Official petition was made advocating category move

Animated hits such as “The Simpsons” and “SpongeBob SquarePants” may be hot, but their creators won’t be — at least not under the lights of the Emmy telecast.

The animated program categories, divided into hour and over and under an hour, again will be relegated to the nontelevised Primetime Creative Arts Awards, held Sept. 13.

“Several years ago, it was determined that there were 27 categories that were specifically delineated to go on the air, and animation was not among them,” says John Leverence, VP for awards for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Those 27 categories — out of 91 — remain in place.

Why the second-class status for such a popular medium?

“I’ve always been told that the network only wanted to show actors winning awards,” says Al Jean, an exec producer and showrunner of “The Simpsons,” a perennial nom. “They want ratings, they want to see Jennifer Aniston.”

Marjorie Cohn, senior veep of production for Nickelodeon, which airs nominees “SpongeBob” and “As Told by Ginger,” sees the situation changing. “I think Matt Groening (creator of Fox contenders ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘Futurama’), Steve Hillenberg (‘SpongeBob’ creator) and (‘Ginger’ producers) Klasky Csupo are all becoming names, and maybe it’s time to change the tradition.”

Even so, Leverence reports that no official petition was made advocating moving the categories into the main show.

Such a movement, says Cohn, would require “a groundswell of support. The Academy has to feel that it comes from the community and not just a few self-serving parties.”

Other category anomalies exist as well, including kid-oriented shows like Disney’s “Kim Possible” (which was disqualified from the Daytime Emmys because each episode premieres on cable during primetime) being forced to compete against more adult animated fare.

“It’s a little unusual,” says Bob Schooley, exec producer and writer for “Kim Possible.” “I read a critic’s piece that compared ‘The Simpsons’ being nominated against us and ‘SpongeBob’ to ‘All in the Family’ running against ‘Zoom.’ “

One rule change that did make it into this year’s kudo event is a limit on the number of people who can share an animated program nomination.

“We’ve tapped it out at 21 people,” says Sheri Ebner, the Acad’s primetime award administrator. “That’s 14 producers, three writers and four directors. If there are too many, then (the production company) has to choose who was most principally involved in the show.”

Jean, for one, finds that more frustrating than not being televised. “There was a lot of unhappiness where people who had won were now told they couldn’t submit themselves,” he says.

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