While movie-loving audiences around the world are eager to tune in to the Golden Globes or Academy Awards, it’s easy to miss the Annie Awards. An altogether different set of honors bestowed to the talent behind the best animated films of the year, the Annie Awards have taken place with modest fanfare in an annual ceremony taking place since at least 1972. Like the animated films which stand in the shadows of live-action Hollywood blockbusters and dramas, this unique awards ceremony may not draw as much popular buzz. Nevertheless, it’s arguably among the industry’s most meaningful events, taking place Saturday, February 5, 2011, at UCLA Royce Hall in Los Angeles.
ASIFA-Hollywood is the organization behind the Annie Awards, an American branch of the non-profit International Animated Film Association, also known as ASIFA. The acronym stands for the organization’s official name, “Association Internationale du Film d’Animation,” which was founded in France in 1957. With active chapters in countries throughout the world, ASIFA represents a truly global effort to promote animation.
Created just a few years after ASIFA’s founding, the ASIFA’s Hollywood chapter takes great pride in the Annie Awards, which it calls the “the most prestigious award dedicated to animation.” Some fans of animation may recognize one of the chapter’s founding members, June Foray, who voiced Rocky the squirrel on TV’s classic “Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.” It was Foray who first proposed the idea of selling single cells of animation as artwork, which the first public sale took place in her own home in 1972.
The same year would see the first of what would become the Annie Awards, when Foray came up with the idea of a banquet to honor veterans of animation. Foray and her husband coined the “Annies” name, which would eventually transform into an annual ceremony with a variety of awards given to distinguished animators.
Under Foray’s leadership, the Annie Awards honored individuals who stood out in the preceding year, as well as giving out awards to honor lifetime and career achievements. Since 1992, a new award for Best Animated Feature has been given to the best animated film of the year. During the 1990s, Walt Disney Pictures won the Best Feature award in all but one year, a trend which ended in the following decade, though Disney subsidiary Pixar has won several times. Recent winning films by Pixar include “Up,” “Ratatouille,” and “Cars.”
Like other awards ceremonies, the Annie awards haven’t been without their fair share of controversy in recent years. Don Hertzfeld, the man behind the animated short “Everything will be OK,” was on the receiving end of some infamously unlucky technical problems on the Annie awards ballot in 2008. The following year, eyebrows were raised when “Kung Fu Panda” swept the awards, shutting out “Wall-E.” Famed animator Billy Plimpton wasn’t the only person who wondered aloud whether or not “the elections were rigged.”
The controversy is the flip-side of the ASIFA-Hollywood’s unique public membership, through which anyone can join and vote for winners. The open process allows fans of animation to have their opinions count, something which sets the Annies apart from other awards ceremonies. As little as $30 can get you a membership with the non-profit organization, so fans of animation may want to take a look at ASIFA-Hollywood’s online membership application for more information.