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Archived Feature Articles: Annie Awards

Following on from my previous post, please find below one of the previous features I wrote very early on. More to follow:

Dreamworks and ASIFA accused of mutual agreement to win Annie Awards

Dreamworks’ ‘Kung Fu Panda’, an animated film about an unlikely hero in the shape of overweight Panda as voiced by Jack Black, caused unanticipated upset when on 30th January 2009 the film won 10 Annie Awards, the most wins for one work in the history of the ceremony.

The Hollywood branch of ASIFA, or ‘Association Internationale du Film d’animation’, a non profit organisation founded in 1957, pride themselves on their dedication to the art ‘d’animation’. They are supported through public funding at three levels; student, general and patron, and it is through this funding that they are able to continue with their endeavours which include ‘The Annie Awards’. The yearly event commemorates achievements in animation from a micro level, i.e., one particular Producer or Animator’s contribution to a piece of work, to a macro level such as the sought after title of ‘Best Animated Feature’.

On this occasion, the 36th Annie Awards, animated film, ‘Kung Fu Panda’ won in ten categories pushing fellow contender and highly critically acclaimed film ‘Wall-E’ out of the running to win any awards. As result, ASIFA-Hollywood has been accused of rigging said awards. This has been suggested by a number of critics but none have been so pointed in their accusation than that of New York Times Journalist, David Carr. On 19th February 2009, Carr commented in the article titled ‘The Contenders, the Show and the Spectacle,’ in reference to the Dreamworks sweep that it “was an inside job, full of backstage politics you don’t want to know about”.

Judging by the ‘Annie’s’ reputation, it would not be a stretch of the imagination to see the point Carr seems to have made in the quote above as this is not the only time ASIFA has been shrouded in controversy. Most recently, there was the incident related to the ‘Best Short Subject’ category in 2008.

The Annie Awards rely on member nomination. Entries for categories are made available for members to view via a secure server. In view of fairness, all entries must be available to judge for the whole duration of a nominating period and all entries in a specific category have to have been viewed in their entirety prior to votes being cast. This is as described in the rules. In 2008, independent short, ‘The Chest’ and Don Hertzfeldt’s popular, ‘Everything will be okay’ were made only partially available, giving unfair advantage to contenders Pixar and Disney who, incidentally are big patrons to ASIFA, or rather, large financial donators to the organisation. Pixar went on to win in the category. Although an apology was given, no attempts were made to correct this despite it being against the rules ASIFA set for themselves.

With the renewed controversy, ASIFA are being suspected of underhandedness and whether it is a mere coincidence that, with reference to Kung Fu Panda winning so wholly, Dreamworks happen to be a ‘Gold Sponsor’ as opposed to Pixar’s ‘Silver’ is unclear. All that remains is one rhetorical question, posed by film.com author, Eric D. Snider: “is it crass to suggest that this [sponsorship] influenced this year’s outcome?”

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