Between the Golden Globes, the Grammys and the Academy Awards, it’s not hard to tell why the early months of the year are sometimes referred to as “awards season.” However, because of these three big events, a lot of smaller awards shows go unnoticed. Some of these focus on media that just don’t get as much attention, such as the video game-centric D.I.C.E. Awards in mid-March. Some award shows focus on specific genres or areas that more broad awards shows don’t hand out as many awards to, such as the Country Music Awards. On Saturday, the specific genre glorification was in full showing as both the animation-centric Annie Awards and the Writer’s Guild Awards took place.
The Annies are certainly the lesser known of the two. When it comes to animation in today’s public sphere, there aren’t many production companies folks can name not owned by Disney or Dreamworks. That’s probably an indication of the actual reality of the animation industry, as the majority of awards at the show were taken home by Disney and Dreamworks studios. In fact, the majority of the sponsors – showcased prominently on the Annies’ official site, where the event was streamed – were either Disney Animation Studios or different subsidiaries of theirs, such as Pixar.
The big fight for the awards for feature films came between Disney’s “Frozen” and Dreamwork’s “The Croods.” “Frozen” won more awards overall, five to the latter’s three, including the big award for Best Animated Feature. The results here could be a pretty clear indication of what to expect at the Academy Awards later this month. Pixar also managed to sneak in a few awards for “Monsters University” as well as an award for “Toy Story 3.”
Television was a bit more of a mixed bag, with the main award for best animated show split between the audience targeted. “Futurama” won the award for animated shows targeted at adults, while “Adventure Time” won the award for shows targeted toward children (although I, for one, contest that assumption). Disney struck again by winning three more awards for their Mickey Mouse shorts, including one for music and another for character design.
Live Action Films and Video Games even got themselves a few awards, with “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and “The Last of Us” each getting awards. “Pacific Rim” won the big award for animation in a live action film—a film that’s notably absent from the Oscar’s Special Effects nominations.
The event itself was broadcast live on the Annies’ site and hosted by Patrick Warburton, notable for his role as Kronk in “The Emperor’s New Groove” and as Joe in “Family Guy.” Overall, his performance as host was nothing to write home about, assuming you don’t normally write home angry letters about people you’ve met. After more than a few jokes aimed at Seth MacFarlane and a painfully executed conversation with his character, Kronk (in which the lip-synching was painfully off), even the audience was emitting more than a few groans.
A bad host is something the Annies had in common with the WGA Awards. Brad Garrett, probably best known for his role as the older brother Rob in “Everybody Loves Raymond,” opened up the event with a string of jokes that kept trying to outdo the last in what could be more offensive, from joking about “Gravity” director Alfonso Cuaron’s race to a joke about wanting to be buried within Jennifer Lawrence — “head-first…up to my sack” — and finally leaving the audience silent with more than one joke about children and Woody Allen. He started out the event joking that with writers’ negotiations coming up, it may be a good time for his joke writers to walk out, but from the sound of his jokes, perhaps they had already left, if they even existed in the first place.
As for the awards themselves, they involved a healthy mix of expected results and a few interesting surprises. For television, “Breaking Bad,” “House of Cards,” and “Veep” each won awards for Best Drama Series, Best New Series and Best Comedy Series, respectively. Film had more of a surprise when “Captain Phillips” won the award for Best Adapted Screenplay, though the writer for the movie, Billy Ray, attributed the script more to the Phillips himself. “Captain Phillips wrote the story, I just wrote it down,” he said. Best Original Screenplay went to Spike Jonze’s “Her.”
Both awards shows also had their own awards dedicated to a particular person and their achievements. Paul Mazursky (“Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” “An Unmarried Woman”) won the Screen Laurel Award for Screenwriting. Garry Marshall won the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement. The latter’s work is probably more recognizable as he’s responsible for “Laverne & Shirley,” “Mork & Mindy” and “Happy Days.”
The three winners of the Annies’ comparative award, The Winsor McCay Award, come from different sides of the animation spectrum. On the one hand, you have Katsuhiro Otomo, the legendary manga writer and animator best known as the creator of the manga and animated masterpiece “Akira.” On the other hand, you have an American household name in Steven Spielberg. Then there’s Phil Tippet, who’s best known for his stop-motion work and CGI and who collaborated with Spielberg for “Jurassic Park.” They may have been honored for different types of animation, but each deserved to share the stage with each other.