Walt Disney TV president Charles Hirschhorn, who also holds the title of Walt Disney TV animation prexy, has unwittingly created a minor brouhaha at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Hirschhorn, who oversees all TV animation at Disney, earlier this summer applied to the Academy’s animation peer group for a “hyphenate” ballot that would allow him to vote for the best animated program at the Emmys.
Hirschhorn’s application was rejected, and Disney subsequently threatened to yank a $12,000 ad from Emmy magazine, which is published by ATAS. Disney also complained to Academy president Meryl Marshall, who said Hirschhorn should receive a ballot.
Marshall then polled the Academy’s membership committee, which also unanimously agreed Hirschhorn was qualified to receive the ballot, and the ballot was subsequently sent. Just before receiving the ballot, Disney reinstated the Emmy magazine ad.
Some Academy insiders are crying foul, and charging that Hirschhorn essentially bought his ballot, although sources said it was too late for Disney to yank the Emmy magazine ad without being charged for it anyway.
Even so, the animation peer group is steaming, and two of the group’s governors sent a letter to Ernst & Young contending that the final ballot decision, according to Academy bylaws, rests with the peer group — not Marshall or the membership committee. The letter also stated that Hirschhorn is “not qualified” to receive the ballot.
“In order to maintain the integrity of the Awards procedure, it is imperative that you, as the outside company supervising the Awards, correct the situation and make certain this ballot is canceled,” the letter said.
When Hirschhorn learned of the internal Academy battle, he decided to bow out and not vote in the animation portion of the Emmys.
However, the question of Academy procedure on hyphenate ballots remains unresolved. At a recent meeting, the Academy appointed a committee to study the situation and develop a clear set of rules, which will be voted on by the Academy board.
Marshall says common sense should prevail, and the president of a studio’s animation division is clearly qualified to vote for best animated program. “The issue is one of fairness, and the leadership of the Academy has the responsibility to stay focused on issues of fairness,” Marshall said.
Hirschhorn said in a statement, “In the end, we didn’t pull the ad from Emmy magazine, I didn’t vote, and I got people to pay attention to the hyphenate ballot, which is what I intended to do.”