Across The Spider-Verse and Blue Eye Samurai triumph at the Annie Awards

Across The Spider-Verse and Blue Eye Samurai triumph at the Annie Awards

The Annie Awards, organized by ASIFA-Hollywood, saw this year's edition as big winners Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse by Sony Pictures Animation and Blue Eye Samurai of Netflix. The emcee-free ceremony took place Saturday evening at UCLA's Royce Hall in Los Angeles, celebrating the event's 51st year. However, despite the celebration, the evening was characterized by an overlong and disorganized presentation, with a flat tone that seemed to ignore the ongoing turmoil in the Los Angeles animation industry.

Indeed, the Annies have always had a certain degree of endemic embarrassment, but this year's apparent disinterest in the events of the animation industry has caused particular irritation. This event is supposed to represent the best of the industry, but the choice to include, for example, guttural dinosaur noises raised quite a few eyebrows.

Nevertheless, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse replicated the success of the previous film in the saga, winning the main prize for best animated feature and confirming itself in all the categories in which it was nominated, including recognition for direction, character design, production design and editorial . Other films, like Nimona of Netflix and The boy and the heron by Studio Ghibli, have obtained recognition in specific categories, demonstrating the variety and quality of the productions in competition.

On the series side, Blue Eye Samurai stood out with six victories, followed by Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur by Disney Television Animation and Star Wars:Visions by Disney Lucasfilm, both with more than one figure. Interestingly, the Annie Awards include categories dedicated to independent films and special productions, thus recognizing work that might not otherwise receive attention.

The ceremony also addressed current issues, such as the use of artificial intelligence in industry, highlighting the importance of human uniqueness and creativity in the creative process. Among the winners, productions that have managed to combine technical and narrative innovation also stand out, as demonstrated by the recognition a RobotDreams as best independent feature film.

Despite criticism of the event's presentation, the Annie Awards continue to be a benchmark for excellence in animation, celebrating the talent and passion of artists and industry professionals. This year's edition confirmed the dynamism and diversity of the industry, rewarding works ranging from action adventures to Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse to the historical-cultural reflection of Blue Eye Samurai, up to the innovative narrative and stylistic explorations of RobotDreams and The Boy and the Heron.

However, Sony's latest film hasn't monopolized all the feature film awards. Nimona of Netflix, which had more nominations than any other film, managed to get a couple of Annie (best screenplay and dubbing in a feature film), while The boy and the heron Studio Ghibli also got a couple of awards for character animation and storyboarding, the latter going to director Hayao Miyazaki himself (Miyazaki wasn't present at Annie, nor were any of the directors of Across the Spider-Verse).

Elemental e Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, both with six nominations, went home empty-handed. But perhaps the biggest feature snub of the night was suzume by Makoto Shinkai, who failed to get a single award from his seven nominations (nor the director of Elemental Pete Sohn nor Shinkai were present at Annie).

The awards for the series were distributed more evenly, with Blue Eye Samurai of Netflix leads with six wins. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur of Disney Television Animation has received three awards and Star Wars:Visions Disney's Lucasfilm has won twice. The biggest series snob of the evening? Max's elegant sci-fi series Scavengers Reign, which had four nominations and won nothing.

Some notable notes and victories:

  • The Annies do a good job of dividing the feature film categories into two: one for big-budget films and the other for independent films, which otherwise wouldn't be recognized. The award for best independent feature film this year was won by RobotDreams by Pablo Berger, which will be released in US theaters later this year by Neon. The film, which is also nominated for an Oscar, was widely praised for its excellence, winning the award for Best Animated Feature Film at the European Film Awards and two Goyas in Spain for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Adapted Screenplay.
  • Ghee Happy won the award for best preschool series. It's a happy ending for a project with a complicated history: Netflix produced the show but decided at the last minute not to distribute it. Somehow, creator Sanjay Patel was given the ability to self-distribute the series on Youtube. His success at Annie is further recognition for Patel's project, which is starting to build a following on YouTube.
  • Studio Ghibli animator Takeshi Honda won the character animation award for his work on The Boy and the Hero. It's only the second time in 14 years that a 2D animator has won this honor.
  • The co-creator of Blue Eye Samurai Michael Green gave one of the worst and best acceptance speeches of the night. The worst, because he thanked the crew for not seeing their families, for working weekends and for "killing themselves to make this show." Even if intended as hyperbole, such comments are never a good idea in front of an industry audience, but it's especially bad when you consider the behind-the-scenes stories we've heard about the troubled and mismanaged production of Blue Eye Samurai. On the other hand, Green was the only person who addressed AI in any substantive way in his speech, saying among other things that, “AI cannot touch anyone in this room as long as we create from within, channeling our passions, our pains, our humor and as long as we remain strange, unique, honest and unpredictable – when we create it is the expression of a soul and that cannot be programmed.”
  • Hilda by Silvergate Media and Netflix won the award for best children's series. The award was for “Chapter 8: Fairy Isle,” the last episode of the series. It's a nice ending for the show, which won the same award in 2019 for the first episode of the series, "Chapter 1: The Hidden People."

On a company basis, Netflix won the most awards with nine, followed by Sony Pictures Animation and Disney with seven each. It's surprising how concentrated the consolidation of Annie awards is in just a few companies, a trend we also observed last year. Major LA producers who haven't won awards: Nickelodeon, Warner Bros. Animation, Dreamworks, Illumination and Paramount Animation.


Gianluigi Piludu

Author of articles, illustrator and graphic designer of the website

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