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‘Ratatouille’ nearly sweeps Annies

Pixar film wins 11 times at animation Awards

“Ratatouille” ranked tops with Hollywood’s animation community, taking home nine trophies – including best animated feature – Friday night at the 35th annual Annie Awards.

Pic can also boast wins for short subject for its DVD extra “Your Friend the Rat” and for the “Ratatouille” vidgame.

In a near-sweep, Pixar’s popular “anyone can cook” parable shut out every bigscreen contender except Sony Pictures Animation’s “Surf’s Up,” which scored two individual achievement awards, while Oscar nominee “Persepolis” went home empty-handed.

Before presenting one of “Ratatouille’s” many trophies, actor James Hong (Mr. Ping in DreamWorks’ forthcoming “Kung Fu Panda”) reminded the crowd that the Chinese New Year kicked off a day earlier. “This is the Year of the Rat, so that’s why you are winning all the awards,” he mused. “We are psychic, you know.”

The coup marks a major improvement over Pixar’s performance the year before, where “Cars” earned only two awards. Among “Ratatouille’s” more prominent individual honorees were Brad Bird (writing, directing), Michael Giacchino (music) and Ian Holm (who voiced the pint-sized chef, Skinner).

Television prizes were more evenly distributed, with top honors going to Aardman Animation’s short-lived “Creature Comforts America.” The stop-motion skein, based on the shop’s Oscar-winning short, was canceled by CBS after just three episodes due to low ratings.

Another stop-motion contender, Cartoon Network’s “Robot Chicken,” nabbed prizes for direction (acknowledging Seth Green’s work on the show’s “Star Wars” special) and its distinctive, deliberately crude character animation.

In the 2-D realm, Nickelodeon’s new skein “El Tigre” snagged character design and children’s programming honors. “Family Guy” earned a storyboarding trophy, while “The Simpsons,” always a favorite with the Annies, took writing and music honors.

Accepting the home entertainment award, “Futurama: Bender’s Big Score” producers Matt Groening and David X. Cohen carried WGA strike signs with them to the podium. “We were planning on barricading the stage, but in light of certain events, we’re prepared to grant (the Annies) a waiver for just one category,” Cohen joked.

Host Tom Kenny acknowledged the strike concerns of many in the crowd, quipping, “How are TV animation writers and salad plates alike? They’re both the first thing taken off the table.”

Without a proper guild to celebrate achievements in animation, practioners of the craft see the Annies as the nearest thing to an insider prize, awarded each year by the toon pros and enthusiasts of ASIFA-Hollywood. As such, the org’s love for “Ratatouille” is a strong barometer of Academy sentiment, especially considering that the Annies have predicted Oscar animated feature winners with near-perfect accuracy, flubbing differing only once since the category was created.

And the winners are…

PRODUCTION

Animated Feature

“Ratatouille,” Pixar Animation Studios

Home Entertainment Production

“Futurama: Bender’s Big Score,” The Curiosity Company in association with 20th Century Fox Television

Animated Short Subject

“Your Friend the Rat,” Pixar Animation Studios

Animated Television Commercial

“Power Shares Escape Average,” Acme Filmworks

Animated Television Production

“Creature Comforts America,” Aardman Animations

Animated Television Production for Children

“El Tigre,” Nickelodeon

Animated Video Game

“Ratatouille,” THQ, Inc.

INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENTS

Animated Effects

Deborah Carlson, “Surf’s Up”

Animation Production Artist

John Clark, “Surf’s Up”

Character Animation in a Feature Production

Michal Makarewicz, “Ratatouille,” Pixar Animation Studios

Character Animation in a Television Production

Eric Towner, “Robot Chicken,” ShadowMachine

Character Design in an Animated Feature Production

Carter Goodrich, “Ratatouille,” Pixar Animation Studios

Character Design in an Animated Television Production

Jorge R. Gutierrez, “El Tigre” (“Fistful of Collars”)

Directing in an Animated Feature Production

Brad Bird, “Ratatouille”

Directing in an Animated Television Production

Seth Green, “Robot Chicken Star Wars”

Music in an Animated Feature Production

Michael Giacchino, “Ratatouille”

Music in an Animated Television Production

Alf Clausen & Michael Price, “The Simpsons” (“Yokel Chords”)

Production Design in an Animated Feature Production

Harley Jessup, “Ratatouille”

Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production

Ted Mathot, “Ratatouille,” Pixar Animation Studios

Storyboarding in an Animated Television Production

Steve Fonti, “Family Guy” (“No Chris Left Behind”)

Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production

Ian Holm, Voice of Skinner, “Ratatouille”

Voice Acting in an Animated Television Production

Eartha Kitt, Voice of Yzma, “The Emperor’s New School” (“Emperor’s New Musical”)

Writing in an Animated Feature Production

Brad Bird, “Ratatouille,” Pixar Animation Studios

Writing in an Animated Television Production

Ian Maxtone-Graham & Billy Kimball, “The Simpsons” (“24 Minutes”), Gracie Films

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