Kobe Bryant won an Oscar this year for his animated short Dear Basketball, but he’s not being welcomed with open arms by the film and animation communities.
The latest stumble for Bryant is his absence as a jury member from the upcoming Animation Is Film (AIF) festival in Los Angeles, an event that is produced by GKIDS in partnership with the Annecy Int’l Animated Film Festival, Variety, and Fathom Events. Bryant’s name was removed from the festival’s website within the last 48 hours.
(UPDATE) GKIDS responded to Cartoon Brew with the following comment: “After discussions with the various stakeholders of Animation Is Film, the decision has been made to remove Kobe Bryant from the 2018 jury. We are a young organization and it is important to keep our collective energies focused on the films, the participating filmmakers, and our festival attendees.”
There has been a lot of talk in the L.A. animation community about why Bryant, who as Deadspin succinctly puts it is “an accused rapist who avoided a criminal trial verdict by bullying his accuser into silence,” is suddenly a player in the animation industry. Some people in the community were especially incensed by his invite to Animation is Film because the event counts Women in Animation as one of its partners and cites one of the purposes of the festival is to “champion and support women filmmakers.”
A group calling itself Women and Allies had recently launched a petition calling for Bryant’s removal from the jury. Their petition said:
In light of the #MeToo movement, there has been little to no recourse for Kobe Bryant’s actions of sexual assault. We demand that GKIDS, Variety, & Annecy revoke their complicity in enabling a sexual predator to continue a life without any accountability both as an individual and a celebrity.…This is an urgent time to say NO to toxic and violent behavior against women. For this reason, we ask that GKIDS, Variety & Annecy take a stand in support of women. Keeping Kobe Bryant on the jury sets a precedent of lenience for sexual criminals and further undermines the visibility and respect that victims of harassment and assault deserve.
Lat January, when Bryant was nominated for an Oscar, another petition demanding the Academy rescind his nomination gained 17,000 signatures. That petition didn’t achieve the desired result – Bryant (along with creative partner and director Glen Keane) won both an Oscar and an ASIFA-Hollywood Annie Award. The latter organization’s tone-deaf leaders even invited Bryant to be the opening presenter at their award ceremony.
The removal of Bryant from the Animation is Film jury, whatever the reasons may be, can only be seen as a positive development for the festival, which is becoming an important event for the L.A. animation community. It certainly doesn’t need this type of unnecessary controversy overshadowing all the brilliant animated films that will be presented at the event.
It also represents perhaps a tide shift in how the animation community views Bryant and his cheap attempt to use animation as a vehicle for rehabilitating his image. Combined with the Academy’s decision to not allow Bryant to join the Academy, it sends a message to Bryant that he’s going to have to do more than associate himself with a beloved animator to gain the respect of our community.
UPDATE: Kobe Bryant has issued his own statement about being removed from the Animation Is Film jury:
“I was honored to have been originally invited by Animation is Film to serve on the 2018 Jury, and am disappointed to no longer serve in that capacity. This decision further motivates me and my commitment to building a studio that focuses on diversity and inclusion in storytelling for the animation industry. I remain focused on changing the world in positive ways through diverse stories, characters, and leadership, in order to inspire the next generation.”