The only feature film award that went to a non-Disney film was for independent feature, a category in which Disney was not eligible to participate.
The reasons for this partisan straight-ticket voting must be figured out and addressed in a meaningful way by ASIFA-Hollywood. These awards are designed not just to recognize the best feature film in any given year, but individual merit within specialized areas of feature animation. It defies belief that only one corporation hires artists capable of creating exemplary work.
ASIFA-Hollywood’s problems with skewed voting patterns is a long-running headache for the organization and almost delegitimized the award a half-decade ago. In 2010, Disney Animation and Pixar president Ed Catmull, along with John Lasseter, withdrew all of Disney’s productions from the Annie Awards in protest that Kung Fu Panda had won too many awards the previous year. (Pixar’s film that year, WALL-E, won no awards.) Disney’s argument was that the voting process was rigged in favor of Dreamworks Animation, which gave each new employee an ASIFA-Hollywood membership.
ASIFA-Hollywood took Disney’s protest seriously. The organization booted its president, Antran Manoogian, and replaced him with the duo of Frank Gladstone and Jerry Beck, the latter of whom is the co-founder of Cartoon Brew. “We did have a problem,” Beck told Variety in 2015. “We had to address it.” Among the changes made was creating an advisory board comprised of executives and management from the major animation studios. Other changes included limiting voting to only professional members of the organization and the creation of professional nomination panels.
None of those changes, however, have addressed the issue of straight-ticket voting, which was the reason for Disney’s boycott in the first place. The Walt Disney Company, which has now become the beneficiary of this type of voting, remains silent on the problem, as does ASIFA-Hollywood. Should the organization muster the resolve to address the issue, it will likely tread carefully: three of the event’s seven platinum sponsors (the highest level of Annie Awards sponsorship) are Disney-owned companies.