In addition to the industry-voted honors, each year the Annies celebrate several talented individuals with special honorary awards. This year, all four recipients had a history of anthropomorphic works of one sort or another. The June Foray Award (for service to the community and art of animation) went to veteran Disney producer Don Hahn, who of course helped to shepherd Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King (among many other films) into existence. The Windsor McCay Award went to three individuals for their lifetime achievement in cartoons. Isao Takahata (co-founder of Stuido Ghibli with Hayao Miyazaki) is celebrated far and wide for anime films like The Grave of the Fireflies and The Tale of Princess Kaguya, but he also directed the tenuki adventure Pom Poko. (And, early in his career, he directed episodes of Panda! Go Panda!) Phil Roman founded his animation studio Film Roman in the 80’s, and they have since become famous as the home of The Simpsons and King of the Hill. But they are also the studio that gave us furrier works like Garfield and Friends, Cro, Mother Goose and Grimm, C-Bear and Jamal, and The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat. Finally, a special posthumous McCay Award was presented to the memory of Joe Ranft, Pixar Studio’s head of Story, who died in a tragic car accident ten years ago. Over the years Joe worked on numerous animated films at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation, but he may perhaps best be remembered as the voice of Heimlich the caterpillar in Pixar’s movie A Bug’s Life.
Once again your humble ed-otter was lucky enough to attend the Annie Awards for 2015, presented at UCLA’s Royce Hall on February 6th. Presented by the International Animated Film Society (ASIFA), the Annie Awards honor the best of the animation industry — as selected by members of that industry. Surprising no-one, the night belonged to Pixar’s Inside Out. (It has already won almost every major award it has been nominated for, and of course it’s nominated for an Oscar as well.) Inside Out won in the Best Feature categories for Storyboarding, Editing, Character Design, Music, Character Animation, Production Design, Voice Acting (Phyllis Smith as Sadness), Writing, Directing, and (of course) Best Animated Feature. Bing Bong himself even helped to present some of the awards. (*sniff* Bing Bong…) A few other features managed to sneak in awards, and some of them were even for animal characters! The Good Dinosaur won in the category of Best Effects Animation. (It’s been celebrated far and wide for its realistic backgrounds and water effects.) And The Revenant won Best Animated Character In A Live Action Production for the bear that nearly eats Leonardo DiCaprio. Over in the TV and other divisions, furries were well-represented in several award categories. Disney’s new Mickey Mouse Shorts won for Best Storyboarding, Best Music, and Best Editing. ASIFA favorites. Dreamworks TV had two wins, as Dragons: Race to the Edge won for Best Character Animation and The Mr. Peabody and Sherman Show won for Best Production Design. Previous Annie favorites Tumble Leaf and Wander Over Yonder won for Best Production for Preschoolers and Best Production for Children, respectively. Psyop (home of those infamous Orangina commercials!) won Best Commercial for their Coca Cola ad Man and Dog, and Best Animated Game went to the monster adventure Evolve from 2K. [To save space, tomorrow we’ll tell you about the special awards presented at the Annies — and why you should care!] You can find out more about all of these and more over at the ASIFA Hollywood web site.
Damon Bard is a sculptor, 3D modeler, and character designer with decades of work under his belt. He says it best himself on his web site: “For 28+ years now, Damon Bard has been working as a freelance artist in the entertainment industry primarily as a sculptor but also as a development artist and designer of characters and creatures. Since then, he has contributed to nearly 30 films and other various projects during his career. Damon has also been fortunate enough to have worked along side some of the most talented, acclaimed and awarded artists and directors in the industry and on a few of the most successful films ever made: Kung Fu Panda II, How To Train Your Dragon, Coraline, Kung Fu Panda, Ratatouille, Shrek 2, Star Wars: Episode 3, and Madagascar to name a few. Additionally, Damon works on his bronze figurative sculpture and oil paintings between and during projects as time allows.” A busy artist. His site also features a link to his demo reel, showing off some of his 3D digital works.
Shiyoon Kim is a professional character designer working for Walt Disney Animation. Recently though he branched out and created his first illustrated book for children, called Nelbert the Introvert. Nelbert is not your typical fierce fire breathing dragon. No, he’s a fire breathing dragon who likes to play chess. Trouble is, how can he convince people to sit down and play when all they want to do is run away? “Disney character designer Shiyoon Kim’s first self-published book is this children’s picture book with artwork inspired by Bill Peet, Hank Ketcham, and his other biggest influences. The story and art are both charming. A great gift for the introvert in your family.” So says Stuart Ng Books. Head on over and check it out. [And have a happy, safe New Year in 2016!]
We met a lot of cool people at the CTN Animation Expo. (You probably noticed!) Another one to pay attention to: Randy Bishop, a freelance illustrator and character designer. Of both humans and very stylish furries, it should be noted. Recently Randy decided to get serious about his first self-created project called Monomyth. He imagined a world in which all the myths and legends of every culture live together in our world — and how that tends to complicate life for everyone. Take a look over at Randy’s web site to see more about Monomyth as well as lots of his previous color works and sketches.
Another multi-talented artist we stumbled across. Huguette Pizzic is a character designer and illustrator with a distinctive swoopy, very fluid style of art. (Woo, look at that: Otters that look made out of water!). Originally from France, she’s found work around the world in places like Scotland, Australia, and the USA. “If you’re not scared of silly monsters, tough cowboys, or puckish Chihuahuas, go and have a look at her portfolio!”
Nolen Lee is another multi-talented artist, often employed in the animation business. He has a specialty though: Pandas. Specifically, pandas wearing boxing gloves. Who seem to have a thing about punching the nearest… whatever! Now Gallery Nucleus is selling Nolen’s portfolio book titled, appropriately enough, Punching Pandas. According to their web site: “Nolen Lee is a freelance animation artist from originally from Portland, Oregon who is now working from Seattle. His art book Punching Pandas is full of ink and digital works of fighting pandas in mischievious situations – often finding their way into a strange franchise or two. The idea may sound adorable, but don’t let these pandas fool you. They’ll punch anything and anyone, even you!” You should also visit Nolen’s web site to find out what other sort of merchandise (t-shirts, prints, etc.) you can decorate with your favorite pugilistic panda.
We almost let this pass us by. Betsy Bauer is an illustrator who’s worked in animation for some time (on projects like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2) as well as illustrated children’s books. But her latest project is… dumb. Or at least she says so. It’s called Super Dumb Coloring Book of Super Dumb Cats, and it’s a collection of dumb superhero puns — with cats. (Look, these are her words, not ours! Honest!) Join Catman, Sailor Mewn, and I-Yarn Man (!) and all the rest — and add some color to their lives. You can find this black & white (obviously) paperback at Amazon, Stuart Ng Books, and Gallery Nucleus.
[We hope you all had a Merry Christmas — and have a safe New Year!]
Bear Story is a short CGI animated film by Gabriel Osorio at Punkrobot Studios in 2014. Since then it has won over 50 international awards in the animation festival circuit. According to an article at The Wrap, the film “…is an ingenious, dazzling piece of 3D animation, the sad story of a lonesome bear who builds an elaborate mechanical diorama in an attempt to remember (and perhaps recover) the life he used to live with his wife and son, before he was ripped from his home and sent to a circus. But audiences in Osorio’s native Chile immediately know that it’s more than that — it’s also an allegory for the way families were torn apart during the murderous Pinochet regime in Chile in the 1970s.” Bear Story has been short-listed for an Academy Award for 2015. You can see a short making-of film and a trailer for it over at the Punkrobot web page.