ASIFA-Hollywood, the organization behind the annual Annie Awards, which honors the best in all kinds of animation, has seen tremendous growth in the last few years, and its work for the animation community has grown as well.
“Six years ago, we were basically in the red. Now we are actually financially healthy,” says executive director Frank Gladstone. “We can do a bigger Annie Awards, we can really talk about putting money down on a building and we can really talk about giving back to the community to the tune of $100,000 to $200,000 a year.”
In addition to the Annie Awards, ASIFA recently started awarding scholarships to animation students and is now offering scholarships to animation faculty through its Animation Educators Forum. It also provides funds for artists who have fallen on hard times through its Animation Aid Foundation. And it has been involved in the preservation of animated films.
According to Gladstone, submissions for the awards have increased between 8% and 10% annually over the last four to five years, and memberships have grown correspondingly.
“We are growing. We want to do more and, of course, we are doing more. We give more money to the community now,” says Gladstone. “We’ve always had the Animation Aid Society, but it was always small. Now it’s bigger. … We’re doing much more preservation. We’ve preserved three films this year.”
They were even approached by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences to help them preserve Richard Williams’ classic “The Thief and the Cobbler.” “They came to us asking if we could help them with additional funds, and we did,” he says.
But with the growth comes some pains. The attendance for the Annie Awards taxes UCLA’s Royce Hall, and that’s something that Gladstone says may need to be addressed by splitting the ceremony in two.
“Every year we’re asked to add more categories but the problem is — we talk about it every year — we’d have to split the ceremony,” he explains. ” We probably would have to split feature and TV. I’d be game for that, but our infrastructure would need to be much bigger than it is.”
Gladstone points out that after almost 50 years, ASIFA is still almost entirely a volunteer organization. “And at this size, we can’t be that. We have to consider that as well.”
One the biggest things on ASIFA’s wish list, however, is the purchase of a permanent headquarters where the organization can house a staff, and hold a constant stream of programs and screenings. “We’re going to buy a building, and when we do that we’re going to go to all the powers that be and say it’s time to help us because we are a major part of the industry,” says Gladstone. “And it’s not just for our headquarters. This will be a world center.”
He notes that an HQ with a screening room could be a boon to studios, especially during awards seasons. And he says that ASIFA is constantly having to turn down requests for programs and festivals because they just don’t have a venue for them.
Looking ahead five years, Gladstone would like to see ASIFA split the Annies into two ceremonies, one for broadcast and one for features. “I’d like that to happen, I think, and mostly I’d like the wherewithal to have that as an option,” he says. “I want the building and I want the building to be active. And I want it to house our offices, of course. Maybe offices for other animation groups like Women in Animation. I’d like to see a state-of-the-art theater active all the time, being used by the industry here and worldwide. I want to see film festivals there. I want to see retrospectives there. I want to see current films there. Short films. I want the venue to be open to our members and people who aren’t our members. Of course I want the educational thing to explode. I want it to be a major deal. And I want the restoration and the Animation Aid Society, and everything else we do to continue to grow, so we can do more.”