Normally, I’d start predictions off with a rousing, snarky comment about how much awards season disappoints me every year, but last year’s Annie Awards were a pleasant surprise; no one film swept up every single award and an extremely underrated series took home the award for best television production for children. This year, the nomination list looks robust and the horribly overrated “it’s adult and edgy” film industry sweetheart has been all but shafted. Maybe a little positive thinking is due… at least until the Academy Awards announce their nominations.
Until then, here are my predictions for the 2017 Annie Awards:
Outstanding Achievement, Editorial in an Animated Feature Production
Zootopia – Walt Disney Animation Studios – Nominee: Fabienne Rawley – Nominee: Jeremy Milton
Editorial is a hard category to make predictions for because it encompasses so many aspects of production, but acting like it’s the same as the Best Feature category would be doing it a great disservice. An animation editor has a heavy hand in everything from story to effects at a level that live action editing doesn’t. Zootopia was a film that went through a lot of revising to become what we saw in theaters, and that takes an editorial department willing to help make tough calls.
Outstanding Achievement, Editorial in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production
Gravity Falls – Episode: Weirdmageddon 3: Take Back The Falls – Disney TV Animation – Nominee: Kevin Locarro, Nominee: Andrew Sorcini, Nominee: Nancy Frazen, Nominee: Tony Mizgalski
Speaking of tough calls, it was this or Mickey Mouse, which has long been the Annie Awards’ darling series. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mickey takes this award instead, but I’m leaning towards Gravity Falls both because I really think it deserves it and because the show has ended. This will be the Annies’ last chance to shower praise onto a show that helped bring in a new golden age for Disney Television Animation, and I’m guessing the voters will decide to take advantage of that.
Outstanding Achievement, Writing in an Animated Feature Production
Zootopia – Walt Disney Animation Studios – Writer: Jared Bush, Writer: Phil Johnston
My first impulse when I saw the nomination list was to scream “KUBO!!!” and be done with it, but as much as I adored Kubo and the Two Strings, I didn’t think its screenplay was perfection. At times, especially towards the end, the films’ message came across a tad heavy-handed.
Zootopia got a lot of criticism for the way it handled its allegory – many felt it could have been more heavy-handed – but I personally found the, in the film’s own words, “messy” discourse on racism strikingly realistic.
Of course, there’s more to either of these films than the messages they try to portray, and I’m not making my call for Zootopia strictly on that. I’m making my call for Zootopia for a variety of reasons, not the least among them being that writing a good police mystery is really, really hard.
Outstanding Achievement, Writing in an Animated TV/Broadcast
Gravity Falls – Episode: Weirdmageddon 3: Take Back The Falls – Disney TV Animation – Writer: Shion Takeuchi, Writer: Mark Rizzo, Writer: Jeff Rowe, Writer: Josh Weinstein, Writer: Alex Hirsch
Bar none. Nothing else in this category comes close to what a well written and satisfying finale Gravity Falls had. (Seriously? Two nominations for The Simpsons? Why?)
Outstanding Achievement, Voice Acting in an Animated Feature
Moana – Walt Disney Animation Studios – Voice Actress: Auli’i Cravalho Character: Moana
Everyone loves a rags to riches story, including award voters. Auli’i was picked via an open casting call, she’s brand new to the industry, and she used her talent well when she voiced a lovable new Disney “princess.” I’ll honestly be shocked if she doesn’t take this award home.
Outstanding Achievement, Voice Acting in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production
The Mr. Peabody & Sherman Show – Episode: Ponce de León – DreamWorks Animation Television – Cast: Carlos Alazaraqui Character: Ponce de León
Dang. We’re starting to get into “I haven’t seen all these shows” territory. Someday, I dream, I will be a full-time animation critic who can sit down and consistently watch every nominated film and series instead of sitting in a class I don’t like while an uncomfortable chair digs into my back, but for now I have to make a guess based on the fact that The Mr. Peabody and Sherman Show has both been an award winner in the past and always has some great voice acting.
Outstanding Achievement, Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production
Kubo and the Two Strings – LAIKA – Storyboard Artist: Mark Garcia
Kubo‘s strongest suit is its art and I get the feeling it’ll grab a fair amount of awards for its art in particular. Although, Dory had some lovely storyboards as well, and could swipe the award on account of it not being likely to win all that much else as the sequel in a year of great original films.
Outstanding Achievement, Storyboarding in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production
Disney Mickey Mouse – Episode: Road Hogs – Disney Television Animation – Storyboard Artist: Heiko Von Drengenberg
Again, Mickey Mouse is deeply beloved by the Annies and has impressive art all around. I’d love to see Milo Murphy’s Law win its first award, but I didn’t feel the boarding of the first episode was anything to specifically phone home about… why isn’t Weird Al nominated for voice acting, exactly…?
Outstanding Achievement, Production Design in an Animated Feature Production
Kubo and the Two Strings – LAIKA – Production Design: Nelson Lowry, Production Design: Trevor Dalmer, Production Design: August Hall, Production Design: Ean McNamara
Between its beautiful artwork, stunning animation, and one of the biggest stop motion rigs ever, Kubo deserves this, bar none.
Outstanding Achievement, Production Design in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production
The Mr. Peabody & Sherman Show – Episode: The Wrath of Hughes – DreamWorks Animation Television – Production Design: Kevin Dart, Production Design: Sylvia Liu, Production Design: Chris Turnham, Production Design: Eastwood Wong
The Mr. Peabody & Sherman Show won this category last year, and “The Wrath of Hughes” is a particularly well designed episode, so I won’t be surprised if it wins this award again. Its fun, retro style certainly deserves more design awards.
Outstanding Achievement, Music in an Animated Feature Production
Sing – Illumination Entertainment – Composer: Joby Talbot
Oh, come on, some of these aren’t even out publicly yet. In fact, this list is just weird in general, and feels like the Annies are treating music nominations as their “sorry we didn’t nominate you anywhere else” pile for the year. From what I’ve heard about Sing though, its music is one of its best aspects, so I’m guessing it’ll win.
Not even a nomination for Thomas Newman though? Boooo. Not-biased-at-all-he’s-my-favorite-composer boo-ing.
Outstanding Achievement, Music in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production
Disney Mickey Mouse – Episode: Dancevidaniya – Disney Television Animation – Composer: Christopher Willis
Natch. These shorts are more often than not completely centered around their music, and none of the other nominations stand out all that much.
Outstanding Achievement, Directing in an Animated Feature Production
Kubo and the Two Strings – LAIKA- Director: Travis Knight
Kubo was a film that required an insane amount of stop motion assets and work, and without a great direction could have been a complete disaster. Between that and LAIKA being a fairly small group compared to Disney, I imagine Knight had his hand in a lot of aspects of production. If voters view his contribution similarly, I think they’ll give him this award.
Outstanding Achievement, Directing in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production
Wander Over Yonder – Episode: My Fair Hatey – Disney Television Animation – Director: Dave Thomas, Director: Eddie Trigueros, Director: Justin Nichols
For every prediction post, there’s a writer behind it who has at least one category that they will be very upset if they’re wrong about. For me, it’s this one.
“My Fair Hatey” was one of, if not the, best episodes of Wander Over Yonder, managing to finally garner the show the long-deserved attention of the online animation fandom at-large. Wander Over Yonder also managed to win best television production at the Annies last year, and this will be the last chance to shower more awards on the series. I think it both has a good chance of winning and fully deserves it.
Outstanding Achievement, Character Design in an Animated Feature Production
Zootopia – Walt Disney Animation Studios – Character Design : Cory Loftis Character: Nick Wilde, Judy Hopps, Flash, Chief Bogo, Clawhauser, Mr. Big, Fru Fru, Koslov, Bellwether, Yax, Finnick, Doug, Mr. and Mrs. Otterton, Duke Weaselton, Misc. Characters
It probably doesn’t need stated with the mess of a list on the Annie nominations page, but a film like Zootopia requires an insane amount of character design work. You have to make each species anthropomorphic while still being easily readable, then you have to make each character within each species look unique and easily readable while still fitting the general template you already created for that species and… just… give Loftis all the character design awards and a nice long paid vacation, please.
Outstanding Achievement, Character Design in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production
Pig Goat Banana Cricket – Episode: It’s Time to Slumber Party – Nickelodeon – Character Designer: Jennifer Wood, Character: Cricket with Turbine Nose, Burgerstein Nose Picking, Pig Window Squished, Moms Raisin, Angry Old Raisin Toothless, Angry Old Raisin Falling, Pig Melting, Incidental Adult 0014 Army, Sergeant Broseph Red Eyes, General Potato, Goat Soldier Dizz
Woah woah woah, I’m not prediction Wander Over Yonder in a category its nominated in?? While I appreciate the overall effort required to create new aliens for each planet in each episode, “The Night Out” didn’t have particularly interesting character designs to me. Pig Goat Banana Cricket has some really interesting character design, and since its seldom nominated I think the Annies will want to give it some respect in this category, especially since it’s a rouge Nickelodeon production in a year dominated by Disney and Netflix.
Outstanding Achievement, Character Animation in a Video Game
Titanfall 2 I guess????
Every year, the Annie Awards nominate a bunch of games in this category with characters that look like they could all exist in the same game, all fitting squarely into the category of “so HD and realistic you can see the individual hairs on his 5o’clock shadow.” There’s nothing wrong with this style in and of itself, and I mean no disrespect to the artists who designed these characters, but awards should offer a much more varied palette of styles than this. The Annies of all ceremonies should understand that there’s more to animation than realism, and every other category seems to get this, so what the heck is going on with the Annies and video games?
You could point to the inclusion of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game based on the stylized 2012 cartoon, but I’m hard pressed to find any new designs even made specifically for the game, and it looks like the game is only nominated for a few characters with some new armor added. Why?
I’m predicting Titanfall 2 winning this award, on account of all of those well-detailed robots. However, as I write this, my eyes keep lingering towards all those gifs I’ve seen from Overwatch and wondering why its colorful assortment of characters was completely shafted.
Outstanding Achievement, Character Animation in a Live Action Production
The Jungle Book – One team or the other
I have no idea which of the two teams from The Jungle Book nominated in this category will win, but it’ll be one of the teams from The Jungle Book. The film is pretty much half animation and received lots of love in both critical and animation circles this year.
Outstanding Achievement, Character Animation in a Feature Production
Kubo and the Two Strings – LAIKA – Animator: Jan Maas Character: Multiple
Many of the voters at the Annies are pretty traditionally minded, and are likely to lean towards stop motion in the animation category. Despite two nominations for Zootopia, I think Kubo will take this award on account of being stop-motion. Seeing as one of the characters was made of stop-motion origami paper that kept changing shape, I think it deserves to win too.
Outstanding Achievement, Character Animation in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production
This prediction is completely blind; I haven’t seen a single series in this category, and am predicting Tumble Leaf based on it receiving previous love from the Annies and having two nominations in this category.
But seriously, why would any single series receive two nominations in such a general category? This category is rather odd in general this year, filled mostly by Amazon studios with Disney and Nickelodeon nowhere to be found despite both producing some well animated series this year that have previously received love in this category.
Outstanding Achievement, Animated Effects in a Live Action
Dr. Strange – Mirror Dimension – Marvel Studios – FX Supervisor: Georg Kaltenbrunner, Digital Artist : Michael Marcuzzi, Digital Artist : Thomas Bevan, Digital Artist : Andrew Graham, Digital Artist: Jihyun Yoon
Anybody who has even seen the trailer for Dr. Strange knows that the effects in this film were something to behold. Although, I’m surprised by the lack of representation for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
Outstanding Achievement, Animated Effects in an Animated Production
Kubo and the Two Strings – LAIKA – Lead Effects Artist: David Horsley, CG Look Development Lead: Eric Wachtman, Senior Compositor: Timur Khodzhaev, Compositor: Daniel Leatherdale, Lead CG Lighter: Terrance Tornberg
Moana would win this category against any other foe because of all that glorious, glorious CGI water and CGI hair and CGI wet hair, but Kubo has an entire a stop-motion storm. I don’t think it’d be impossible for Moana to take this one, especially because it’s not nominated in that many categories, but I’m leaning towards Kubo.
Best Student Film
I have no idea.
If anybody knows of a secret, magical land where all of these student films are easy to get a hold of without living near award screenings with a press pass, I’d love to know. Until then, I have no idea what’s going on in any of the nominated student films.
Best General Audience Animated Television/Broadcast Production
Long Live the Royals – Episode: Punk Show – Cartoon Network Studios
Long Live the Royals has the advantage of barely fitting into the General Audience category (it’s marketed at roughly the same age as Regular Show) which has served other shows well, not to mention many of the other nominated are tired old standbys. Royals brings something new to the table of a category often overtaken by shows like The Simpsons and is likely to win for it.
Best Animated Television/Broadcast Production For Children
Wander Over Yonder – Episode: My Fair Hatey – Disney Television Animation
Bar none. See the reasons I think this same episode will win for directing. Although I must say, it’s nice to see the often ignored Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles score a well-deserved nomination for “Trans-Dimensional Turtles”.
Best Animated Television/Broadcast Production For Preschool Children
Tumble Leaf – Episode: Mighty Mud Movers / Having a Ball – Amazon Studios and Bix Pix Entertainment
Again, Tumble Leaf seems to be an industry darling, and I don’t see any reason for it not to win this category again.
Best Animated Television/Broadcast Commercial
LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer – Plastic Wax
The commercial category is a bit awkward and arguably unfair in its very nature, because most voters aren’t going to go out of their way to watch commercials and winning is often about getting as many eyes in front of your commercial as possible. The LEGO Star Wars:The Force Awakens trailer went viral earlier this year and was a very fun little piece of work.
Best Animated Short Subject
Piper – Pixar Animation Studios
Disney or Pixar pretty much always wins best animated short subject, but it’s nice in a year like this where I think their nominee actually deserves it. Piper was a beautifully rendered and sweet allegory about the trials of growing up.
Best Animated Special Production
Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Scroll – DreamWorks Animation
Kung Fu Panda’s short-subject films seem to get nominated every time they’re released, but rarely win. Looking at the nominees, this year seems like it’s time. Add to that the guilt associated with Kung Fu Panda 3 getting nominated in a ton of other categories that it won’t win any despite being a bit of an industry sweetheart, and this year seems prime to finally appreciate the gorgeous animation in these shorts.
Best Animated Feature – Independent
Your Name. – CoMix Wave Films
This category is new to the 2017 Annie Awards and I’m not sure how I feel about it. It feels a bit too akin to the Best Animated Feature category at the Oscars, which only needs to exist because of nepotism and a failure to respect animated films as an equal art to live-action works. An independent feature category feels like a consolation prize for the best film that didn’t have a bunch of biased Disney and/or Dreamworks employees voting for it because they worked on it or had a friend who worked on it, and I’d like to believe the animation community is passionate enough about their art to be better than that. How are we even defining an independent film at the Annie Awards? After all, Studio Ghibli is hardly what I’d call “independent” with its long-standing existence and connections to Disney.
That said, Your Name. has been sweeping up awards left and right, so it seems to be a given it will win this category with most of its biggest competition stripped away.
Best Animated Feature
Kubo and the Two Strings – LAIKA
Despite the previously mentioned categories where I feel Zootopia beats it, Kubo and the Two Strings was, overall, the best animated film of the year all-around and LAIKA’s best work to date. It’s a close call, but I’m leaning towards Kubo to be the overall winner of the 2017 Annie Awards.