Annie Awards Annie Awards

As it did last year, Netflix again led the list of winners at the 50th annual ASIFA-Hollywood Annie Awards, which were announced on Saturday evening at UCLA’s Royce Hall in a very rain-soaked Los Angeles.

The streamer scored 12 wins in 32 categories. While a sharp drop from its commanding 20 wins last year, Netflix managed honors in key categories, including five wins for Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio and four for Love, Death + Robots. Here’s some takeaways on the winners:

Stop motion rules

That Del Toro’s Pinocchio won the top prize for animated feature comes hardly as a surprise. The Netflix original has dominated the awards season circuit this year, winning nearly every major feature award including the BAFTA, the VES Award, the Golden Globe, the Critics’ Choice, the PGA Award, the Art Directors Guild, and so many others. Also, it’s no surprise that Dean Fleischer Camp’s Marcel the Shell with Shoes On won for indie animated feature, because the A24 film has scooped up quite a few honors from critics’ organizations throughout this awards season.

But here’s what is surprising. Pinocchio marks only the second time that a stop-motion production has won the Annie for animated feature (the other win was Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit). And no stop-motion production had won the indie animated feature award since the category was introduced seven years ago. So, consider it a very rare occurrence that the Annies recognized stop-motion features with their two top feature awards.

Pinocchio also won four other Annies (character animation, direction, production design, music), while Marcel had two additional wins (voice acting, writing). The only downside in a year with so much attention on stop-motion animation is that Netflix’s other big stop-mo production, the Henry Selick-directed Wendell & Wild, got lost in the shuffle and went largely unacknowledged for its creative quirkiness. No worries as Wendell & Wild is destined to be a cult classic in animation.

Apple TV+ scores big with European animation

Tech company Apple has produced a fair share of animation since launching its streaming service Apple TV+, but in terms of critical recognition, it is its European projects that have garnered most of the acclaim. Last night, Apple won four Annies for the British short film The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, which comes two years after Apple won five Annies for the Irish animated feature Wolfwalkers.

The Peter Baynton and Charlie Mackesy-directed film won the following categories: special production, character animation for tv/media, direction for tv/media, and editorial for tv/media. The film has been on upward swing over the past few weeks, including a BAFTA win the prior weekend. Add to that the fact that it has multiple celebrity producers – J. J. Abrams, Jony Ive, Woody Harrelson – and a star-studded celebrity voice cast, and the Christmas special is beginning to look like the frontrunner at the Academy Awards for best animated short.

Disney’s worst year at the Annies since 2011

The Walt Disney Company, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, was locked out of the feature animation awards, despite 11 nominations for its features, including seven alone for Disney-Pixar’s Turning Red. In fact, Disney came away with just three Annies across the entire evening, and two of them were for Avatar: The Way of Water. This year’s weak haul follows last year’s disappointing performance where the company had just five wins.

The last time Disney had so few wins was when it won twice at the 38th Annies in 2011. But there’s as asterisk to that year’s minimal Disney presence: Disney animation chiefs Ed Catmull and John Lasseter were boycotting the Annies in protest over the organization’s voting and judging procedures, which they felt was preventing them from winning more awards. But there’s no asterisk to this year’s muted performance; the company’s lack of Annie success mirrors the tepid audience reaction to the company’s recent films like Lightyear and Strange World.

The old guard is struggling at the Annies

The established majors had little to show for their efforts at this year’s Annies: Illumination’s Minions: The Rise of Gru, the most financially successful animated feature of 2022, won none of its categories; Nickelodeon Animation had just one win for its preschool series The Tiny Chef Show; and Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network both went home empty-handed. Here’s the thing though: If you offered Illumination the option of winning three Annies versus producing another billion-dollar grossing film, they’ll choose the latter every single time. It’s obviously nice to be recognized by your peers, but at the end of the day, the biggest reward is having audiences love your work.

A notable exception here is Dreamworks Animation, which came up with four wins, including three on the feature animation side, where the company has made creative strides over its past few films. Its feature wins were for character design in a feature (Taylor Krahenbuhl for The Bad Guys), storyboarding in a feature (Anthony Holden for Puss in Boots: The Last Wish), and editorial in a feature (James Ryan, Jacquelyn Karambelas, Natalia Cronembold, Joseph Butler, and Katie Parody for Puss in Boots: The Last Wish). Dreamworks, like Netflix, is proving that it’s possible to experiment while still pleasing audiences.

Juried awards

In addition to the competitive categories at the Annies, juried awards were presented to honor “unparalleled achievement and exceptional contributions to animation.” The Winsor McCay Award for lifetime achievement was presented to Pete Docter, Evelyn Lambart, and Craig McCracken.

The June Foray Award for significant and benevolent or charitable impact on the art and industry of animation was awarded to author and historian Mindy Johnson, while the Ub Iwerks Award for technical achievement went to the Visual Effects Reference Platform, initially developed by Nick Cannon and Francois Chardavoine. A certificate of merit was presented by John Omohundro for his volunteer work with ASIFA-Hollywood.

The complete list of winners from the 50th Annie Awards is below:

Best Feature

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Netflix, Double Dare You!, Shadowmachine in association with The Jim Henson Company

Best Indie Feature

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
Marcel the Movie LLC

Best Special Production

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
NoneMore Productions, Bad Robot Productions

Best Short Subject

Ice Merchants
Cola Animation, Wild Stream

Best Sponsored

Save Ralph
Arch Model Studio

Best TV/Media – Preschool

The Tiny Chef Show
Episode: “Pancakes”
Tiny Chef Productions LLC, Imagine Entertainment

Best TV/Media – Children

Abominable and the Invisible City
Episode: “Everest Returns”
Dreamworks Animation

Best TV/Media – Mature

Bob’s Burgers
Episode: “Some Like it Bot Part 1: Eighth Grade Runner”
20th Television, Bento Box Entertainment

Best TV/Media – Limited Series

Oni: Thunder God’s Tale
Episode: “The Demon Moon Rises”
Netflix, Tonko House

Best Student Film

The Soloists
Director: Mehrnaz Abdollahinia, Feben Elias Woldehawariat, Razahk Issaka, Celeste Jamneck, Yi Liu
School: Gobelins, l’école de l’image

Best FX – TV/Media

Love, Death + Robots
Episode: “Bad Traveling”
Production Company: Blur Studio for Netflix
Vfx Production Company: Blur Studio; Kirby Miller, Igor Zanic, Joseph H. Coleman, Steven Dupuy, Josh Schwartz

Best FX – Feature

Avatar: The Way of Water
Production Company: 20th Century Studios, Disney Studios
Vfx Production Company: Wētā FX; Johnathan M. Nixon, David Moraton, Nicholas Illingworth, David Caeiro Cebrian, Alex Nowotny

Best Character Animation – TV/Media

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
Tim Watts

Best Character Animation – Feature

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Tucker Barrie

Best Character Animation – Live Action

Avatar: The Way of Water
Daniel Barrett, Stuart Adcock, Todd Labonte, Douglas McHale, Stephen Cullingford

Best Character Animation – Video Game

Cuphead – The Delicious Last Course
Chad Moldenhauer, Hanna Abi-Hanna

Best Character Design – TV/Media

Love, Death + Robots
Episode: “Jibaro”
Alberto Mielgo

Best Character Design – Feature

The Bad Guys
Taylor Krahenbuhl

Best Direction – TV/ Media

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
Peter Baynton, Charlie Mackesy

Best Direction – Feature

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Guillermo Del Toro, Mark Gustafson

Best Music – TV/ Media

The Cuphead Show!
Episode: “Carn-Evil”
Ego Plum

Best Music – Feature

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Alexandre Desplat, Roeban Katz, Guillermo del Toro, Patrick McHale

Best Production Design – TV/Media

Oni: Thunder God’s Tale
Episode: “The Demon Moon Rises”
Robert Kondo, Rachel Tiep-Daniels, Lia Tin, Yohei Hashizume, Masa Inada

Best Production Design – Feature

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Curt Enderle, Guy Davis

Best Storyboarding – TV/Media

Love, Death + Robots
Episode: “The Very Pulse of the Machine”
Emily Dean

Best Storyboarding – Feature

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
Anthony Holden

Best Voice Acting – TV/Media

Episode: “The Godfather of the Bride”
Maurice LaMarche (Mr. Big)

Best Voice Acting – Feature

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
Jenny Slate

Best Writing – TV/ Media

Love, Death + Robots
Episode: “Bad Traveling”
Andrew Kevin Walker

Best Writing – Feature

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
Dean Fleischer Camp, Jenny Slate, Nick Paley, Elisabeth Holm

Best Editorial – TV/ Media

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
Daniel Budin

Best Editorial – Feature

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
Dreamworks Animation