'Wall-E' goes home empty handed

Kung Fu Panda” won big at this year’s Annie Awards. And no one was more surprised that the DreamWorks toon pic bested Disney/Pixar’s “Wall-E” for the top prize than “Panda” co-director John Stevenson, whose expletive-filled acceptance speech would have earned the Intl. Animated Film Society a fine from the FCC had the event been televised.Many had expected “Wall-E” or Israeli animated docu “Waltz With Bashir” to win (among critics groups, both toons have been feted repeatedly as the year’s best film, animated or otherwise). Instead, “Kung Fu Panda” and its related properties, including homevid tie-in “Secrets of the Furious Five” and the Activision game, dominated the awards, winning in 15 of the Annies’ 24 categories at the ceremony held Friday at UCLA’s Royce Hall.

Results give DreamWorks Animation fresh hope for “Panda’s” Oscar chances, as the Annies (voted on by animation industry professionals and fans) have predicted the Academy’s animated feature preferences every year but one since the category was introduced. It also marks the first time since 2001’s “Shrek” that the studio has seen one of its CG features take the Annies’ top prize, which typically goes to Pixar.

Favorites emerged in the smallscreen categories as well, with Adult Swim’s “Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II” snagging three awards, Nickelodeon’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender” taking two and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s “Futurama: The Beast With a Billion Backs” earning the org’s homevid trophy.

Among the nods drawn by “Robot Chicken” was a voice acting prize to Ahmed Best for reprising his most familiar character, Jar Jar Binks. Accepting his first positive recognition for the role (and his only major accolade since receiving a Razzie for “The Phantom Menace” back in 2000), Best credited director George Lucas with giving him the freedom to define the voice. “I know you’re somewhere counting your money,” he added.

In the animated shorts category, the group honored Aardman’s latest Wallace and Gromit outing, “A Matter of Loaf and Death,” with its main prize while celebrating specific contributions associated with Disney-produced “Glago’s Guest” and DreamWorks’ “Secrets of the Furious Five.”

Individual “Panda” prize winners included Dustin Hoffman for voice acting, Tang Heng for production design and Nico Marlet for character design. Stevenson and co-helmer Mark Osborne shared feature directing honors, while Hans Zimmer and John Powell won for music. In the spirit of collaboration, 27 people crowded onstage to accept the “Panda” feature award.

The night’s special Winsor McCay Award recipients were Wallace and Gromit godfather Nick Park, “Beavis and Butthead” creator Mike Judge and Pixar pioneer John Lasseter.

“I was the schmuck who turned down ‘Toy Story,’ ” Billy Crystal said in introducing Lasseter for the kudo. Crystal thanked Lasseter for immortalizing him as “Monsters, Inc.” character Mike Wazowski in his grandchildren’s eyes.

The evening was hosted by another actor best known for his animated alter ego, “SpongeBob SquarePants” star Tom Kenny.

PRODUCTION

Animated Feature
“Kung Fu Panda,” DreamWorks Animation

Animated Home Entertainment Production
“Futurama: The Beast With a Billion Backs,” The Curiosity Company in association with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Animated Short Subject
“Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death,” Aardman Animations Ltd.

Animated Television Commercial
United Airlines “Heart,” Duck Studios

Animated Television Production
“Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II,” ShadowMachine

Animated Television Production Produced for Children
“Avatar: The Last Airbender,” Nickelodeon

Animated Video Game
“Kung Fu Panda,” Activision

INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENTS

Animated Effects
Li-Ming Lawrence Lee “Kung Fu Panda,” DreamWorks Animation

Character Animation in a Feature Production
James Baxter “Kung Fu Panda,” DreamWorks Animation

Character Animation in a Television Production or Short Form
Pierre Perifel “Secrets of the Furious Five,” DreamWorks Animation

Character Design in an Animated Feature Production
Nico Marlet, “Kung Fu Panda,” DreamWorks Animation

Character Design in an Animated Television Production or Short Form
Nico Marlet, “Secrets of the Furious Five,” DreamWorks Animation

Directing in an Animated Feature Production
John Stevenson & Mark Osborne, “Kung Fu Panda,” DreamWorks Animation

Directing in an Animated Television Production or Short Form
Joaquim Dos Santos, “Avatar: The Last Airbender: Sozin’s Comet Pt. 3,” Nickelodeon

Music in an Animated Feature Production
Hans Zimmer & John Powell, “Kung Fu Panda,” DreamWorks Animation

Music in an Animated Television Production or Short Form
Henry Jackman, Hans Zimmer & John Powell, “Secrets of the Furious Five,” DreamWorks Animation

Production Design in an Animated Feature Production
Tang Heng, “Kung Fu Panda” – DreamWorks Animation

Production Design in an Animated Television Production or Short Form
Tang Heng, “Secrets of the Furious Five,” DreamWorks Animation

Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production
Jen Yuh Nelson, “Kung Fu Panda,” DreamWorks Animation

Storyboarding in an Animated Television Production or Short Form
Chris Williams, “Glago’s Guest,” Walt Disney Animation Studios

Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production
Dustin Hoffman, Voice of Shifu, “Kung Fu Panda,” DreamWorks Animation

Voice Acting in an Animated Television Production or Short Form
Ahmed Best, Voice of Jar Jar Binks, “Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II,” ShadowMachine

Writing in an Animated Feature Production
Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger, “Kung Fu Panda,” DreamWorks Animation

Writing in an Animated Television Production or Short Form
Tom Root, Douglas Goldstein, Hugh Davidson, Mike Fasolo, Seth Green, Dan Milano, Matthew Senreich, Kevin Shinick, Zeb Wells, Breckin Meyer, “Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II,” ShadowMachine

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