Paramount/Nickelodeon’s adventurous chameleon “Rango” rode off with top pic honors and “Kung Fu Panda 2” helmer Jennifer Yuh Nelson became the first solo woman to win the Annie for director Saturday at the 39th annual Annie Awards. On the television side, “The Simpsons” picked up its 13th Annie for best television production.

Thesp-comic Patton Oswalt hosted the lively event at Royce Hall on the campus of UCLA.

In addition to best pic, “Rango” nabbed trophies for character design (Mark “Crash” McCreery), writing (John Logan, Gore Verbinski and James Byrkit) and editing (Craig Wood). It also nabbed the first ever members’ favorite award, which is the only kudo voted on by the entire membership of the Intl. Animated Film Society.

ASIFA-Hollywood, the org that hands out the Annies, went through a number of changes last year, including new voting rules and the addition of new categories, which resulted in a very mixed field of winners. Awards were spread out among a variety of projects and studios. Nickelodeon, which partnered with Paramount on “Rango” and DreamWorks Animation on TV’s “Kung Fu Panda — Secrets of the Masters” and “Penguins of Madagascar,” led with eight, followed by Disney with six and DWA with five. As for individual projects, Disney’s TV special “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” followed “Rango” with four nods.

Nelson’s nod for director makes her the first woman to win that trophy since 2001 when Vicky Jenson shared the award with Andrew Adamson for “Shrek.”

Nelson said she hopes her win will inspire other female animation directors. “I have many students come up to me and tell me how this encourages them.” To aspiring women animation helmers she said: “Keep trying, do what you love and the work will speak for itself.”

Nelson said she’s developing another project for DreamWorks, but details are under wraps.

In another Annie rarity, the feature directing nod did not go to the helmer of the best pic winner. Nelson beat out “Rango’s” Verbinski for the trophy. The last time this happened was 2007 when DWA’s “Over the Hedge” helmers Tim Johnson and Karey Kirkpatrick won over best pic winner “Cars,” directed by Pixar’s John Lasseter. Prior to that was in 1997. Ron Clements and John Musker took home the directing trophy for Disney’s “Hercules,” but lost best pic to Turner Feature Animation’s “Cats Don’t Dance.”

What does all this mean for the animated Oscar race? The Annies haven’t been much of an Oscar bellwether of late. While Annie winners went on to win the Oscar in 2001 through 2005, they’ve only matched since in 2007 and 2009, missing last year when the Annie went to DWA’s “How to Train Your Dragon” and the Oscar went to Disney/Pixar’s “Toy Story 3.”

Of the other Oscar nominees, DWA’s “Puss in Boots” and GKid’s “A Cat in Paris” and “Chico & Rita” were shut out at the Annies.

Amblin’s “The Adventures of Tintin” and “Kung Fu Panda 2” scored two Annies each. “Tintin” won for composer John Williams’ score and animated effects in an animated production (Kevin Romond). In addition to Nelson’s win for helming, “Panda 2” picked up a nod for production design (Raymond Zilbach).

Other feature winners were “Rio” for character animation (Jeff Gabor), Disney’s “Winnie the Pooh” for storyboarding (Jeremy Spears) and Bill Nighy’s voice perf as Grandsanta in Sony/Aardman’s “Arthur Christmas.”

In the television categories, Gracie Films’ long-running “The Simpsons” won its 13th Annie for best general audience television production, it’s first win in the category since 2003. Homer and family had a lock on that category from 1992 until 2003, winning 12 in a row. “The Simpsons” took home three Annies in total, also winning for directing (Matthew Nastuk) and writing (Carolyn Omine, “Treehouse of Horror XXII”).

“Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” scored its four Annies for character animation (Tony Smeed), character design (Bill Schwab), music (Grace Potter and Michael Giacchino) and storyboarding (Brian Kesinger).

Special honors went to Walt Peregoy, Borge Ring and Ronald Searle (Winsor McCay Award); Art Leonardi (June Foray Award); and Depth Analysis (Special Achievement).

Following is a complete list of winners:

Best Animated Feature

“Rango” – Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies present A Blind Wink/GK Films Production

Best Animated Special Production

“Kung Fu Panda – Secrets of the Masters” – Nickeloden and DreamWorks Animation

Best Animated Short Subject

“Adam and Dog” – Minkyu Lee

Best Animated Television Commercial

Twinings “Sea” – Psyop

Best General Audience Animated TV Production

“The Simpsons” – Gracie Films

Best Animated Television Production – Preschool

“Disney Jake and the Never Land Pirates” – Disney Television Animation

Best Animated Television Production – Children

“The Amazing World of Gumball” – Cartoon Network in Association with Dandelion Studios, Boulder Media & Studio Soi

Best Animated Videogame

“Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet “- Shadow Planet Prods., Gagne/Fuelcell

Animated Effects in an Animated Production

Kevin Romond — “Tintin,” Amblin Entertainment, Wingnut Films and Kennedy/Marshall

Animated Effects in a Live-Action Production

Florent Andorra — “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” Industrial Light & Magic

Character Animation in a Television Production

Tony Smeed — “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice”

Character Animation in a Feature Production

Jeff Gabor — “Rio” Blue Sky Studios

Character Animation in a Live-Action Production

Eric Reynolds — “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” 20th Century Fox

Character Design in a Television Production

Bill Schwab –“Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice ”

Character Design in a Feature Production

Mark “Crash” McCreery — “Rango”

Directing in a Television Production

Matthew Nastuk — “The Simpsons”

Directing in a Feature Production

Jennifer Yuh Nelson — “Kung Fu Panda 2” DreamWorks Animation

Music in a Television Production

Grace Potter, Michael Giacchino– “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice”

Music in a Feature Production

John Williams — “Tintin”

Production Design in a Television Production

Mark Bodnar, Chris Tsirgiotis, Sue Mondt and Daniel Elson — “Secret Mountain Fort Awesome,” Cartoon Network Studios

Production Design in a Feature Production

Raymond Zilbach — “Kung Fu Panda 2”

Storyboarding in a Television Production

Brian Kesinger — “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice”

Storyboarding in a Feature Production

Jeremy Spears — “Winnie the Pooh,” Walt Disney Animation Studios

Voice Acting in a Television Production

Jeff Bennett as Kowalski — “Penguins of Madagascar,” Nickelodeon and DreamWorks Animation

Voice Acting in a Feature Production

Bill Nighy as Grandsanta — “Arthur Christmas,” Sony Pictures Animation, Aardman Animations

Writing in a Television Production

Carolyn Omine –“The Simpsons -Treehouse of Horror XXII”

Writing in a Feature Production

John Logan, Gore Verbinski and James Byrkit — “Rango”

Editing in Television Production

Ted Machold, Jeff Adams, Doug Tiano, Bob Tomlin — “Penguins of Madagascar,” Nickelodeon and DreamWorks Animation

Editing in a Feature Production

Craig Wood, A.C.E. — “Rango”


Winsor McCay Award – Walt Peregoy, Borge Ring, Ronald Searle

June Foray – Art Leonardi

Special Achievement – Depth Analysis