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Across the Spider-Verse, Blue Eye Samurai Across the Spider-Verse, Blue Eye Samurai

Sony Pictures Animation’s Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and Netflix’s Blue Eye Samurai emerged as major winners at the ASIFA-Hollywood Annie Awards, which were held Saturday evening at UCLA’s Royce Hall in Los Angeles.

The host-less 51st edition suffered from an overlong and disjointed presentation, with an anodyne tone that seemed oblivious to the ongoing tumult in the L.A. animation industry (or that an animation industry even exists outside of the ceremony).

To be fair, the Annies are endearingly awkward year in and year out, but last night’s cluelessness felt especially irksome against the backdrop of everything that’s happened in animation over the past year. No one understands how the animation industry works better than the people who watch the Annies, and we deserve something bolder and more interesting than having to hear a voice actor make grunting dinosaur noises. If this is the animation industry putting its best foot forward, we can hardly expect others in Hollywood to take us seriously either. (See Judd Apatow’s tone-setting monologue at the recent DGA Awards as an example of how to speak to an industry crowd.)

In one key way, last night’s ceremony played out like a repeat of the 2019 Annie Awards ceremony where the earlier Spider-Man film Into the Spider-Verse made a huge impression. At both ceremonies, Spider-Verse won the top prize for animated feature. At both ceremonies, Spider-verse went seven-for-seven, winning every category in which it was nominated. And at both ceremonies, Spider-Verse won the craft awards for feature directing, character design, production design, and editorial.

Sony’s latest, however, didn’t sweep all of the feature awards. Netflix’s Nimona, which had more nominations (9) than any other film, managed to grab a pair of Annies (best writing and voice acting in a feature), while Studio Ghibli’s The Boy and the Heron also snagged a couple honors for character animation and storyboarding, the latter going to director Hayao Miyazaki himself. (Miyazaki was not present at the Annies, nor were any of the directors of Across the Spider-Verse.)

Elemental and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, which had six nods apiece, both went home emptyhanded. But perhaps the biggest feature snub of the evening was Makoto Shinkai’s masterful Suzume, which failed to garner a single award from its seven nominations. (Neither Elemental diretor Pete Sohn nor Shinkai showed up for the Annies either.)

Awards on the series side were more evenly distributed, with Netflix’s Blue Eye Samurai leading the way with six wins. Disney Television Animation’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur scored three awards and Disney Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: Visions won twice. Biggest series snub of the evening? Max’s elegant sci-fi series Scavengers Reign, which had four nominations and didn’t win anything.

Some notes and notable wins:

* One thing the Annies do well is having two feature film categories – one for big-budget features and the other for indie films, which otherwise wouldn’t be recognized. The indie feature award this year was won by Pablo Berger’s Robot Dreams, which will be released theatrically in the U.S. later this year by Neon. The film, which is also nominated for an Oscar, has been widely hailed for its excellence, winning best animated feature at the European Film Awards, and two Goyas in Spain for animated feature and adapted screenplay.

* Ghee Happy won best preschool series. It’s a happy ending for a project with a complicated backstory: Netflix produced the show but decided at the last minute to not release the show. Somehow, creator Sanjay Patel was given permission to self-distribute the series on Youtube. Its success at the Annies is further vindication for Patel’s project, which is starting to build a following on Youtube.

* Studio Ghibli animator Takeshi Honda won the character animation award for his work on The Boy and the Heron. It marks only the second time in 14 years that a 2d animator has won this honor.

* Blue Eye Samurai co-creator Michael Green simultaneously gave one of the worst and best acceptance speeches of the evening. Worst, because he thanked the crew for not seeing their families, working weekends, and “kill[ing] themselves to make this show.” Even if meant as hyperbole, such comments are never a good idea in front of an industry crowd, but it’s particularly bad when you consider the behind-the-scenes stories we’ve heard about the troubled and poorly managed production of Blue Eye Samurai. On the other hand, Green was the only person who addressed AI in a substantive way in his speech, saying among other things that, “AI cannot touch anyone in this room so long as we create from within, channeling our passions, our pain, our humor and as long as we stay weird and unique and honest and unguessable – when we create it is an expression of a soul and that cannot be programmed.”

* Silvergate Media and Netflix’s Hilda won best series for children. The award was for “Chapter 8: The Fairy Isle,” the last episode of the series. It’s a nice bookend for the show, which won the same award in 2019 for the first episode of the series, “Chapter 1: The Hidden People.”

* On a company-by-company basis, Netflix won the most awards with nine, followed by Sony Pictures Animation and Disney with seven apiece. It’s surprising how much prize consolidation there is at the Annies among a handful of companies, a trend that we also observed last year. Major L.A. producers that didn’t win awards: Nickelodeon, Warner Bros. Animation, Dreamworks, Illumination, and Paramount Animation.

The complete list of winners at the 51st Annie Awards is below:

Best Feature

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
Sony Pictures Animation

Best Indie Feature

Robot Dreams
Arcadia Motion Pictures

Best Special Production

Snoopy Presents: One-of-a-Kind Marcie
WildBrain Studios in association with Apple

Best Short Subject

War is Over! Inspired by the Music of John & Yoko
Electroleague

Best Sponsored

“Video Games” by Tenacious D
Pinreel Inc.

Best TV/Media – Preschool

Ghee Happy “Navagraha
Ghee Happy Studio

Best TV/Media – Children

Hilda ” Chapter 8: The Fairy Isle”
Hilda Productions Limited, a Silvergate Media Company, Netflix Inc. and Mercury Filmworks

Best TV/Media – Mature

Blue Eye Samurai “Pilot: Hammerscale”
A Netflix Series / 3 Arts Entertainment and Blue Spirit Productions

Best TV/Media – Limited Series

Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire “Enkai”
Triggerfish Animation Studio & Blinkink

Best Student Film

The Little Poet
Director: Justine King
School: California Institute of the Arts

Best FX – TV/Media

Blue Eye Samurai “All Evil Dreams and Angry Words”
Production Company: A Netflix Series / 3 Arts Entertainment and Blue Spirit Productions
FX Production Company: Blue Spirit – Thomas Decaens, Karl Burtin, Laurent Bretonniere

Best FX – Feature

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
Production Company: Sony Pictures Animation
FX Production Company: Sony Pictures Imageworks – Pav Grochola, Filippo Maccari, Naoki Kato, Nicola Finizio, Edmond Boulet-Gilly

Best Character Animation – TV/Media

Blue Eye Samurai “101,” “104,” “106”
A Netflix Series / 3 Arts Entertainment and Blue Spirit Productions – Alex Bard

Best Character Animation – Feature

The Boy and the Heron
Studio Ghibli / Distributed by GKIDS – Takeshi Honda

Best Character Animation – Live Action

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
Production Company: Marvel Studios
FX Production Company: Framestore – Fernando Herrera, Chris Hurtt, Nathan McConnel, Daniel Cabral, Chris McGaw

Best Character Animation – Video Game

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2
Insomniac Games – Insomniac Games Animation Team

Best Character Design – TV/Media

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur “The Beyonder”
Disney Television Animation / Cinema Gypsy Productions – Jose Lopez

Best Character Design – Feature

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
Sony Pictures Animation – Jesús Alonso Iglesias

Best Direction – TV/Media

Star Wars: Visions “Screecher’s Reach”
Lucasfilm Ltd. – Paul Young

Best Direction – Feature

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
Sony Pictures Animation – Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson

Best Music – TV/Media

Star Wars: Visions “Aau’s Song”
Lucasfilm Ltd. – Markus Wormstorm, Nadia Darries, Dineo du Toit

Best Music – Feature

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
Sony Pictures Animation – Daniel Pemberton, Metro Boomin

Best Production Design – TV/Media

Blue Eye Samurai “The Great Fire of 1657”
A Netflix Series / 3 Arts Entertainment and Blue Spirit Productions – Toby Wilson, James Wilson, Emil Mitev

Best Production Design – Feature

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
Sony Pictures Animation – Patrick O’Keefe, Dean Gordon

Best Storyboarding – TV/Media

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur “Run the Rink”
Disney Television Animation / Cinema Gypsy Productions – Ben Juwono

Best Storyboarding – Feature

The Boy and the Heron
Studio Ghibli / Distributed by GKIDS – Hayao Miyazaki

Best Voice Acting – TV/Media

Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur “Moon Girl Landing”
Flying Bark Productions / Disney Television Animation – Diamond White (Character: Lunella Lafayette / Moon Girl)

Best Voice Acting – Feature

Nimona
Annapurna Animation for Netflix – Chloë Grace Moretz (Character: Nimona)

Best Writing – TV/Media

Blue Eye Samurai “The Tale of the Ronin and the Bride”
A Netflix Series / 3 Arts Entertainment and Blue Spirit Productions – Amber Noizumi

Best Writing – Feature

Nimona
Annapurna Animation for Netflix – Robert L. Baird, Lloyd Taylor

Best Editorial – TV/Media

Blue Eye Samurai “The Tale of the Ronin and the Bride”
A Netflix Series / 3 Arts Entertainment and Blue Spirit Productions – Yuka Shirasuna

Best Editorial – Feature

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
Sony Pictures Animation – Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Editorial Team

Juried Awards

Winsor McCay (Lifetime achievement)
Charlotte “Lotte” Reiniger (posthumous)
Joe Hisaishi
Marcy Page

June Foray Award (significant and benevolent or charitable impact)

BRIC Foundation, Alison Mann and Nicole Hendrix, co-founders

Ub Iwerks Award (technical advancement)

John Oxberry (posthumous)

Certificate of Merit (service to the art and industry)

The Artists of Walt Disney Animation

Pictured at top, l-to-r: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Blue Eye Samurai