Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best animation of the Decade From Hell...

(in no particular order)

Lilo and Stitch
Just the most beautifully animated and beautifully staged 2D animated feature of the decade. You can't lose setting a movie in Hawaii, and the hand-painted watercolor background paintings are just to die for. The struggles of a barely-out-of-her-teens older sister caring for a feisty, troubled younger sister register as REAL even though the inclusion of the alien hexapodal genetics experiment Stitch adds a fantasy touch. I would even give this the edge over The Princess and the Frog even though that was a visual feast too.

Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence
This movie only gets more and more important to me with every viewing. You don't quite register it to begin with, the movie is so OMG spectacular visually, (see it on Blu-ray on a good 1020p HD setup) but this movie is an important criticism of the "moe" (mo-EH) subculture that is unfortunately ripping the guts out of the Japanese animation industry right now. The pretty, spooky, barely-pubescent Hadaly-type "sexoroids" that are malfunctioning all over Japan in the movie are a metaphor for the pre-pubescent sex objects that are all the rage in series and OAVs among male pop culture consumers. The reason why good anime is hard to find right now is because there is such a concentration on this very narrow category to the detriment of everything else. Heck, the best series I've seen in a while is Chii's Sweet Home, which is an Azumanga Daioh-style slice-of-life series centering not around humans, but A CAT. When feline stories trump human stories, something is wrong.

And here we have a story almost totally about robots that is one of the most touching and most human stories this decade. The first half of this movie has hardly any dialogue but it's incredibly acted. It was awesome that Ben Burtt, the genius sound designer who gave voices to the non-human side of the Star Wars galaxy, was persuaded out of retirement to work on this movie. And yes, Wall-E's a PC, and EVE is a Mac. Yay for Jon Ives also being persuaded to work out of the box on EVE's character design. And this has done more for ecological awareness than a thousand thousand showings of An Inconvenient Truth.

Waltz With Bashir
A documentary about an Israeli generation coming to terms with the brutality of the Lebanese War. It just so happens to be animated. The graphic novel look, which was all hand drawn, and the surrealism of the movie is 100% reality based. Slowly the truth is teased out, just like the protagonist (based on Ari Folman, the man who directed this movie) teases out the horrifying reality he experienced on the battlefield in 1982 but suppressed afterward.

If Wall-E is about the spark of "young" love, then Up is about the richness of love between a couple who spent a lifetime together. It also is about a man moving on to a whole new set of adventures in his golden years. I can't believe that Ed Asner, who brings the protagonist character of Carl Fredricksen to life with a strong and nuanced vocal performance, is not nominated for a Voice Acting Annie Award. The Casting Society of America has already awarded the casting directors for the movie with their highest honor for an animated feature. Heck, I hope the Academy shakes everyone up and nominates Asner for best actor. Asner's is one of the best voice acting performances of the decade, hands down.

An Up bonus: here's a remix by an Aussie DJ that is a nice spoiler-free intro to the movie:

Sita Sings The Blues
Film is an ensemble art form, and animated film is doubly so. A small army of artisans usually works on an animated feature. The myth of the Auteur, of the Director as "author" of a given movie, is usually only a reality in documentary film, where it's not unusual for a single person to do everything on a documentary. But Nina Paley spent 5 long years with several iterations of Macromedia (now Adobe) Flash on one lone Macintosh to create a feature of her own.

This is a mindblower of a movie. The elaborate artwork of India and Southeast Asia tells not only the grand cosmic story of the the love of the Hindu god Vishnu and the goddess Laxmi, but the heroic legend of Vishnu's incarnation as King Rama and Laxmi's incarnation as the beautiful and faithful heroine Sita, and the earthbound story of Paley's long-distance breakup with her ex-husband, who gets a gig animating at a studio in India.

These three tales are woven together with an attempt by three Indian friends of Paley trying to retell the Ramayana in front of a live mic, and the the torch songs of Jazz-age diva Annette Hanshaw. It was the very latter that got this movie in trouble, because Warner/Chappell Publishing held up distribution of the movie because they owned the publishing rights to Hanshaw's otherwise public domain recordings. Warner/Chappell eventually settled things with Paley, but added a twist worthy of a villain in a heroic legend: she could only give the movie away and show it on the festival circuit unless they got beaucoups more bucks. So Sita is now the first Creative Commons licensed animated feature, and can be downloaded for free from various sources, including Archive.Org. However, if some farsighted major would pay the ransom to Warner/Chappell, or if Time-Warner themselves decided "Hey! let's distribute this awesome movie for a feature run and put it out on DVD and Blu-Ray!" I guarantee it would be worth their while. Heck, I'm not alone in this: no less than Roger Ebert agrees with me. Jai Sita!

The upheaval in Iran has been one of the most compelling stories of 2009. The long-suffering citizenry has lived under autocrats for most of their history, from kings to dictators to Supreme Religious Leaders. In 1951, the Iranian people elected a reformist, Mohammad Mosaddegh, as their Prime Minister. However, one of the reforms the otherwise pro-Western and non-Communist PM was considering was the nationalization of the British oil concession, a relic of Iran's status as a protectorate of the British Empire post WWI. The UK and its US ally decided that this wasn't going to happen, so they participated in a rightist coup which toppled the Mosaddegh government and installed Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, formerly a figurehead head of state, as dictatorial ruler of Iran.

As the Shah's autocracy became more and more stifling, resistance simmered under the surface. It was in this pressure cooker that a woman named Marjane Satrapi was born in 1969. Her life under the Shah and later under the Islamic Republic made it into 4 graphic novels, collectively called Persepolis. In exile in France, Ms. Satrapi was able to take her graphic novels, which became worldwide sensations, and make an animated film based on them. The result is a powerful document, a personal testament of a life lived under two different despotisms, and the liberating power of art.

If you want to understand the roots of the current uprising, and understand why most Iranians who don't have a royalist axe to grind would rather the US stay out of the current conflict, watch this excellent animated feature.

Rebuild of Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone
Yes, we've been here before. This is Gainax's tale of the End of the World, which first blazed forth on Japanese television in 1995, then hit theatres with the two movies "Death and Rebirth" and "End of Evangelion." In some respects, this is Director Hideaki Anno's attempt to create a definitive retelling of the story of Angel attacks, a sinister cabal of scientists bent on metamorphosing Humankind into Godhood, and the designs of a renegade scientist, Ikari Gendou, to bend this process of metamorphosis, "Instrumentality," to his own ends. But in other respects, it is a totally new iteration, which is now starting to veer from the original story arc with the second movie, Evangelion 2.0, You Can (Not) Advance, which has already screened in Japan and is awaiting a Funimation release in the US.

Yes, folks, from a visual point of view, this is quite definitive. The CGI revolution has allowed some of the Angel attacks to look absolutely mindbogglingly beautiful, especially the last one they encounter which is like a living crystal that is able to morph into geometric shapes. Tokyo 3, the fortress city that UN NERV defends, is more detailed and impressive than ever. And the technology of the movie, the giant robot-like, armored Eva units, are more fully realized than in the original series and the older movies.

The story accelerates almost too much for people not familiar with it to follow. However, the Japanese audiences that this release was initially intended for are pretty much up to speed with the particulars, so it's understandable that we sort of "cut to the chase" from the beginning. Still, there is enough there so that even if you're an Evangelion virgin you'll be fine. It's a great thrill ride of a movie. Strap in and enjoy.

The Triplets of Belleville
One of the great trends going on in animation right now is that it is becoming more internationalized. It is notable that three of these movies on this list are from somewhere other than either the US or Japan. The Triplets of Belleville was made in Canada by a French and French-Canadian team, and the city of Belleville where the climax of this movie occurs is as much based on the city of Quebec as it is Manhattan.

This is another movie that, like Wall-E, has little dialogue, but which tells its story with the universal language of images. It also shares, with Up, a focus on a group of people rarely seen in animation: old people. The eponymous Triplets are a singing group who were in their prime in either the '20s or the '30s, and the main character, Madame Souza, is an older lady whose grandson, Champion, is a bicycle racer training for the Tour de France. Even the dog, Bruno, is an oldtimer, whose overstuffed contours make for much humor.

You'd think that a movie about old people, a bicycle racer, and a fat dog that chases trains would be a bore. But no, this is a visual feast. It is hard to describe, you just have to experience it.

Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi, aka Spirited Away
Ghibli at its most surreal. A little girl and her yuppie parents are moving to a new town, and they get sidetracked by a tourist village centered around a Sento, a Japanese bathhouse. Little do they know, but this tourist village serves the myriad of Kami, the godlike beings of Japanese mythology, and mere mortals are not necessarily welcome.

In spite of the cultural resonances being so alien to American audiences, this has turned out to be the Studio Ghibli feature most honored by American critics. And rightly so, it's a trip and a half. While I think I'm still more impressed with Mononoke Hime, this movie is brilliant and needs to be on any best of list.

So there you go: 10 films for this misbegotten decade, plus links to the DVDs. I chose to link to Barnes & Noble because Amazon's labor practices are just unacceptable now considering how big and dominant the company is. However, I'm sure there are better deals out there. And one last comment about Sita Sings The Blues: yes, it's available for free, but please consider buying a copy of the DVD to support Nina Paley. She's worth it.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

What is WRONG with you people???

Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel over The Princess And The Frog?

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kiss that frog...

OK, Disney's put out their first hand-drawn animated movie in five years and the first also under the leadership of Pixar's John Lasseter. The Princess And The Frog. A lot is riding on this movie, and it looks like Avatar might have taken a little wind out of its sails. But overall it is one beautiful confection, the most physically beautiful drawn domestic animated movie I've seen since Lilo and Stitch, and it has nothing to apologize for in its depiction of post-Plessy v. Ferguson race relations in New Orleans.

Let's get the racial issue out of the way right up front. New Orleans has had a far more nuanced race relations situation than any other place in the Southern United States. For example, Faubourg Treme is a historically integrated community in NOLA where in the 19th Century CE a gumbo pot of ethnicities, including free Blacks, lived shoulder to shoulder. This racial mixing annoyed the more racist population of the rest of the state of Louisiana, and eventually climaxed in the Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision, which held that "separate but equal" facilities for Blacks and Whites were AOK. This stood until Brown v. Board of Education, the decision that desegregated the public schools in the US.

The depiction of a Caribbean prince wooing both an aristocratic White woman and a working-class Black woman, the latter being our protagonist Tiana, in 1920s New Orleans, is not out of line. Even after Plessy the traditional (for New Orleans) blurred color line was constant. However blurred the color line was, it was still present. And The Princess And The Frog portrays the truth about it without making a huge deal over it.

In one of the early scenes of the movie, you see Tiana and her mother leaving the home of a wealthy White family where the mother worked as a seamstress. They leave out the back "servant's entrance." They board a streetcar and find their place in the back of the streetcar, and the ride takes them to their working class Black neighborhood. I am not sure, but Tiana's neighborhood looks like it's based on the Ninth Ward before the 1927 Mississippi Flood. You see Black families living in small, crowded houses, and Tiana's dad sharing a huge pot of gumbo with the neighbors. It's an instant party. These are people living in bleak circumstances, but true to the spirit of the city that gave birth to Jazz they eke whatever happiness they can from simple things like food and music. The scene is brief in terms of screen time, but it's very, very true. It's light-years from the racial myopia of Song Of The South.

Tiana loses her genius chef dad to World War I, and supports her family as a waitress. She still carries a "dream from (her) father"...a desire to open up her own restaurant in a vacant building formerly a sugar mill. This dream is so ingrained in her she, unlike most Disney Princess characters, doesn't care a whit about handsome princes, not even Prince Naveen, the light-skinned Caribbean Creole Prince of a fictitious island kingdom. Invited to a party by her childhood friend, the spoiled rich white girl her mom sewed for, she is not entirely impressed by the handsome playboy who was looking for a rich girl to marry because his parents cut him off from his wealth.

The sinister Dr. Facilier rewards Naveen's desire for riches by turning him into the eponymous Frog. And of course, the only way of breaking the spell is the kiss of a princess...or a sufficiently wealthy heiress. Naveen mistakes Tiana for a princess, and asks her for a kiss. She's grossed out, but does it anyway. The kiss backfires, and as the official trailer makes evident, she's now a frog as well.

The whole movie is full of affectionate homages to elements of animation history. When Tiana dreams of her restaurant, the sequence becomes a homage to Tex Avery's classic '30s streamline moderne cartoon, "Page Miss Glory."

And the sinister Dr. Facilier? He's very very Cab Calloway in Fleischer-land. If you've already seen the movie, the animation of Calloway as Koko The Clown in the Fleischer masterpiece "Snow White" will be very familiar.

But what's not traditional here is that Tiana is no passive figure. She is a true "Self-rescuing Princess" who actually is way more active in finding her way out of her predicament than her "Handsome Prince" Naveen. She has a dream, a plan and is strong enough to see that dream through regardless of any help she might get along the way. For her, love is a distraction. It takes being turned into a frog and being disappointed initially by the good Voudoun shamaness Mama Odie to send her looking for comfort in the green slimy arms of Naveen.

This is the first time in a long time in any animated musical where the "showstopper" numbers don't literally stop the show, but push the storytelling forward. It helps that Randy Newman, who lived in New Orleans from shortly after his birth to age 11 and splits his time between there and Los Angeles ever since, is the one writing the words and the music. The original choice was Alan Mencken, who probably doesn't know what it means to miss New Orleans. Instead of faux-Jazz, faux-Zydeco and faux-Dixieland, you get Newman's take on the real music of the region. Newman is perhaps the best composer regularly doing animation scores, along with his cousin Thomas Newman, and he seems to have a real love of the medium and a flair for telling stories through words and music.

In a lot of respects, this is the first 2D Pixar movie. John Lasseter's hands are all over this, even though he only gets producer credit here. This is a glorious return to form that bodes well for the future of 2D at Disney/Pixar. The blockbuster Avatar has unfortunately made Princess' box-office sledding kind of rough. But Disney has already said they have green-lit two more 2D movies and is developing more. My dream is that they reach across the Pacific and do a co-production with a top-tier Japanese studio like Production IG. Anime, and independent animators in Europe, has kept the torch burning for hand-drawn animation. It's good to see Disney (or more accurately Disney/Pixar) back in the game.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Apparently "Princess" won't be the last drawn animated feature at Disney

Right now, The Princess and the Frog is in extremely limited release, showing at the Ziegfield Theatre in New York City and at the biggest screening room at The Walt Disney Company Studio in Burbank. The latter is history-making: the first time the studio has been opened to a public event. However, this Friday is the big day for the movie, the first hand-drawn animated feature for Disney since the ill-fated Home On The Range.

Thankfully it looks like it won't be the last. Disney has committed to at least two more drawn features, and hints are that more will be on the way.

The first one does not sound promising: yet another go-round with Winnie The Pooh. Disney has had more luck than they're entitled to with their bastardization of AA Milne's gentle classics, and the residents of the Hundred-Acre Wood are a bunch of tame characters, albeit tame characters with neuroses.

But the second announced feature is more promising. It is The Snow Queen, the first traditional fairy tale the Disney Animation people have taken on in years. No "attitude," no modernization, no Jazzing it up, this will be a fairy tale taken straight out of the Eastern European classic tale.

A character that elegant and with that much realism would fail horribly in CGI because inevitably it would fall right down into the Uncanny Valley. Animators have found that in order to make an appealing CGI character you have to go the opposite direction from realism into cartooniness. This is why Up's humans succeeded. This is why The Incredibles' humans succeeded. This is why every freaking Zemeckis CGI opus has failed miserably. Even Jim Carrey's rubber-faced brilliance could not save the Zemeckis A Christmas Carol from being a zombie puppet show. It is why I don't hold much hope for Avatar in spite of all the hype and the admittedly beautiful visuals. I was not a fan of the feature-length Blue Sky Pictures version of Horton Hears A Who, but the Dr. Seuss derived character designs were definitely on the cartoony side and worked.

However, drawn animation abstracts us enough from flesh and blood reality to make character designs like that work. One need only look to Japan to see the realistic design of many of their action-adventure characters working brilliantly. I'm thinking of Batou and Kusanagi in Ghost In The Shell and the officers at NERV in Evangelion 1.0. If you remade Eva and Ghost in CGI and kept the same kind of drawing style you'd wind up where Squaresoft took the Final Fantasy movies...right down into the Uncanny Valley.

The Japanese have shown us that drawn animation definitely has a place, no matter what Jeffery Katzenberg says. It's good that Disney is not placing all their traditional animation chips on Princess and the Frog no matter what the speculation up to now has been. It seems like Lasseter and Iger believe 2D has a place in this 3D obsessive world of American animation. And that makes me feel real good about the future of American animation.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Annie time! Annie time!

Here's the noms. Om nom nom.

Best Animated Feature
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs – Sony Pictures Animation
Coraline – Laika
Fantastic Mr. Fox – 20th Century Fox
The Princess and the Frog – Walt Disney Animation Studios
The Secret of Kells – Cartoon Saloon
Up – Pixar Animation Studios
Note: looks like DreamWorks won't be able to repeat its total domination of last year's awards. I always thought that was a bit fishy. Speaking of fishy, where the frak is PONYO in this list???

Best Home Entertainment Production
Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas – Universal Animation Studios
Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder – The Curiosity Company in association with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Green Lantern: First Flight – Warner Bros. Animation
Open Season 2 – Sony Pictures Animation
SpongeBob vs. The Big One – Nickelodeon

Best Animated Short Subject
Pups of Liberty – Picnic Pictures
Robot Chicken: Star Wars 2.5 – ShadowMachine
Santa, The Fascist Years – Plymptoons
The Rooster, The Crocodile and The Night Sky – Barley Films
The Story of Walls – Badmash Animation Studios

Best Animated Television Commercial
Goldfish: In The Dark – Blur Studios, Inc.
Idaho Lottery “Twiceland” – Acme Filmworks, Inc.
Nutty Tales – Blue Sky Studios
Spanish Lottery “Deportees” – Acme Filmworks, Inc.
The Spooning – Screen Novelties /Acne Media

Best Animated Television Production
Glenn Martin, DDS – Torante, Cuppa Coffee Studios & Rogers Communications
Merry Madagascar – DreamWorks Animation
Prep and Landing – ABC Family/Walt Disney Animation Studios
The Simpsons – Gracie Films

Best Animated Television Production for Children
Mickey Mouse Clubhouse – Disney Television Animation
SpongeBob SquarePants – Nickelodeon
The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack – Cartoon Network Studios
The Mighty B! – Nickelodeon/Polka Dot Pictures/Paper Kite Productions
The Penguins of Madagascar – Nickelodeon and DreamWorks Animation

Animated Effects
Scott Cegielski “Monsters vs. Aliens” – DreamWorks Animation
Alexander Feigin “9” – 9 L.L.C.
Eric Froemling “Up” – Pixar Animation Studios
Tom Kluyskens “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” – Sony Pictures Animation
James Mansfield “The Princess and the Frog” – Walt Disney Animation Studios

Character Animation in a Television Production
Mark Donald “B.O.B.’s Big Break” – DreamWorks Animation
Mark Mitchell “Prep and Landing” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
Kevan Shorey “Merry Madagascar” – DreamWorks Animation
Tony Smeed “Prep and Landing” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
Phillip To “Monsters vs. Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space” – DreamWorks Animation

Character Animation in a Feature Production
Andreas Deja “The Princess and the Frog” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
Eric Goldberg “The Princess and the Frog” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
Travis Knight “Coraline” – Laika
Daniel Nguyen “Up” – Pixar Animation Studios
Bruce Smith “The Princess and the Frog” – Walt Disney Animation Studios

Character Design in a Television Production
Bryan Arnett “The Mighty B! – Catatonic” – Nickelodeon/Polka Dot Pictures/Paper Kite Productions
Ben Balistreri “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends” – Cartoon Network Studios
Craig Kellman “Merry Madagascar” – DreamWorks Animation
Bill Schwab “Prep and Landing” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
Character Design in a Feature Production
Daniel Lopez Munoz “Up” – Pixar Animation Studios
Shane Prigmore “Coraline” – Laika
Shannon Tindle “Coraline” – Laika

Directing in a Television Production
Pam Cooke & Jansen Yee “American Dad: Brains, Brains & Automobiles” – 20th Century Fox/Fuzzy Door/Underdog
Rob Fendler “Popzilla” – Animax
John Infantino, J.G. Quintel “The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack: Candy Casanova” – Cartoon Network Studios
Bret Haaland “The Penguins of Madagascar – Launchtime” – Nickelodeon and DreamWorks Animation
Jennifer Oxley “The Wonder Pets: Help The Monster” – Nickelodeon/Little Airplane Productions

Directing in a Feature Production
Wes Anderson “Fantastic Mr. Fox” – 20th Century Fox
Pete Docter “Up” – Pixar Animation Studios
Christopher Miller, Phil Lord “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” – Sony Pictures Animation
Hayao Miyazaki “Ponyo” – Studio Ghibli
Henry Selick “Coraline” – Laika

Music in a Television Production
Michael Giacchino “Prep and Landing” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
Kevin Kiner “Star Wars: The Clone Wars “Weapons Factory” – Lucasfilm Animation Ltd.
Guy Moon “The Fairly OddParents: “Wishology- The Big Beginning” – Nickelodeon

Music in a Feature Production
Bruno Coulais “Coraline” – Laika
Michael Giacchino “Up” – Pixar Animation Studios
Joe Hisaishi “Ponyo” – Studio Ghibli
John Powell “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” – Blue Sky Studios

Production Design in a Television Production
Mac George “Prep and Landing” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
Andy Harkness “Prep and Landing” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
Janice Kubo “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends” – Cartoon Network Studios
Production Design in a Feature Production
Christopher Appelhans “Coraline” – Laika
Ian Gooding “The Princess and the Frog” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
Tadahiro Uesugi “Coraline – Laika
Christopher Vacher “9” – 9 L.L.C.

Storyboarding in a Television Production
Sunil Hall “The Mighty B!: Catatonic” – Nickelodeon/Polka Dot Pictures/Paper
Brandon Kruse “The Fairly OddParents: Fly Boy” – Nickelodeon
Robert Koo “Merry Madagascar” – DreamWorks Animation
Joe Mateo “Prep and Landing” – ABC Family/Walt Disney Animation Studios
Kite Productions
Adam Van Wyk “The Spectacular Spider-Man: Final Curtain” – Culver Entertainment

Storyboarding in a Feature Production
Sharon Bridgeman “Astro Boy” – Imagi Studios
Chris Butler “Coraline” – Laika
Ronnie Del Carmen “Up” – Pixar Animation Studios
Tom Owens “Monsters vs. Aliens” – DreamWorks Animation
Peter Sohn “Up” – Pixar Animation Studios

Voice Acting in a Television Production
Danny Jacobs - Voice of King Julien - “Merry Madagascar” – DreamWorks Animation
Nicky Jones - Voice of Chowder - “Chowder: The Dinner Theatre’” – Cartoon Network Studios
Tom Kenny - Voice of SpongeBob - “SpongeBob SquarePants – Truth or Square” – Nickelodeon
Dwight Schultz - Voice of Mung Daal - “Chowder:The Party Cruise” – Cartoon Network Studios
Willow Smith - Voice of Abby - “Merry Madagascar” – DreamWorks Animation

Voice Acting in a Feature Production
Jen Cody - Voice of Charlotte - “The Princess and the Frog” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
Dawn French - Voice of Miss Forcible – “Coraline” – Laika
Hugh Laurie - Voice of Dr. Cockroach Ph.D. – “Monsters vs. Aliens” – DreamWorks Animation
John Leguizamo - Voice of Sid – “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaur” – Blue Sky Studios
Jennifer Lewis - Voice of Mama Odie – “The Princess and the Frog” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
And WHERE is Ed Asner? He did a tour-de-force performance in Up. Some of the best voice work done by a person not normally a voice actor. This is a REAL oversight. Too bad the ballot isn't set up for write-in candidates. This is the big surprise of the nomination pack.

Writing in a Television Production
Daniel Chun – “The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror XX” – Gracie Films
Kevin Deters, Stevie Wermers-Skelton – “Prep and Landing” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
Valentina L. Garza – “The Simpsons: Four Great Women and a Manicure” – Gracie Films
Billy Kimball and Ian Maxtone-Graham - “The Simpsons: Gone Maggie Gone” – Gracie Films
Billy Lopez – The Wonder Pets – Save the Honey Bears” – Nickelodeon Productions/Little Airplane Productions

Writing in a Feature Production
Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach – “Fantastic Mr. Fox” – 20th Century Fox
Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy – “Up” – Pixar Animation Studios
Timothy Hyde Harris and David Bowers – “Astro Boy” – Imagi Studios
Christopher Miller and Phil Lord – “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” – Sony Pictures Animation
Up deserves the nod here. I've also seen AstroBoy and Cloudy, haven't seen Mr. Fox yet, but Up is just...awesome. And Ponyo should have gotten a chance to play in this category too.
End of list...

Anyway, it's going to be Up's game to lose, and Coraline might be the likely challenger. 9 got shut out of everything but relatively minor nominations, which means that Fred Stuhr's laughing up there in the Great Beyond.

Monsters Vs. Aliens also got short shrift, which might actually be blowback from the Kung Fu Panda pwnage of last year. And Ponyo...good god, didn't anyone SEE Ponyo??? Way to go, Disney. Nominating Miyazaki as director without nominating Ponyo as best picture is a tremendous oversight.

Another shutout that I can't understand: no honors for Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone. That was absolutely spectacular. Perhaps it's the long lag time between Japanese and US releases that did Eva in. They've already seen 2.0, and 1.0 was barely released here.

Oh well, warts and all, those are the Annie noms. Bring on the endless online ballot....oy....

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