Despite Pixar and Disney withdrawing from the Annie Awards in August, both “Toy Story 3” and “Tangled” are among the Best Picture nominees announced Monday. However, these well-regarded movies didn’t receive much other recognition with “Toy Story 3” also in the hunt for Best Director (Lee Unkrich) and Best Screenplay (Michael Arndt) while “Tangled” also contends for Best Screenplay (Dan Fogelman). The extent of the rift is such that eight-time Oscar champ Alan Menken was snubbed for his “Tangled” score. The Best Picture race is rounded out by DreamWork’s “How to Train Your Dragon” — which leads with 15 nominations — Universal’s “Despicable Me” (seven bids) and Sony Picture Classic’s “The Illusionist” (five nods).
The 38th annual edition of these kudos will be bestowed on Feb. 5 at UCLA’s Royce Hall. While current Disney fare does not figure that well in these awards, the studio is to receive the Special Achievement prize for the documentary “Waking Sleeping Beauty,” which examined the decade from 1984 to 1994 when the once-storied animation wing took flight once more. And Pixar’s two-time Oscar champ Brad Bird (“The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille”) is to to be feted with the Winsor McCay Award for his contributions to animation. The other recipients of that honor will be long-time Disney animator Eric Goldberg (“Pocahontas,” “Hercules”) and “The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening.
DreamWorks product dominated the film categories with 28 of the 48 animated feature nominations. The studio is sure to win Character Animation as “Dragon” has three of the noms while “Megamind” has the other two and Storyboarding (“Dragon, “Megamind” and “Shrek Forever After” are the only contenders). It also has four of the five bids in Animated Effects and three of the five in Voice Acting.
DIsney and Pixar pulled out of these kudos citing concerns about the process. Indeed, admission to the Annies administering body — the International Animated Film Society — is open to anyone willing to pay the membership fee. The withdrawal of these animation powerhouses came despite Pixar’s “Up” winning both best picture and director at last February’s awards. The nine-time nominee beat out the same lineup it went on to defeat at the Oscars — “Coraline,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “The Princess and the Frog” and “The Secret of Kells” — as well as “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.”
“Coraline” — which topped the list with 10 nominations — won three Annie Awards: character design, music and production design. “Princess” took three of its eight races at the Annie Awards: animated effects, character animation and voice acting. Critics’ choice “Fantastic Mr. Fox” won just one of its three nods, for the script by director Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach.
“Beauty and the Beast” — which, like “Up,” was a best picture nominee at the Oscars — won the first Annie Award for animated feature back in 1991. Since the Academy Awards introduced a separate award for best animated feature in 2001, the winners of the two prizes have matched up seven times. The exceptions: in 2006 when “Cars” won the Annie but “Happy Feet” danced off with the Oscar and, most notably, two years ago when “Kung Fu Panda” swept the Annie Awards but “Wall-E” waltzed off with the Academy Award.
Although film critics had ranked “Wall-E” as one of the top-rated movies of last year, the IFSA members were far less impressed. Of the three 2008 Oscar contenders, “Kung Fu Panda” led going into the Annies with 16 nominations to eight for “Wall-E” and five for “Bolt.” Numbering triple noms in both character animation and voice acting and double noms in storyboarding and production design among its record-tying tally, “Kung Fu Panda” won all 10 categories in which it was competing while “Wall-E” was shut out. And offshoots of “Kung Fu Panda” were also winners at the Annie Awards. The video game claimed an award and TV spinoff “The Secrets of the Furious Five” took four more.
Three years ago, eventual Pixar’s Oscar champ “Ratatouille” was also the clear leader at the Annies, winning nine of its 14 nominations and far outpacing the other two Oscar nominees, “Surf’s Up,” which won two of 10 nods, and “Persepolis,” which went zero for four.
Image: Annie Award statue (IFSA)