report by Don Rose
The 35th Annual Annie Awards honored the best in 2007 animation on February 8, 2008. The show featured many celeb presenters and an eclectic audience filled with top talent in animation, voiceover, writing and other areas of creative production. This being The LA Report's first Annies, we were thoroughly impressed. The show was funny, well paced, never seemed to drag, and featured many touching, inspiring and downright hilarious moments. Presenter James Hong pointed out (after wishing us Happy Chinese New Year) that this is The Year of the Rat -- so apropos, as Pixar favorite "Ratatouille" won 9 Annie Awards, including Best Animated Feature.
This year the venue was moved from the Alex Theatre in Glendale to UCLA’s Royce Hall (see image), and the event was flawless and fun, hosted by the always-hysterical Tom Kenny (former top comic who has gone on to animation legendhood as the voice of Spongebob Squarepants). One of the ceremony's funniest moments came after Tom lost out in his voiceover category. Acting (mock) sad and deeply disappointed, Tom's fellow Spongebob voice actors rally to him and soon, his verve back, Kenny tells us to watch a clip that will show how big a range of voice talent he and his fellow Spongebobians can display. The resultant clips of Casablanca, Singin' in the Rain and The Godfather, as (re-)voiced by Kenny and Team Squarepants, could have won the ROTFL Kneeslapper Award of the night, on a night filled with many more magical moments and laugh-out-loud lines.
The post awards party was equally stellar, featuring much animated dialogue (pun not intended, I swear) and buffets filled with top notch gourmet food (including polenta with salmon, risotto, shrimp with mushrooms, salad, delectable desserts - and, surprisingly, no Ratatouille!). Guests also enjoyed several open bars, plus the smooth surf sounds and twangy tones of The Blue Hawaiians, sponsored by MyToons.com.
As Weird Al Yankovic (a presenter and nominee this year) was giving an autograph, I asked him something I always wondered about: on those song parodies he's famous for, can he just rely on Fair Use to get by, or does he always ask permission from the songwriters who wrote the original tunes? I expected the latter, and he confirmed that. Al said that Fair Use is a gray area, and while he might be able to rely on it (his remakes being obvious parodies), he always asks permission. (And, as I recall, he usually gets it.) As for song credit (my next question), he said the original writer gets full music credit, and splits the lyric credit (so, he pointed out, the lyrics to "Eat It" are by Michael Jackson and Weird Al Yankovic, music by Michael Jackson). Now I can't help but wonder how many wonderfully bizarre songwriting "teams" must be out there in parodysongcreditland, to discover and get a chuckle from.
While The Annie Awards is billed as a black tie optional event (and some of those classic penguinish outfits were indeed on display, perhaps a fitting nod to Sony's multi-nominated film "Surf's Up"), we expected that many folks in this creative field (this being LA after all) might laxify the attire requirement, and happily we were right (The LA Report being in the loose-definition-of-black-tie camp).
All in all, this was one wonderful event. I give a very strong recommendation to our readers to attend the Annie Awards next year, especially if you work in animation, love watching animation, or just want to see the coolest award statue ever (with an actual working zoetrope -- in gold, of course -- that spins and has a little movie inside!). Special thanks to ASIFA-Hollywood, Melanie Crandall, and Gretchen Dixon for their assistance on this event.
"Ratatouille," Pixar Animation's tale of a rat who wants to be a chef, won the award for best feature production. Other nominees in that category: DreamWorks' "Bee Movie," Sony Pictures' "Surf's Up," Sony Pictures Classics' "Persepolis" and Fox's "The Simpsons Movie." "Ratatouille" also won writing and directing for Brad Bird, best voice acting for Ian Holm, best character animation, music, storyboarding, and production design. "Surf's Up," Sony's story about surfing penguins, won for animated effects and animation production artist. In the TV arena, Nickelodeon's "El Tigre" won best animated production for children and character design, while ShadowMachine's "Robot Chicken" won for character animation and directing. For a list of all winners and nominees, click here.