Annie Awards Ready Virtual Ceremony Under New ASIFA-Hollywood President

The 48th Annie Awards, like almost every other major entertainment event in the last year, is going virtual on April 16, and the show will have a few surprises in store for those tuning in to the free program.

“We’ve got some animation. We’ve done special graphics for the show. And because we won’t have people walking to and from the stage, which always takes some time, the show will probably be a little more streamlined,” Frank Gladstone, executive director of ASIFA-Hollywood and the event’s producer, explains.

Among the presenters slated for the Annie Awards are actors Josh Gad, Philippa Soo (who voices the goddess Chang’e in “Over the Moon”) and Eva Whittaker (the voice of Mebh Óg MacTíre in animated feature — independent nominee “Wolfwalkers”). Other presenters include directors Sergio Pablos (“Klaus”) and Jill Culton (“Abominable”), “Wolfwalkers” producer Nora Twomey, composer Michael Giacchino and the cast of web series “Critical Role.”

Gladstone notes that while it’s sad that there can’t be a physical gathering this year because of the pandemic, the organization is thankful for other things. “First of all our membership stayed up this year and we thought it wouldn’t,” he says. “We couldn’t sell tickets to the Annies, but we’ve had more submissions than ever before. Our sponsorships have been pretty robust as well. We didn’t know what to expect [as the lockdown went on].”

The Annies have been live-streamed in the past and ASIFA-Hollywood leaders are hopeful that more people will tune in this year. “One thing that’s fun and great about it being virtual this year is that so many of our members and a number of our nominees who are located elsewhere in the world will now all be able to participate,” Sue Shakespeare, new ASIFA-Hollywood president, says.

And virtual participation may be something that continues. “I think we’re learning a whole new way of imagining how we gather together and how we celebrate one another and it’s exciting for us,” she adds.

Shakespeare, president of independent animation studio Creative Capers Entertainment, was named president of ASIFA-Hollywood in December and is the org’s first woman in the post. “I follow in mighty footsteps,” she says. In the role, she’s looking to expand ASIFA-Hollywood’s efforts in expanding diversity and inclusion.

“I’ve always, through my studio, empowered women and brought a lot of women into the industry. I know ASIFA will continue to have some of these initiatives and look at how the industry is working,” she says.

“One of the things Sue helped with a lot and made of point of is, when we started to do our [Annies] judge applications this year, was to open applications up not only to our members, but also to members of Women in Animation, Black N’ Animated and Barcid, which is a Native American group, and Asian-American groups,” Gladstone explains. “So instead of getting about 150 applications, this year we got about 300. More than half of our judges were not members of ASIFA, just members of the animation community.”

ASIFA leaders are hoping those judges will join their organization as a result. “We hope so. We hope they will see the value,” Gladstone says.

“All of the judges are top [animation] talent with long lists of credits. They are all absolutely qualified,” Shakespeare says. “It allowed us to have a wider reach in the animation industry and more women, more diverse members of diverse communities. It gives us a wider point of view as the various shows were being judged.”

Notes Gladstone: “It created a really interesting mix of nominees and hopefully with the recipients as well.”


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