TV Acad resets toon clock

Changed animation categories reshuffle race

The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences is resetting the clock for animation Emmys.

This year, the Academy is changing how it categorizes animated programs by length, grouping both longform and half-hour programs in a single category and replacing a juried special-class award for shortform animation with a full-fledged category for shows that run 15 minutes or less.

The redrawn boundaries will pit hourlong animated programs — usually specials or telepics based on successful series — against such half-hour powerhouses as “South Park,” “The Simpsons” and “American Dad!” (Fox’s “Family Guy” opted for the comedy series category last year and earned a nomination.)

In a not-unprecedented move, the Academy will split the categories’ five nominations between longform and half-hour series based on the proportion of entries: If 20 out of 50 entries are at least an hour long, then two of the five nominations will be for longform programs and three for shorter ones.

“This is recognition that there is one format on the wane, which is an hour or longer, and one that is waxing,” which is the short format, says John Leverence, senior VP of awards for the Academy.

The new shortform category clearly benefits Adult Swim’s block of mostly 15-minute comedy series aimed at older viewers, as well as for a lot of children’s shows that are produced in 15-minute segments and doubled up to fill a half hour slot.

“For us, it’s a great opportunity because we do a good majority of our programming quarter hours,” says Brian Miller, senior VP and general manager of Cartoon Network Studios.

Susan Bell, associate producer on the Adult Swim series “Robot Chicken” and “Titan Maximum,” says not having to go up against popular half-hour shows or the eclectic field of a special class award is much more attractive. “It’s hard to compete against ‘Family Guy’ or ‘The Simpsons’ or ‘South Park’ — those big, big names in animation,” Bell says.

The wild card comes from animated shorts on the Web, which Leverence says make up a significant number of submissions. “I don’t know of any other categories, stand-alone categories, that are as Web-centric as shortform animation,” he says.

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