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Annies Hoping to Draw Some of Oscar's Attention

November 19, 2002|Patricia Ward Biederman | Times Staff Writer

By better synchronizing animation's top prizes with the Academy Awards, the animation industry hopes some of Oscar's luster will shine on Annie.

The presentation of the awards -- the animation industry's answer to the Oscars -- will move from its traditional November date to Feb. 1 at Glendale's Alex Theatre, a change that organizers hope will make the Annies a more closely watched prelude to the Oscars.

Founded 30 years ago by legendary voice actor June Foray, the voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel, the Annies have grown in stature as animation has matured and diversified beyond Disney. Animators value the awards because they represent the judgment of their peers in ASIFA-Hollywood, the Southern California branch of the international animation society, which was founded in France in 1957.

By putting eligibility for the Annies on the same calendar-year cycle as the Academy Awards and rescheduling their presentation, ASIFA-Hollywood hopes to make its ceremony part of an entertainment awards season that includes the Golden Globes in January and the Oscars in March, said Antran Manoogian, longtime president of the Burbank-based ASIFA-Hollywood.

Previously, Annies honored animated work released between Aug. 1 of the previous year and July 31 of the year of the ceremony, Manoogian said. Under the new schedule, Annie consideration will be given to work released in the calendar year before the ceremony -- mimicking the Jan. 1-Dec. 31 eligibility system for the Oscars.

In March, the Motion Picture Academy awarded its first Oscar for best animated feature to DreamWorks' "Shrek," which also was the big winner at the 2001 Annies.

Under the new scheme, animated works released between Aug. 1, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2002, will be eligible for the next Annies. Nominations in more than 20 categories will be announced Jan. 6.

"We will announce our nominees before the Academy Awards, and we will announce our winners before the Academy Awards," Manoogian said.

Animation Guild President Kevin Koch sees the change as positive. "It does position the Annies to become an award that potentially leads into the Oscars," he said.

Koch's one concern is that this season's unique 18-month eligibility period might cause some first-rate animated features to get lost in the shuffle. "The unfortunate thing is that they're making a change during an especially strong year for animated features," he said.

"Next year [when only a year's worth of films will be eligible], it'll be fine, but this is kind of a crazy year because you're taking 18 months worth of films, and it's been a good 18 months."

A raft of animated features, including several hits, will be eligible for February's Annies. Possible contenders include "Monsters Inc.," "The Ice Age," "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius," "Stuart Little 2," "Spirit: Wild Stallion of the Cimarron," "Metropolis," "Lilo & Stitch," "Treasure Planet," "The Wild Thornberries Movie," "Eight Crazy Nights," and "Spirited Away."

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