Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Mouse Waves 'Bye! to ASIFA

From the New York Times:

A running squabble over a cartoon awards banquet boiled over on Tuesday when Walt Disney Studios said it would withdraw from the group that hands out trophies for animation achievement.

For years Disney has privately groused about the Annie Awards, presented by the Hollywood chapter of the International Animated Film Society. Among Disney’s complaints: that the guild allows anyone to buy a membership (in contrast to most awards-bestowing organizations) and that rival DreamWorks Animation has too much power because it gives all of its employees complimentary membership to the guild ...

All's fair in war and the handing out of little gold statues. (So why doesn't Disney tender its own complimentary memberships? It's got more animation employees.)

Years ago, a writer-producer named Niven Busch told me:

"Back in the thirties, studios expected you to go to its movie premieres and vote for company product and stars at Oscar time. If you didn't, you weren't considered a loyal employee ..."

Good to know nothing has changed very much.

33 comments:

VFX Soldier said...

Talk about insecurity.

Dixar has won 12 Annie Awards for Best Animated Feature. DreamWorks has won 2!

Why are they complaining now?

Anonymous said...

Sour grapes.

Kung Fu Panda was a cartoon. Wall E wasn't. Animators are going to vote for a cartoon over realistic fx animation any day. It's no surprise that Kung Fu Panda won. It's probably the best picture Dreamworks has produced. Disney should man up. Taking their ball and going home just makes them look petty.

Anonymous said...

What a sore loser! Jeeze, could Catmull think of a better way to get bad publicity, just in time for Tangled to come out? What a fool.

Anonymous said...

I'm a voting member of Asifa. I've worked for Disney and I've worked for DreamWorks. I don't vote for the studio that employs me, I vote for the best choice. By the time I get to vote for the Annies, I'm laid off anyway. I'll pay my own Asifa dues. Animation needs the Annies. It's the party of the year.

Anonymous said...

It's obvious this is not about "sour grapes." And it's not about "Wall-e" vs. "Kung Fu Panda." Disney and Pixar and their artists have won plenty of Annies.

I've worked at lots of studios, have been an ASIFA member since 1982, and have attended every ANNIE award since 1983. I always vote for what I like--studio be damned.

But the concern, as stated, is about a lack of standards, clarity, and transparency in the ASIFA organization when it comes to the Annie nomination and voting procedures. This is well known. It's a very loosely run organization. Disney and Pixar aren't the ONLY one's who've complained about that--many studios and individuals have as well.

And the Annies have become just another [very] boring awards show. It used to be fun when they truly celebrated the artistic achievements. Now the shows are about boring, unfunny celebrity hosts and third rate voice talent. One would think a show about celebrating artistic/creative achievement would be more fun and creative, rather than aping other awards shows in a bland attempt at gaining some sort of "legitimacy."

But when, as the article states, several studios (beyond Disney) have tried to work with ASIFA for over a year with little to no response, what would anyone expect sponsors to do?

ASIFA was around before this and they'll be around after this.

Anonymous said...

But the concern, as stated, is about a lack of standards, clarity, and transparency in the ASIFA organization when it comes to the Annie nomination and voting procedures.

I call bullsh*t. If what you wrote is true, then Disney would have pulled out of the Golden Globes decades ago. As for the Annies, the nomination and voting processes have successively improved, by leaps and bounds, in recent years. As of just a few years ago, it was impossible for the vast majority of ASIFA voters to even see what they were voting on in most individual categories (the only way was to go to a single, poorly-attended meeting a couple of months before the Annies). It was a simple popularity contest. Disney and Pixar was perfectly happy with that, because they usually won. But let KFP beat Wall-E, and give Dragons a chance to beat Up, and little Eddie Catmull throws a hissy fit, takes his ball, and runs home crying. Pathetic. No amount of corporate spin is going to make this something it's not - a powerplay by an egomaniac.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a big fan of ASIFA for various reasons, but after seeing how JL has managed to load the AMPAS feature animation branch with Pixar employees I suspect they're just pissed they weren't able to do the same at ASIFA.

Everyone knows they're still smarting from not getting the first Best Animated Feature Oscar and losing to DW.

Anonymous said...

asifa is more than just the Annies. They do film preservation, they have an archive, educational programs and they promote LA's animation scene. For a studio exec to go after a volunteer run non profit is shameful. If Catmull didn't like the Annies no one says he has to sponsor it. But he didn't have to attack the non profit in the press. It just shows how little these guys really care about animation

Anonymous said...

Well said by the last poster. What's really pathetic is that Asifa actually knuckled under and excluded most of the membership of Asifa from voting, as demanded by Catmull, and he STILL pulled their sponsorship and support.

Anonymous said...

#1 - if Wall-E had beaten Panda in 2008, there would have been no pullout by Disney.

#2 - Disney is not stupid and knows its reputation with the animation community (see: comments on this blog related to Pixar/Disney). They not want a repeat performance with Dragon beating out Toy Story 3, so are deciding to pull out now.

Anonymous said...

Good for Disney. I agree that the Annies are very political. It's a money-making venture. I've won for best show (I was co-EP) and was told I needed to pay $450 for a statue. I declined.

Anonymouse said...

The Oscars are much more political, and Disney/Pixar doesn't seem to have too many problems with that.

Although I do remember the year after Cars lost the Oscar to Happy Feet, Ratatouille (the movie they released that year) threw a little dig at motion-capture as not really being animation.

If Dragon beats out Toy Story 3 at the Oscars next year, I wonder if Catmull rages against the academy the following year?

Anonymous said...

If Catmull didn't like the Annies no one says he has to sponsor it. But he didn't have to attack the non profit in the press

To be fair, he didnt. That article was written from someone obtaining an internal email. He didnt "go" to the press

Anonymous said...

I like how Catmull accuses Asifa of being unfairly influenced by DreamWorks money and then offers to fix it by withholding Disney money unless Asifa lets him set up his own oversight committee. He'd love to do exactly what he accuses DreamWorks of doing. I seem to remember Catmull winning an Annie himself a couple of years ago. He wasn't complaining then. Only when he loses.

The truth is, DreamWorks is doing what Disney should be doing- providing memberships to their creative staff. Every artist in animation should be a member of Asifa. If Disney won't pony up, the Disney artists should join anyway. The Annies should be for artists, not studio execs.

Anonymous said...

Ha Ha. You're right. He lists his Annie Award in his resume!

http://www.pixar.com/companyinfo/about_us/execs.htm

Floyd Norman said...

Feels like we're back in high school, doesn't it?

Volus Jones said...

If you don't finish my homework, Floyd, I'm gonna beat you up.

See you in gym class.

Anonymous said...

"The Annies should be for artists, not studio execs."

And the artists should pay for it, not the studios.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that this story has been reported in the Hollywood trade papers and New York Times, because it's a big story, and yet there hasn't been a peep about it on Cartoon Brew. Imagine what Amid would be writing if Katzenberg had pulled this stunt. The article would be written in blood. But somehow Lasseter and Catmull get a free pass.

Oh, and to the last poster, what no one seems to realize is that the vast majority of the recipients of those free memberships at DreamWorks never bothered to actually vote in the Annies.

Anonymous said...

When I received my ASIFA membership from DW I wasn't even aware until much later that it came via DW. I assumed it was similiar to when Woolie would give animators a subscription to National Geographic. No reason for it other than Jeffrey thought evryone should be a member. No suggestion that you should vote one way or the other or that you even needed to vote for that matter.
It just seemed like another DW perk - kind of like free lunch.

Disney is definitely being childish - unless they start to pull out the Golden Globe. Then I might start to believe they mean business and aren't just being petty...

Anonymous said...

Amid is SO in Pixar's back pocket. He despises all mainstream animated film EXCEPT anything from Pixar. And Pixar films are as mainstream as film gets.Not that there's anything wrong with that, but in Amid's 'world' that is reason to snear and constantly deride a studio.
I'll bet he applied to write a "art of" book for DW and didn't get the job and ever since has been childishly taking it out on them every chance he gets.
The only reason to read Cartoon Brew is to read Jerry's posts. He really needs to remove himself from that petty clingon.

Anonymous said...

I find it funny that people on this site complain about Amid's perceived bias towards Pixar but have no problem with this website being skewed pro-Dreamworks (since, you know, it is part of the guild) in the P vs D debate. And poor DWA (another guild member); few stand up for it in these "trash Disney/Pixar" conversations.

Granted, most of this happens in the comments; Steve rarely writes anything negative about Pixar (he just gives the "3 types of employees spiel"), and does take Dreamworks and DWA to task when they don't take care of their employees. But given the chance, the vocal majority of people here can't wait to attack Pixar for any sort of perceived slight and create all kinds of weird/childish reasons for Pixar's actions.

Seriously, you think the Pixar team is still "angry" about the Shrek loss in 2001 and intent on punishing people for it today?

Anonymous said...

(ack, WDA, got my DreamWorks and Walt Disney's mixed in with my dyslexia, sorry guys)

Anonymous said...

If you think JL is still not pissed about the Oscar loss you know little about Hollywood and less about animation people.
Hasn't reading this blog and its comments shown you that?

Anonymous said...

Just in case anyone thinks Pixar and John Lasseter aren't competitive, think again.

I have a friend who sat near Lasseter at the Academy Awards a few years ago when Cars was expected to win Best Animated Feature. My friend noticed when it came close to the announcement that JL was shuffling around with something under his seat...the announcement came..."Happy Feet" the winner.

Later, after JL left his seat, my friend couldn't resist looking under his chair...he reached under and pulled out a paper bag...opened it, to find it was filled with confetti! I really wish that Cars had won if only to see the Black Tie audience covered in confetti. Pixar likes to win...and they obviously expect to...not that there's anything wrong with that.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that it's 'perceptions' that account for Amid's anti-DreamWorks bias. He's made no bones about his contempt for Katzenberg and all things DreamWorks for as long as the studio has existed. It started waaaaay before Cartoon Brew, and began when DreamWorks did Prince of Egypt. Amid was invited to a preview screening, and he ripped the film and the studio to pieces in 'Animation Blast' (the magazine he produced intermittently for many years). DreamWorks banned him from future publicity screenings, and Amid gleefully wrote about the whole affair, and how he'd have his revenge. At least that's how I recall it from reading Animation Blast over 10 years ago. Anybody have that issue of Animation Blast around?

Floyd Norman said...

Darn it! I would have loved to see that confetti fly over the black tie audience.

Anonymous said...

Lame - The golden globes and even the oscars are pretty much bought and paid for with all the perks that the studios do to win them.

Anonymous said...

Actually AMPAS members no longer recioeve gifts of any value - other than the DVD screeners. Gifts used to be the norm, but no longer.
The Golden Globes are another matter altogether...those 90 'voters' are all about gifts and favors.

Anonymous said...

I think the issue is the integrity of the awards, not who is winning. If you can buy votes, and thus awards, how legit is it? Disney could just give their employees memberships- buying awards- but that defeats the purpose of the thing. I think that's Ed's point. The issue isn't actually buying votes, but the fact that anyone with the money to do so, can.

Anonymous said...

SO, you're implying that anytime Pixar or Disney won an Annie they 'bought' it...? Or is that only the case when they don't win - someone else must have 'bought' it...?

Considering what Lasseter is trying to do at APAS by stacking the branch with Pixar employees I'd say that integrity isn't upper most on their minds.

Anonymous said...

If you can buy votes, and thus awards, how legit is it?

You're assuming that providing employees with memberships is the same as buying votes. I've been at DreamWorks for a lot of years, and many people are barely aware that they're in ASIFA. Most people don't bother to vote. Having compared notes in the past, those who do take the time to vote do so with a lot of thought, and vote for what they think is the best work.

If Catmull's assumption were true, DreamWorks would win every year, and Pixar would never win. A quick look at the results of past Annies shows that hasn't been the case.

On the other hand, dictating to an independent organization how their membership is allowed to vote, then pulling your financial support when they don't completely and totally do things your way, strikes me as very much using money to influence the awards process.

Anonymous said...

The Annies is a horrible awards show. fifty thousand TV channels and no one wants to put it on the air. Nuff said there. The only interesting part is to see which celebrity the nerds vote for as a voice actor in the hopes that they will show up to accept.

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