Comment of the Day: Annie Uproar Comment of the Day: Annie Uproar
Comment of the Day

Comment of the Day: Annie Uproar

Our post announcing the nominees for the 2010 Annie Awards generated a lot of controversy with people alternately pointing fingers at ASIFA and Disney for the latter company’s decision to withdraw its employees from this year’s individual achievement categories. Mark Walton, a former Annie nominee himself, took a tempered position in support of ASIFA (mostly) and made some good observations.

Mark wrote:

My two or three cents:

– I am getting really tired of hearing, again and again, that the fact that “Kung Fu Panda” won for Best Animated Feature (and several other categories) is PROOF that the Annie voting system isn’t fair, that the DreamWorks voting block was “bought”. I liked “Wall — E”, but I thought that “Kung Fu Panda” was an amazing film on just about every level (story, acting, animation, character design, art direction, etc., etc.), and totally deserving of the awards it got, and I didn’t work for DreamWorks. A lot of people in the animation community that I know ALSO really liked KFP. I knew many people at DISNEY who, rightly or wrongly, liked KFP better than “Wall-E”. A LOT of people I know thought KFP was one of the best animated films they’d seen in years. It is not only really, REALLY insulting to the crew of KFP to assume that a majority of the voters couldn’t have possibly, HONESTLY preferred KFP, it’s kind of ridiculous, because:

– the voting process is completely anonymous. There is no way to be directly rewarded or punished by Jeffrey for voting for a DreamWorks project.

– Since Dreamworks started participating in the Annies, 6 of the 10 “Best Feature” awards have gone to Disney nominees, including last year’s “UP”, which anyone, regardless of artistic position, can vote on. DreamWorks has, to my knowledge, always paid for their staff to have ASIFA memberships. In that time, only 3 DreamWorks features have have won Best Feature.

– Disney put pressure on ASIFA to change the voting procedure so that only story people could vote on storyboarding, etc., and they did. You can argue whether or not this was a good idea, but who still thinks this is just hearsay? This is pretty common knowledge, guys. It is also worth noting that the nominating committees are made up of professionals, chosen from all different studios, that are sometimes not even ASIFA members.

– I agree that “Tangled” should have been better represented in the individual achievement catagories than it was — particularly in animation and character design, where it really stood out. We’ll never know for sure if it would have been nominated, let alone would have won, in any of those categories, but the fact that the movie WAS nominated in almost every general category it could have been, in spite of their snubbing of the Annies, makes me think Disney really shot themselves in the foot here. The only thing for we know for sure was that DreamWorks submitted reels for their employees, and Disney didn’t give them any competition.

Sometimes I really agree with the ASIFA winners, sometimes I don’t. I particularly don’t like how certain films from several studios tend to sweep all the categories they’re nominated for, including some that they were (IMHO) clearly not the best in, robbing other deserving contenders. (This sort of “robbery” happens ALL THE TIME in the academy awards — frankly, though I usually watch them, I am usually incensed at many of the winners and the deserving people who aren’t even nominated, as well as the almost perrenial tendency to award actors or directors one or several years AFTER they actually deserved to win — I think ASIFA’s choices give them at least as much credibility as the Academy, if not more) I don’t know why this happens. I can’t imagine any organization trying harder to be fair than ASIFA does, where you are actually forced to watch part or all of a nominated submission before you’re allowed to vote in a category — which the Academy does NOT require of its voters.

– Do you actually begrudge ASIFA for trying to get more credibility and attention drawn to the Annie’s? How exactly is this bad for the animation industry, or the people who work in it? You’d actually prefer that the only recognition paid to all of the people behind the scenes in this business would be to the directors of the 2 to 5 Best Animated Feature and Best Animated Short categories at the Oscars once a year? Or you think even that’s too much — you’d prefer that nobody in this business gets any recognition or hoopla for their talent or trouble? The oscars and annies might be flawed, but I think they’re both a LOT better than nothing.

The only change I’D really like to see is, when the inevitable live-action celebrity with a thriving career wins “Best Voice Performance” over the poor slobs who have nothing BUT their voice careers, and then doesn’t even bother to show up, because they couldn’t care less about the Annies, and the film’s producer accepts the award for them, trying to convince us how much that actor really appreciates the honor…well, the award should automatically go to the nearest runner-up that bothered to come to the awards (not that I’m biased or anything) ;)

  • I’ll take your two or three cents any day, Mark. Well said.

  • Ethan

    Bravo, well said.

    Congratulations to all nominees. We have five GREAT films nominated this year. Too bad some studios didn’t care about nominating their own artists’ amazing work. Their actions are deplorable. Maybe it’s time for these artists to get more respect elsewhere.

  • Tom

    I’m not that annoyed that KFP won against Wall-E for best feature – they’re both very good movies, and it’s tough choosing between the two – but I still don’t think it deserved to win in every single category against Wall-E… I still thought Wall-E was extremely deserving in some of the other categories it was nominated for.

    I really liked the last awards because several movies – Fantastic Mr. Fox, Up, Princess and the Frog, Coraline, etc – got a piece of the pie, and each deservedly so. For me, it was a great set of results. It’s a shame Toy Story 3 and Tangled won’t be playing a bigger part in this year’s awards.

    Anyway, let the comment wars begin…

  • Tom

    Oh, and good write-up!

  • Mark R.

    In 2009 when BOTH Disney and Pixar were members of ASIFA how many members did they have combined?

    Now tell me how many Dreamworks had?

    Give me the answer to that and then we can have a discussion.

    • Bill

      They each had just as many the following year when UP won. Or the two years before 2009 when Pixar films won.

      • Mark R.

        Not good enough. Let’s see some numbers.

        Can anyone from ASIFA provide us with these?

        It’s not about which film was better than the other –
        How many people were voting at Dreamworks, Disney and Pixar in 2008?

  • GSW

    Very well said. I agree on all fronts.

    I am not affiliated with DreamWorks, Disney or Pixar and I am one of those people who voted for KFP because I thought it was the better film. Now if we were voting on the first 20 minutes of either of those films my vote would’ve easily gone to Wall-E.

    I also mostly agree with the voice category comment. I understand wanting big name celebrities to show up at the Annie Awards, but 2 years ago Dustin Hoffman didn’t show up when he ended up winning. Last year though John Leguizamo was good enough to show up and didn’t end up winning. Kudos to John for presenting an award too.

  • optimist

    Some people (mostly those outside the specific professional loops) will never believe that a person from Studio X would vote for a “competing” film from Studio Y if their own studio is also nominated in the same category.

    I on the other hand DO believe it because I’ve done it myself and seen it done and I know a lot of pros don’t go in for boosterism but actually vote their personal tastes.

    People who know better, know better.

  • Yoshiki

    Many people said that WALL-E is a spectacular and deserves the best picture award in academy awards. There might be some people that say KFP is better but there are definitely more people that say WALL-E is better.I know that Dream Works make wonderful movies. But Disney & Pixar knows way more about animation movies.

    • You have a right to your opinion, Yoshiki, and that is all it is your opinion. I also have a right to say it’s horseshit. In one rather ignorant sentence, you managed to denigrate and insult people who have FORGOTTEN more about animated films then you could ever dream. You want expamples? Gary Trousedale, Chris Sanders, James Baxter, Mark Koetsier, Rob Porter, Ben Balesteiri, Aurian Redson, Scott Santoro, Mark Dindel, Mark Walton, Alan Bodner, Joe Mosier, Ed Gombert, Rodolphe Guendon, Do I need to go on?
      KFP is a big fun movie was a ton of heart. Wall-e is well loved, but I think it’s pretentious and overrated. That is MY opinion.
      It is also my opinion that the Disney/Pixar decision to pull out of the Annies is petty and lame.
      Mark very articulately made mincemeat of their arguments that the voting is “rigged” because DW votes as a block. Gimme a fucking break. They just want to show up and collect their trophys because they are the mighty Pixar. God forbid a FUN Cartoony movie beat their giant enviromental screed. I love that; And enviromentalist movie produced by a company that shits plastic toys by the megaton. Merry Fucking Christmas.

  • Ladies and gentlemen, awards are B.S. A film that wins is still the same film it always was. A film that loses is still the same film as well. The fact that some people, somewhere, decided to pin an award on something should not influence anyone’s perception of a work. All awards are just opinions, and yours is as good as anyone’s.

    • Agreed, Mr. Mayerson. But the Annies are more B.S. than most. I’m sure an awful lot of people preferred the unpretentious Kung-Fu Panda to the masturbatory WALL-E, but Mark Walton has to be legally blind if he thinks the Annies are uncorrupted when the Dreamworks film won in every category it was nominated in.

      • Thad;
        DW doesn’t win every category they are nominated in. Go back and look at just who won and when.
        Do some fucking research before you start type-ity type typing.

      • John Sanford:
        Please reread what I wrote. I am only referring to the 2009 sham – when Kung-Fu Panda, not Dreamworks, did indeed win every category it was nominated in.

        Physician, heal thyself.

      • The Brewmasters

        Thad – Insults directed towards individuals, such as saying someone “has to be legally blind” will not be tolerated. Your words will be more respected if you show maturity and respect to our community.

      • Hey, I was not trying to be rude or anything with my comment. I just don’t see much of a difference in how John chose to insult Thad and Thad chose to insult mark.

        Was truly wondering how one is okay and the other is not?

  • I’ll side with Mark Mayerson on this one. I attend the Annies to celebrate our wonderful medium and visit with old friends.

    Whoever eventually “wins” or “loses” has always been bull. Anyone over thirty should already know that.

  • Bill

    Personally, I liked Wall-E better than KFP. But most of the people I talked to at Disney have said that while Wall-E might have been a better “film”, KFP was a better “cartoon” and that’s what they voted for.

  • Kevan

    Hi, I don’t think I know anyone who votes based on company affiliation. It’s all down to the reels up for consideration.

    No great conspiracy here…

    • Mark R.

      Okay, in response to this – I’ll post this here too:

      How MANY people were voting at Dreamworks, Disney and Pixar in 2008?

      Can you provide us with these numbers?

  • Drew

    Mark Walton’s impassioned defense of Asifa sort of fudges the matter, doesn’t it, after all, he’s a DW employee now, right? Also, he’s clearly never served on one of those nominating committees, and if he has, he’s missed the yucks. They’re basically comprised of friends of the board, called into action by Antran or Tom Sito. And they rarely number a half dozen individuals, if that.

    More to the point, the membership is definitely comprised of about 35 to 40% of DreamWorks employees, so all of the non production categories are basically determined by a membership heavily weighted towards DW projects, and it shows, year in and year out. Why wouldn’t they be? Jeffrey buys every employee a membership, a voting membership. No other studio does that to my knowledge.

    Asifa Hollywood, sadly, is a fiefdom of a handful of permanent board members led by Antran. And any time you have a collection of regulars, their interests and their financial concerns are going to dictate how the organization is run. And the bummer here is, Asifa is run as a private club by a board that loves to be partied at private homes, invited to premieres, etc, all things Jeffrey does for them. So they won’t be scaling back that DW membership increase anytime soon.

    • Former Judge

      Speaking as someone who was on the ASIFA Annie Award nominating committees for two different production categories over a period of several years, I have to say that what Drew claims to be the case was far from my experience. Over those years, the committees involved a variety of people, none of whom showed the slightest deference to any studio, or to anyone on the ASIFA board. And the ASIFA member who organized each judging session couldn’t have been more neutral and uninvolved in the decisions that we made. It was a long, arduous process that we all took very seriously. The decisions weren’t easy, and weren’t made lightly.

      One thing that I saw which many people might not realize was that it was clear some studios were half-assed about the artist’s work they submitted, and a few studios even submitted the exact same work for several different artists. I don’t remember to what extent DreamWorks dominated any of the categories I was involved in, but I do recall a couple of times that we were surprised at how much top quality work would come out of a single studio. I think we unconsciously tried to ‘spread the wealth’ of the nominations, but sometimes one studio’s work was clearly a cut above the rest. There were times when I would later hear people grumble about the nominees, but I never heard that grumbling from anyone who bothered to look at the actual work nominated.

      By the way, I just checked the ASIFA board. I know a little about many of them, and I’m trying to figure out how their interests and financial concerns coincide with DreamWorks’ having Annie success. I think this is a good example of the kind of personal anonymous nastiness that plagues our industry.

      The inaccuracy of Drew’s comments make me wonder if he or she pulled the “35 to 40%” number out of thin air. I suspect so.

  • And the most lame thing of all is that right at the time that they need a group of people to keep the Annie Awards honest, they disallow fan and student voters. Way to go, ASIFA-Hollywood. I resigned my membership, and hope that others who are no longer allowed to vote for the Annies because they are not in the “industry” do the same.

    Really, the fan voters and the student voters are important because they cannot be told “vote this way or lose your job” like some reports say the people who have ASIFA-Hollywood memberships courtesy of DreamWorks got pressured in 2009. They might have their preferences but at least they don’t have their jobs held over their heads during a Great Recession.

    • Phil

      That’s garbage! That did not happen
      Please get your facts straight…

    • insulted

      I work at dreamworks and have not ONCE been told to vote a certain way or my job would be in jeopardy. In fact, nothing was mentioned at all at work about the annies other than to remember to submit your work for consideration and to not forget to vote. We certainly celebrate those who work here who are nominated and congratulate them on their nominations (as I would my friends at other studios who are nominated). However when it comes to voting I ALWAYS vote with what I feel is the best film or animation. sometimes it’s dreamworks, sometimes it’s pixar, sometimes it’s disney, sometimes it’s another studio all together.

      It’s insulting to think that we wouldn’t have the integrity vote for person who deserves the award.

  • Bill

    Michelle, That’s the biggest bunch of BS I’ve heard here. No one, ANYWHERE, has been told “vote this way or lose your job” and it couldn’t be inforced if they did because the member can vote from any computer. If you want fan voting, go to any of the “reality” contests on TV or the People’s Choice or any number of other awards run by Dick Clark or Donald Trump. What I heard from DreamWorks people is that they voted for their own work that year, unlike other years, because they finally had something they could be proud of.

  • John

    Disney and Pixar are behaving accordingly. Wall-E won best Animated feature at the Oscars!!! So since the Annie’s didn’t give them the award they think they so deservedly deserved they’ll no longer support the Annie’s! Even though everyone I know thought KFP was a better animated film, and their peers in the animation industry liked it more. The Annie’s Awards are judged by their peers in animation. To me I think Pixar and Disney are above their peers now, and everything but the Academy is beneath them. Pixar is above peers! I that means Pixar is to good for the Annie’s as it should be! Even though they’ve swept the Annie’s in the past, Pixar needs to win every year at the Annie’s to stick around! I think that’s fair! Pixar’s decision is not at all arrogant! Their box office numbers are proof of their superiority and their attitude too. Especially over all others in the animation industry! Pixar is God, ok, really Ed Catmull is!

  • mike

    How will any smaller films made from independant studios ever get the chance to be properly recognized if studios like Disney and DW pay for ASIFA memberships for all their employees? The small studios -even if they do have the luxury of paying for asifa memberships will lose out because of the sheer number of employees DW and disney have agianst them!
    It’s not about pixar being greedy about the awards- it’s about ethics and keeping recognition going to movies worthy of recognition regardless of how big the studio is.