It’s the beginning of the year in Hollywood, so you know what that means, award season. First we had the Golden Globes, next was the SAG Awards, and soon it will be time for the Academy Awards, but in between the bigger award shows, with all of the fancy stars in attendance, are the Annie Awards. What, you’ve never heard of the Annie Awards? Is it given to orphans with rich bald fathers and an Indian man servant? No, the Annie Awards are given annually to the top people in the animation industry, and this is the 38th Annual Annie Awards, so it’s been around much longer than you’ve realized. In honor of these awards, I will now give you my three favorite animators of all-time. As I’m a new school kind of guy, even though I love the classics from Hanna-Barbera, it didn’t crack my top three.
My first favorite animator is none other than Mr. Simpsons himself, Matt Groening. Matt is a pioneer in modern day animation as not only does he have the longest running animated series, but also the longest running prime-time entertainment program in U.S. History. The Simpsonsis well on its way to over 500 episodes and countless Billions of dollars for everyone involved, and I personally can say I’ve never missed an episode. The Simpsons were a game changer when it came to prime-time cartoons, as since it premiered there have been dozens of other animated shows which have been in prime time on network TV, and hundreds of others on the cable airwaves.
What I love most about The Simpsons was the irreverence it brought to the screen, as it is a genuinely funny cartoon that has always had its finger on the pulse of Americana, and it has always “gotten the joke”. While some may say it’s lost some of its luster in recent years, I still believe it’s been going strong, and the FOX Network tends to agree with me seeing that it has already renewed it for its record extending 23rd season. In addition to The Simpsons, Matt Groening was the creator of Futurama which while I liked the show as a whole, in comparison to his other major success was a mild disappointment, which leads me to my second favorite animator.
Seth MacFarlane is plain and simple an evil genius who to me is the funniest writer/producer/voice actor in the animation game today. Where Matt Groening has one phenomenal show, Seth MacFarlane has three, and all of his masterpieces are unique in their own right. Family Guy is quite possibly the funniest show (animated or live action) on TV today, and I am extremely thankful that FOX gave this show not only a second chance, but a third chance as well. It may have taken some time, but sometimes it’s hard to look past the quality that this show has. MacFarlane’s other shows, American Dad and Family Guy Spinoff, The Cleveland Show are strong in their own right, and in my opinion are frequently just as funny as it’s originator if not better some weeks.
The other thing that Seth MacFarlane does that I can’t help but respect, is that not only does he calls the shots, but the network doesn’t really get in his way and even gave him a 5 year/ $100 Million deal to show how much faith they have in him. There are some times when the network have been upset by some of his antics, and even an occasion or two where things went too far, but for the most part, FOX has always given him the rope, if he chooses to hang himself every now and again, so be it. Which brings me to my final favorite animator, or should I say animators.
Matt Stone and Trey Parker
Matt Stone and Trey Parker are my final favorite animators as they too have a groundbreaking show in their own right, South Park. South Park took the mold of what a cartoon was, threw it out the window, had a car run over it, and then set the remains on fire. Besides the fact that South Park at one point, graphically speaking, was one of the worst animated shows of all-time, it was really the content that sold the show, and to me that was part of the charm of South Park. The other thing that this did that no other animated show has really ever done, is that South Park could shoot a show with computers the same week it was going on air. While most cartoons are sent over to Korea or China, to have animators work months on top of months to get one episode done, Matt and Trey basically said we don’t really care how well the show looks graphically, we’re funny, and we’re going to bring you the funny in a timely manner.
What frequently sets South Park apart from all other animated programs is their ability to bring you timely humor, and it shows in the quality of their work. Much like Seth MacFarlane, Matt and Trey have been more than willing to push the envelope and have basically annoyed anyone and everyone they have seen fit. They’ve also pushed the buttons of most every major religion including the Catholics, Scientologists, and worst of all the Islams who you might remember basically gave them death threats for their depiction of their prophet Muhammad. I give them credit for standing up to pretty much everyone, as I don’t know I would be as brave to mess with some of those fundamentalists, but they don’t really seem to care, and basically go about their business as it is their world, and we’re all just living in it.
Animation has come a long way in the 38 years that the Annie Awards have been around, and I think my favorite animators are still groundbreaking even today. Besides the fact they have all won countless awards, the general public has also fallen in love with their work as proven by their bank accounts which not only grow from their current work, but the thousands of hours these three have provided to the American public in the form of syndication. Here’s hoping that their continued success will keep the road open for such other shows like Bob’s Burgers which if I wrote this column five years from now could easily contain Loren Bouchard as well.