This article is part of animation month.
The Annie Awards are essentially the Oscars for animation. Since 1992, they’ve been handing out awards in the category of Best Animated Feature. And, much like the Academy Awards have a bunch of categories I don’t care about (Best Documentary, Best Makeup, anything involving a short film, etc.), The Annies have their fair share of categories that are largely inconsequential: Best Animated Home Entertainment Production (aka Best Straight-to-DVD), Best Animated Short Subject, and a couple more.
There’s also something suspicious about the Annies. It’s so blatantly self-congratulatory. The biggest sponsors for the show are Dreamworks, Disney, Nickelodeon, Sony, Pixar, Warner Bros., and a few other companies: in other words, the people funding the awards are the major recipients. Still, very few of the choices have been illogical, so it’s hard to believe they’re a complete sham.
(Edit: There has been some talk thie year about the alleged corruption of the Annies. Pixar backed out of the awards. Read about it here.)
Looking back over the history of nominations and choices, I made a few frustrating observations. (Note that, from this point on, I’m only talking about the Best Animated Feature category.) First is the nomination system, which has chosen anywhere from 1 to 6 films per year to put on the ballot. Also, the films nominated by year weren’t always released in the same calendar year.
For example, The Iron Giant (release date: 8/6/99) won the 1999 award, but Toy Story 2 (11/24/99) won the 2000 award. From that, it seems like the cutoff comes some time between August and November. But then, why was Millennium Actress (9/14/02) honored the same year as Looney Tunes: Back in Action (11/14/03)? There’s just no justifiable logic evident there.
It’s a shame the set-up of the award is a head-scratcher. From a historical perspective, I would’ve loved to have seen the Annies represent a single calendar year. That would’ve made it easier to develop a snapshot of what animated films were important when. (It also would have been fun to see who would’ve won a duel between the #5 and #4 greatest animated films of all time according to IGN.)
Here’s a list of winners by year. I’ve also included my favorite film of the bunch (that I’ve seen) and, just for kicks, the film with the best rating on IMDb. Again, I want to stress that I don’t really understand the organization by year, at least up until around 2004 when it regularized. Even for those early years, when the groupings by year didn’t really make sense, I’m just sticking with the list of provided nominees.
- Winner: Beauty and the Beast
- Bebe’s Kids
- FernGully: The Last Rainforest
- My pick: Beauty and the Beast
- IMDb’s pick: Beauty and the Beast
- Winner: Aladdin
- Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland
- Once Upon a Forest
- My pick: Aladdin
- IMDb’s pick: Aladdin
A uniformly strong and popular set of nominees this year.
- Winner: The Lion King
- The Nightmare Before Christmas
- Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
- My pick: The Lion King
- IMDb’s pick: The Lion King (#144 on IMDb’s top 250 list), edging Nightmare (#237)
A weak year put to shame by ’94.
- Winner: Pocahontas (Disney four years running…)
- A Goofy Movie
- The Swan Princess
- My pick: A Goofy Movie
- IMDb’s pick: A Goofy Movie, surprisingly
Just one nominee, which is kind of strange. But not entirely inappropriate. Honestly, no one else stood a chance. Toy Story was hugely popular, influential, and acclaimed.
- Winner/My Pick/IMDb’s pick: Toy Story (#148)
No clear frontrunner.
- Winner: Cats Don’t Dance
- Space Jam
- My pick: Hercules
- IMDb’s pick: Cat’s Don’t Dance
- Winner: Mulan
- I Married a Strange Person!
- Quest for Camelot
- My pick: Mulan – but to be fair, I haven’t seen any of the others in their entirety
- IMDb’s pick: Mulan
A very strong year that would be even better if Toy Story 2 was included.
- Winner: The Iron Giant
- A Bug’s Life
- South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut
- The Prince of Egypt
- My pick: The Iron Giant with apologies to… well, every other nominee
- IMDb’s pick: The Iron Giant edging South Park by a hair
A one-horse race unless you dig Chicken Run a lot more than I do.
- Winner: Toy Story 2
- Fantasia 2000
- The Road to El Dorado
- Chicken Run
- Titan A.E.
- My pick: Toy Story 2
- IMDb’s pick: Toy Story 2 (#228)
- Winner: Shrek
- Blood: The Last Vampire
- The Emperor’s New Groove
- Osmosis Jones
- My pick: Shrek though I’m a huge Groove fan
- IMDb’s pick: Shrek
Another great year, one of the best to date.
- Winner: Spirited Away
- Monsters, Inc.
- Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
- Lilo and Stitch
- Ice Age
- My pick: Too close to call between Spirited Away and Monsters, Inc.
- IMDb’s pick: Spirited Away (#57)
- Winner: Finding Nemo
- Brother Bear
- Millennium Actress
- Looney Tunes: Back in Action
- Triplets of Belleville
- My pick: Finding Nemo
- IMDb’s pick: Finding Nemo (#154)
- Winner: The Incredibles
- Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence
- Shrek 2
- The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie
- My pick: The Incredibles
- IMDb’s pick: The Incredibles (#184)
- Winner: Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit
- Howl’s Moving Castle
- Chicken Little
- Corpse Bride
- My pick: Wallace & Gromit over Corpse Bride – haven’t seen Howl’s, though
- IMDB’s pick: Howl’s Moving Castle
- Winner: Cars
- Happy Feet
- Monster House
- Open Season
- Over the Hedge
- My pick: Over the Hedge, because I have to choose something
- IMDb’s pick: Cars
- Winner: Ratatouille
- The Simpson’s Movie
- Surf’s Up
- Bee Movie
- My pick: Ratatouille
- IMDb’s pick: Ratatouille (#168) barely topping Persepolis
Easily the most controversial year. I’ve read a few articles alleging different things – from conspiracy and bribery to stupidity – for Wall-E not winning this award. While I think Wall-E is a bit overvalued and Panda a bit undervalued, the choice is quite baffling given the buzz and respect Wall-E received.
- Winner: Kung Fu Panda
- Waltz with Bashir
- My pick: Wall-E, though I tip my hat to Panda
- IMDb’s pick: Wall-E (#48)
While the Annies got some buzz in ’08 for choosing the wrong movie, they got some buzz in ’09 for the freaking incredible slate of movies that had come out that year. Seriously, 2009 was the best year for animation ever, and it’s not even close. A few good ones weren’t even included.
- Winner: Up
- Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
- Fantastic Mr. Fox
- The Princess and the Frog
- The Secret of Kells
- My pick: Hard to decide. So stacked. Every one I’ve seen (all except Kells) has a solid claim for one reason or another. I’ll go with Up.
- IMDb’s pick: Up (#84)
The nominations won’t come out for several months, but here are my early projections:
- Projected winner: Toy Story 3
- How to Train Your Dragon (edit: if conspiracy theories hold true, Dragon might win)
- Despicable Me
- Legend of the Guardians (or possibly Megamind if Guardians tanks)
- The Illusionist (to get something foreign on there)
- My pick: Toy Story 3 with a hat tip to Dragon
- IMDb’s pick: Toy Story 3 (#10 currently… though it will inevitably drop to the mid-40s at the highest)