You’ve never heard of them, but Annie Awards could be the next Oscars

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Annie Awards are the equivalent of the Oscars for the animation industry, but even though popular films and series are nominated, many people remain unaware of the annual ceremony.

The awards also happen to be a great predictor of who will take home the Oscar in the animation categories. Pixar’s “Coco” was the big winner at this year’s event, which took place Feb. 3. (You can read more about the winners here.)

Animator Christine Simon regularly attends the ceremony and has a deep appreciation for the awards. Below, she offers an insider’s look at the history and significance of the Annies. 

By CHRISTINE SIMON

The Annie Awards are considered “animation’s biggest night,” and I often describe it, to people who aren’t aware of it, as the Oscars for Animation.

The awards began in 1972, conceived by June Foray, a pioneer for women in animation voice acting. She voiced several notable characters over her career and felt that the animation field was lacking in recognition in the industry. So, she teamed up with Nick Bosustow, president of ASIFA (The International Animated Film Society), and organized the first Annie Awards show at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City, Calif.

Max and Dave Fleischer were the first to be honored for inventing the Rotoscoping technique and creating Betty Boop, Popeye, and Olive Oyl.

The first trophy was given in the second awards ceremony to Walter Lantz, creator of Woody Woodpecker. The Annie Award itself was designed by Tom Woodward. It is made of brass, wood, and plastic, resembling a zoetrope. (Yes, it really spins.)

The ceremony itself recognizes animation talent in several categories for television, commercials, and film — well-known companies, independent productions, and students alike. There are also special juried awards: June Foray, Ub Iwerks, Windsor McCay, certificate of merit, and special achievement.

From left, Art Babbitt, June Foray, Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, and Friz Freleng at the 1974 Annie Awards at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City.

The Annie Awards were also held at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Pasadena Civic Auditorium, and the Alex Theater before finding their home at UCLA’s Royce Hall.

Royce Hall.

The Annie Awards’ history is fascinating, and it is even more magical being there in person. It’s a night to glam up, meet and chat with like-minded people, and see a field that’s so widely used and not as widely known get recognized. I have attended four years in a row now, watching it grow each time, making friends, catching up with old ones, and celebrating accomplishments.

The ceremony takes place in early February and streams live from the event’s website.

I know the Annie Awards will become as popular and well-known as the Emmys, Golden Globes, and Oscars are.

Christine Simon and her husband Joshua at the 2018 Annie Awards ceremony.

Photos courtesy of Christine Simon. 

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