestream was the near complete absence of women from the stage. More women actually presented awards than accepted them as winners. Among the forty-four winners of awards in the individual achievement and juried categories, 41 of them were men (93%).

Yes, a greater percentage of men work in animation, but the divide is not nearly so great as suggested by the imbalance at tonight’s awards. To put it another way, the Annie Award voters felt that just three women made exemplary contributions to animation throughout all of 2014. There’s simply no defense for this kind of patriarchy in our industry.

But it’s not just the lack of women that caused a raised eyebrow. Only two of the 44 individual/juried winners appeared to be Hispanic (and those two were a husband-and-wife team winning the same award) and zero winners were African-American. This isn’t about political correctness; it’s about the basic expectation that all the work created in the industry will be considered and that the finest work will be rewarded, regardless of its creator’s ethnicity or gender. The animation industry that I know is far more diverse and vibrant than the select group of people who were recognized tonight.

The point about the industry’s diversity was made most poignantly by Lee Mendelson, one of the Winsor McCay award honorees. Mendelson, who produced all of the classic Charlie Brown TV specials, made a plea for immigration reform during his speech, pointing out that the Peanuts specials would have never happened without Bill Melendez, the Mexican-born director of Peanuts animation. Mendelson also gave a shout-out to veteran animator Phil Roman, the Mexican-American animator whose studio, Film Roman, produced The Simpsons for many years.

A complete list of winners is below:

PRODUCTION CATEGORIES

Best Animated Feature

  • How to Train Your Dragon 2 – DreamWorks Animation

Best Animated Special Production

  • Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey – Voyager Pictures LLC

Best Animated Short Subject

  • Feast
- Walt Disney Animation Studios

Best Animated TV/Broadcast Commercial

  • Flight of the Stories – Aardman Animations

Best General Audience Animated TV/Broadcast Production For Preschool Children

  • Tumble Leaf
- Amazon Studios

Best Animated TV/Broadcast Production For Children’s Audience

  • Gravity Falls – 
Disney Television Animation

Best General Audience Animated TV/Broadcast Production

  • The Simpsons
 – The Simpsons

Best Animated Video Game

  • Valiant Hearts: The Great War – Ubisoft

Best Student Film

  • My Big Brother 
- Jason Rayner
INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT CATEGORIES

Outstanding Achievement, Animated Effects in an Animated Production

  • Michael Kaschalk, Peter DeMund, David Hutchins, Henrik Falt, John Kosnik – Big Hero 6 – Walt Disney Animation Studios

Outstanding Achievement, Animated Effects in a Live Action Production

  • Steve Avoujageli, Atsushi Ikarashi, Pawel Grochola, Paul Waggoner, Viktor Lundqvist – Edge of Tomorrow – Sony Pictures Imageworks

Outstanding Achievement, Character Animation in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production

  • Justin Nichols – Wander Over Yonder – Disney Television Animation

Outstanding Achievement, Character Animation in a Feature Production

  • Fabio Lignini – How to Train Your Dragon 2 
- DreamWorks Animation

Outstanding Achievement, Character Animation in a Live Action Production

  • Daniel Barrett, Paul Story, Eteuati Tema, Alessandro Bonora, Dejan Momcilovic – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
 – Weta Digital

Outstanding Achievement, Character Animation in a Video Game

  • Mike Mennillo – Assassin’s Creed Unity – Ubisoft

Outstanding Achievement, Character Design in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production

  • Benjamin Balistreri – Wander Over Yonder 
- Disney Television Animation

Outstanding Achievement, Character Design in an Animated Feature Production

  • Paul Sullivan, Sandra Equihua, Jorge R. Gutierrez – The Book of Life – Reel FX

Outstanding Achievement, Directing in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production

  • Aaron Springer – Disney Mickey Mouse 
- Disney Television Animation

Outstanding Achievement, Directing in an Animated Feature Production

  • Dean DeBlois – How to Train Your Dragon 2
 – DreamWorks Animation

Outstanding Achievement, Music in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production

  • Christopher Willis – Disney Mickey Mouse – Disney Television Animation

Outstanding Achievement, Music in an Animated Feature Production

  • John Powell, Jónsi – How to Train Your Dragon 2
 – DreamWorks Animation

Outstanding Achievement, Production Design in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production

  • Narina Sokolova – Mickey Shorts
- Disney

Outstanding Achievement, Production Design in an Animated Feature Production

  • Paul Lasaine, Tom McClure & August Hall – The Boxtrolls
 – Focus Features/Laika

Outstanding Achievement, Storyboarding in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production

  • Joaquim Dos Santos – Legend of Korra –Nickelodeon Animation Studio

Outstanding Achievement, Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production

  • Truong “Tron” Son Mai – How to Train Your Dragon 2
 – DreamWorks Animation

Outstanding Achievement, Voice Acting in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production

  • Bill Farmer as the voices of Goofy and Grandma – Disney Mickey Mouse
 – Disney Television Animation

Outstanding Achievement, Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production

  • Sir Ben Kingsley as the voice of Archibald Snatcher – The Boxtrolls
 – Focus Features/Laika

Outstanding Achievement, Writing in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production

  • Darrick Bachman – Disney Mickey Mouse
 – Disney Television Animation

Outstanding Achievement, Writing in an Animated Feature Production

  • Phil Lord & Christopher Miller – The Lego Movie
 – Warner Bros. Pictures

Outstanding Achievement, Editorial in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production

  • Illya Owens – Disney Mickey Mouse
 – Disney Television Animation

Outstanding Achievement, Editorial in an Animated Feature Production

  • John K. Carr – How to Train Your Dragon 2 – DreamWorks Animation
JURIED AWARDS

Winsor McCay Award (for Lifetime Achievement)
Didier Brunner, Don Lusk and Lee Mendelson

June Foray Award (for significant and benevolent or charitable impact on the art and industry of animation)
Charles Solomon

Ub Iwerks (for technical advancement that has made a significant impact on the art or industry of animation)
DreamWorks Animation’s Apollo Software

Special Achievement Award (recognizing the unique and significant impact on the art and industry of animation)
The Walt Disney Family Museum

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  • Vee Eaton

    I was really sad at the lack of wins for “Over the Garden Wall”. I am stunned it wasn’t included in TV music. It was such a solid series, I’m disappointed it didn’t actually win anything. :(

  • guest

    Honest question: Do Disney and Dreamworks do so well at the Annies because they have the most ASIFA members? They certainly deserved some of those awards, but it seemed like a lot of excellent work from other studios was getting ignored.

    • starss

      I’m under the assumption that Over The Garden Wall didn’t win either of its 2 nominations because Cartoon Network isn’t among the sponsors.

    • Winner Winner

      You guessed it. Dreamworks made every single employee in the studio Asifa members in an effort to “Stuff the ballot box”.
      Can’t speak for what happens at Disney

    • animator

      Yup, welcome to Hollywood

  • MaskedManAICN

    As for the lack of women, I’d argue it’s not that ” the Annie Award voters felt that just three women made exemplary contributions to animation throughout all of 2014″, but more that only three women were allowed to.

    If you’re not allowed to make exemplary contributions, you can be honored for them.

  • William Bradford

    YAY Wander Over Yonder won one! Not that the Mickey Mouse shorts weren’t equally deserving. I agree with Vee that it’s a shame Garden Wall won nothing. Whatever one says about it’s execution, it was something different and bold and that’s worthy of somthing

  • starss

    Half the article is about patriarchy that I never even noticed upon watching the stream. -_-

  • Tibo

    Annecy’s animation festival will surely/hopefully give women the credit they deserve. Else screw it, what’s important is to love making animation and to keep having fun.

  • alexkirwan

    I agree that the level of diversity on the stage did not match the level of diversity that i witness every day in the workplace. I think that it is important for those of us that play a role in the industry to identify where it is, exactly, that this problem is happening.
    I think that it is fair to say that that the blame doesn’t lie with Asifa voters. Unlike a best actor/actress category in the oscars, animation is a largely anonymous medium. As a voter I can honestly say that in many cases I had no idea what the race or gender of the person I was choosing was, and I think we can agree that the merit of the work should be the only consideration here. I imagine that the nomination process works much the same way.
    So the problem must lie in the submitting process.
    Submitting an artist for nomination costs money. Larger studios set aside a budget that is divided amongst their productions, each production is allowed only a finite number of submissions, and as someone who has been party to those discussions, I can say that whittling down the short-list is a very difficult process. Not every stellar performance gets submitted and not everyone who would like to be submitted gets to be. I would guess that sometimes stronger egos and louder voices win out. Folks can submit themselves, but it is expensive, and few know about the opportunity because it is rarely suggested. Some categories allow group submissions, I feel that this is not taken full advantage of nearly enough either.
    If we do our part to cast a wider net at the beginning of the process, then we just might see some more variety in the winner’s circle.

  • http://www.mikescottanimation.com Mike Scott

    Bought the season off iTunes. On the final two episodes. Got that ‘Nick Cross soft-focus-light-bleed look’ and gorgeous backgrounds. Noticed that almost each character pose has an overshoot. Just pose->overshoot->pose->overshoot->pose etc… I dunno. Works though.

  • Santiago Andres Alarcon

    I’m a bit disappointed but not surprised best animated feature did not go to The Tale of The Princess Kaguya. That movie is an artistic achievement on its own right so there is no complaining.
    I’m just really interested in how they go about selecting the winners for this things.

  • Klyph14

    The LEGO Movie was the best written and The Book If Life, Big Hero 6, and Boxtrolls were the best looking so naturally How To Train Your Dragon 2 Won best feature.

    Silly Annie Awards…

  • Steve Henderson

    Does HTTYD 2’s Annie win really set it up as a favourite to win the Oscar Amid? Based on its 100% record I’d say the winner of the animated BAFTA will go on to win the Oscar and seeing as HTTYD 2 isn’t even nominated for a BAFTA I’d say the film’s chances are looking slim. I could be proved wrong though, the Oscars are not known for following convention. Based on this BAFTA=Oscar system of prediction the race is between Big Hero 6 and The Boxtrolls

  • Thomas Lapsley

    My congrats to Bill Farmer.