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The Annie Awards, Part 2

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.

image c. 2016 Pixar, Walt Disney Company

image c. 2016 Pixar, Walt Disney Company

Furry Winners at the Annie Awards

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.

image c. 2016 Pixar

image c. 2016 Pixar Animation

The Return of Pig and Fox

Besides the Oscar-winning animated short film Feast, one of the animated shorts that was making a whole lot of buzz during awards season was called The Dam Keeper. Here’s the description from Wikipedia: ” It tells the story of Pig, an introverted youth who lives in a windmill and keeps a dark fog from engulfing his town. Although socially rejected by his peers, he is befriended by the artistic Fox.” The Dam Keeper was directed by Robert Kondo and Daisuke Tsutsumi, both art directors at Pixar (they worked together on Monsters University). Now comes this bit of news from Cartoon Brew: “Tonko House, the studio founded by former Pixar art directors Robert Kondo and Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi, is developing a feature film based on their Academy Award-nominated short The Dam Keeper. The announcement was made along with the news that Tonko House is partnering with First Second Books, an imprint of Macmillan, to expand their short into a graphic novel series. The first book in The Dam Keeper graphic novel series will be released in 2016, picking up the narrative some years after the original story of the orphaned Pig and his quest to maintain the town dam. It will address two questions unanswered in the film: what happened to Pig’s parents, and how did his world come to be at the mercy of a dark cloud? ” No more details yet about a release date for the feature film, but the animation community will be watching closely.

image c. 2015 Tonko House

image c. 2015 Tonko House

Back to the Fish Story

At the recent Comic Con Experience in Brazil, Pixar president Jim Morris chatted up the crowd about Finding Dory, Pixar’s upcoming CGI film scheduled for release in June of 2016. Besides showing them lots of preliminary artwork and other goodies, he also gave the world the first inklings of the new film’s plot.  Following the adventures of Finding Nemo (of course), this new film follows Dori (the royal blue tang who suffers from short term memory loss) as she journeys across the ocean in search of the marine research facility where she was born — and where her parents still live. Once again Dori will be voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, and her friend Marlin the clownfish (Nemo’s father) will again be voiced by Albert Brooks. No word yet if popular characters like Bruce the vegetarian-wannabe shark or Crash the oh-so-radical sea turtle dude will also make an appearance. But check out the article at Animation Xpress to find out what we do know now.

[Thanks to Fred Patten for the heads up on this article]

image c. 2014 Disney/Pixar

image c. 2014 Disney/Pixar

Dinosaurs are Walking — Again

Seemingly out of nowhere, Disney/Pixar have announced that the CGI animated feature The Good Dinosaur is back in production — and back on track for release in the winter of 2015, according to an article over at Cartoon Brew. After Disney removed director Bob Petersen from the project (he had co-directed Up and played the voice of Dug the dog) we didn’t hear much about Good Dinosaur for a while, as Disney/Pixar began advertising their next big project Inside Out. Now Disney/Pixar have announced that the new director of The Good Dinosaur will be Peter Sohn. He’s well known behind the scenes at Pixar, having worked in the art and story departments on several projects and directed the short film Partly Cloudy. He’s also known for his voice acting (he was Emile in Ratatouille and Squishy in Monsters University) and for being the body model for the character Russell in Up. Yes, really. With this announcement it now seems that Disney/Pixar will actually have two releases in 2015: Inside Out in June and The Good Dinosaur in November. Which puts the latter film right up against Kung Fu Panda 3, by the way. If you haven’t heard, The Good Dinosaur follows the adventures of a talking dinosaur family in modern times — on an alternate Earth where the great beasts never died out.

image c. 2014 Disney/Pixar

image c. 2014 Disney/Pixar

One Lonely Shrew

Disney/Pixar have launched their new Studio Artist Showcase series with Over There, a full-color hardcover book for young readers written and illustrated by Steve Pilcher. “Shredder is a little shrew who lives by himself, and while he loves his forest home, he gets a bit lonely. There must be something more, he thinks. So when he sees a ‘silver line twinkling in the distance,’ he decides to find out what it is. He discovers a beautiful stream, but then he gets caught up in the current! Luckily, a mole named Nosey saves him. As they explore, Shredder begins to miss the forest, so he and Nosey return together, and Shredder realizes that all he really needed was a friend.” Over There is available later this month, and it’s been reviewed over at Publishers Weekly.

image c. 2014 Disney Publishing

image c. 2014 Disney Publishing

The Annie Award Winners

Your humble ed-otter and his mate were honored to once again attend the 2014 Annie Awards, honoring the best in animation from the year 2013.  The event at UCLA’s Royce Hall (on Saturday the 1st of February) was hosted by Patrick Warburton, best known as Kronk from Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove but also appearing as a voice in the upcoming Peabody and Sherman movie. Though Disney’s Frozen won Best Feature and Best Directing (it was a favorite for both), no film or TV series really seemed to dominate the awards that night. Instead the honors were spread out over a wide swath of projects. Several furry projects — or projects with anthropomorphic characters in them, at least — were honored, which is good when you’re honoring a year like 2013 that, let’s face it, had rather a dearth of heavily furry works — especially compared to 2012. Overall Disney was one of the big winners of the night — no, not Pixar. Disney. Not only did Frozen take home the feature-length honors for Best Picture, Directing, Music, Production Design, and Voice Acting (Josh Gad as Olaf the snowman); but the Disney Mickey Mouse series of shorts won in TV/Broadcast categories for Editing, Character Design, and Music. What’s more, the popular Disney cartoon Get A Horse won the Best Short Subject award. Pixar was represented as well of course, both in feature awards (as Monsters University won for Storyboarding and Editing) and TV/Broadcast (where Toy Story of Terror took home awards for Storyboarding, Character Animation, and Directing). Dreamworks Animation’s biggest winner of the evening was The Croods, which took home feature awards in Character Design, Effects Animation, and Character Animation. In television Tom Kenny received the award for Best Voice Acting for his role as The Ice King in Adventure Time, and the show itself was honored as the Best Production for Children. Some popular furry projects were nominated in several categories but unfortunately the did not win any awards. Among them were the TV series Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness and Dragons: Riders of Berk, as well as the French feature film Ernest & Celestine. The Annie Awards are administered by ASIFA-Hollywood, the Southern California branch of the International Animated Film Society (ASIFA). You can visit the Annie Awards web site to see pictures and videos from the event as well as a full list of all the winners for 2013.

image c 2014 Walt Disney Animation

The Annie Winners!

The Annie Awards are often referred to as The Oscars of Animation. Presented each year by ASIFA-Hollywood (a division of the International Animated Film Society), the Annies celebrate the best in animated films and television as voted on by members of the animation industry from around the world. Needless to say, every year several anthropomorphic works are represented among the nominees — and sometimes even among the winners! On Saturday, February 2nd the Annie Awards for 2012 were presented at a gala ceremony at Royce Hall on the campus of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).  Unlike in previous years, this year’s ceremony didn’t really have a “host”: Each presenter basically introduced the next presenter. In the feature film category the night largely belonged to Disney Animation’s film Wreck It Ralph, which won for Music, Writing, Voice Acting (for Alan Tudyk as King Candy), Directing (Rich Moore), and of course Best Animated Feature. Disney/Pixar’s Brave was also represented, bringing home wins for Feature Editing and Feature Production Design. Dreamworks’ Rise of the Guardians also took home awards in two technical categories, Feature Storyboarding and Effects Animation. Over in the TV categories, the biggest winner of the night was Dreamworks’ Dragons: Riders of Berk. In addition to a win for Best TV Production for Children, Dragons won for Storyboarding, Music, and Directing. Dreamworks’ Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness won in a single category, TV Editing. In a surprise event, voice actor and animation legend June Foray (who started the Annie Awards herself back in 1973) was honored with the Texas Avery Animation Award — named after animation legend Tex Avery of course, and presented by REEL FX every year at the Dallas International Film Festival. You can find out more about the Annie Awards — and other activities for animation fans — at the ASIFA-Hollywood web site.

image c. 2012 Walt Disney Animation

Flying from the TV to the Movie Screen

Disney and Pixar have announced an interesting change to their 2013 movie line-up. This is from Jerry Beck over at Cartoon Brew: “Disney has decided to chase after Dreamworks’ Turbo next summer with its new “Cars-inspired” movie: Planes. Disney has just announced it will release this film theatrically on August 9th, 2013. Originally designed to go direct-to-DVD, Planes will now play in theaters all over the U.S. Jon Cryer is voicing the lead plane, “Dusty”; Klay Hall (Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure), an aviator himself, is directing.” In the same article Cartoon Brew also re-posted the original trailer for Planes, in case you missed it before.

image c. 2012 Disney/Pixar