6+1 Notes On the Annie Awards Nominations 2023

Annie Awards Nominations 2023 Stills from animation films

The Annie Awards in recent years have managed to re-vamp themselves and becoming definitely more friendly to indie animation (unlike the Oscar animation categories). We here share our brief reflections on the nominations announced for the 2023 awards (winners on the 25th February 2023). As always, from an indie animation perspective and interest (this is why we eschew big US animation productions from this piece).

Note 1: This is definitely a very good year for stop-motion animation. 17 nominations in total were given for two stop-motion features: Guillermo Del Toro's (and Mark Gustafson's) 'Pinocchio (9 noms), and Dean Fleischer Camp's stop-motion/live-action hybrid 'Marcel the Shell with Shoes On' (8 noms). Count also the special feature-length stop-motion production 'The House' by Emma De Swaef and Marc James Roels, Niki Lindroth von Bahr, and Paloma Baeza (6 noms), and add to the mix Henry Selick's 'Wendell and Wild' (3 noms). That's an impressive score overall.

Three out of four candidates ('Pinocchio', 'The House', 'Wendell & Wild) benefited from the Netflix powerhouse machine and used all the established (and updated) puppetry methods, whereas 'Marcel' comes from a different, DIY filmmaking front -to remind us of the ease of the stop-motion to mix with actors and a live-action surrounding. Predictably, none of the stop-motion candidates comes from a big US studio (3D computer animation still rules there, and LAIKA didn't have any feature film in its 2022 slate). The whole result sounds promising for stop-motion animation visibility, but only if funding continues.

Note 2: Cartoon Saloon has a very minimal presence this year, with Nora Twomey's 'My Father's Dragon' only earning 2 nominations (Best Indie Feature - Best Direction). Even though 'Wolfwalkers' by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart won 5 Annie Awards in the 2021 ceremony, this year the Cartoon Saloon film will need to fight hard with grassroots favorite 'Marcel' in the Indie Animation Feature category.

Note 3: It's nice to see small indie companies, like the Greek-originated, London-based company NOMINT in the Best Sponsored Film category -competing with 'Can’t Negotiate the Melting Point of Ice' (watch it here). Of course, the same category features the behemoth of 'Minions: The Rise of Gru' (The Office)'. But something tells us that the viral campaign and short of 'Save Ralph' by Spencer Susser (another stop-motion film, against animal testing) could actually be the winner here.

Note 4: It is definitely to be noted that only a single US student film is nominated for an Annie Award ('Birdsong' by Michelle Cheng, CalArts). The 4 other nominees come from France ('Au revoir Jérôme !, Gobelins, 'The Soloists', Gobelins, and 'Synchronie Passagère', Supinfocom Rubika) and Germany ('The Most Boring Granny in the Whole World', Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg). Last year's Annie Award was given to 'Night of the Living Dread' (NFTS). In the absence of any English-speaking candidate film, the field is open. 

Note 5:The Annecy Festival winner 'Amok' by Balázs Turai entered the coveted list of the Best Short Subject category. This is a category that gets better each year. In the current crop, we find 3 Oscar-shortlisted animation shorts 'Black Slide' by the Israeli Uri Lotan, 'The Flying Sailor' by Canadians Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby, 'Ice Merchants' by the Portuguese João Gonzalez, and 'Love, Dad' by Diana Cam Van Nguyen (a film already nominated for a European Film Academy Award).

The first thing to note: Again, only one film comes from the American continent.
The second thing to note: Both the Animafest Zagreb winner ('Garbage Man by Laura Gonçalves) and the Ottawa winner ('Bird in the Peninsula' by Atsushi Wada) were left out. 


Note 6: Such a welcome surprise to see Jenny Slate nominated for voice acting in 'Marcel'. Her acting elevates the film and the character. Still, she needs to face the two 'Pinocchio' actors, Gregory Mann ('Pinocchio' character) and David Bradley (the Master Geppetto character).

Note 7: The Annie Nomination for the rotoscoped time-bending 'Undone' in a Best TV/Media Limited Series category (dir. Hisko Hulsing) is definitely a plus in the nominations themselves, and an opening to 'adult-themed' animation. Hulsing has another nomination with the 'Sandman' animated episode for Netflix (Best Special Production). On the other hand, the 7 Annie Award nominations of the family-friendly special (and Oscar-shortlisted) 'The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse' by Peter Baynton & Charlie Mackesy should not be underestimated.

The full list of Annie Awards nominations 2023. The 50th Annie Awards will be bestowed on 25 February 2023 (UCLA Royce Hall, LA).

Vassilis Kroustallis

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