‘Dragon’ Named Top Toon at Annie Awards

“How to Train Your Dragon” wins 10 awards in replay of embarrassment from two years ago; Disney and Pixar opt out

For one night, in one room, "Toy Story 3" was not the best animated film of the year.

The 2011 Annie Awards crowned "How to Train Your Dragon" as the year's Best Animated Feature, an honor that surprised no one familiar with the dispute that led Pixar and Disney to withdraw from the International Animated Film Association (which goes by ASIFA, for Association Internationale du Film d'Animation).

How to Train Your Dragon"Toy Story" may be the top-grossing animated film of all time, and it may have have won the vast majority of awards from critics groups and been honored by the Academy with a Best Picture nomination – but in the opinion of a group of voters widely known to be swollen with employees of DreamWorks Animation, "Dragon" now reigns as the Annies' choice.

The results were virtually an exact replay of the biggest Annies scandal ever, which took place two years ago when DreamWorks' "Kung Fu Panda" won 10 awards and Pixar's "WALL-E" was shut out completely. That year, "Kung Fu Panda" won in the identical 10 categories in which "How to Train Your Dragon" took home prizes on Saturday.

And while "Dragon" has a better critical reputation than "Panda," the sweep makes it clear that these particular awards have a serious credibility problem if they wish to be known for honoring the best the art form has to offer. 

Pixar and Disney's sole win came in the Best Animated Short Subject category, where the Pixar short "Day & Night" won.

On the television side, honors went to "Robot Chicken," "T.U.F.F. Puppy" and "SpongeBob SquarePants" – but the big winner was once again a DreamWorks production, "Kung Fu Panda Holiday."

Overall, DreamWorks productions won in 15 out of the 24 categories. The only categories in which the studio was nominated but did not win were Best Television Commercial and Storyboarding in a Television Production.

In August, Disney and Pixar pulled out of ASIFA, partly because the organization was unwilling to make further changes to its judging process. Although the group has tightened its rules to restrict voting to those who've been approved by special committees, DreamWorks employees are said by those familiar with the roster to make up as much as 40 percent of the membership.

Disney and Pixar did not submit any films for nomination this year, although the ASIFA rules allow its nominating committees to add any films they deem worthy. DreamWorks had received 39 nominations to seven for Disney and Pixar combined.

No Disney/Pixar nominees or employees attended the show, which took place at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus.

One bit of irony: two years ago, animator Bill Plympton decried the sweep by "Kung Fu Panda," calling it a "travesty" and saying that it felt as if the process had been "rigged."

Saturday night, Plympton appeared at the Annies to present the award for Best Directing in a Television Production. The winner: "Kung Fu Panda Holiday."

The complete list of Annie Award winners:

Best Animated Feature: "How to Train Your Dragon" – DreamWorks Animation
Best Animated Short Subject: "Day & Night" – Pixar
Best Animated Television Commercial: "Children's Medical Center" – DUCK Studios
Best Animated Television Production: "Kung Fu Panda Holiday" – DreamWorks Animation
Best Animated Television Production for Children: "SpongeBob SquarePants" – Nickelodeon
Best Animated Video Game: Limbo – Playdead

INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT CATEGORIES
Directing in a Feature Production:
"How to Train Your Dragon," Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois – DreamWorks Animation
Writing in a Feature Production: “How to Train Your Dragon,” William Davies, Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders  – DreamWorks Animation
Animated Effects in an Animated Production: "How To Train Your Dragon," Brett Miller – DreamWorks Animation
Character Animation in a Feature Production: "How To Train Your Dragon," Gabe Hordos – DreamWorks Animation
Character Animation in a Live Action Production: "Alice in Wonderland," Ryan Page
Character Design in a Feature Production: "How To Train Your Dragon," Nico Marlet – DreamWorks Animation
Music in a Feature Production:  "How To Train Your Dragon," John Powell – DreamWorks Animation
Production Design in a Feature Production: "How To Train Your Dragon," Pierre Olivier Vincent – DreamWorks Animation
Storyboarding in a Feature Production: "How To Train Your Dragon," Tom Owens – DreamWorks Animation
Voice Acting in a Feature Production: "How To Train Your Dragonn" Jay Baruchel as Hiccup – DreamWorks Animation

Directing in a Television Production: "Kung Fu Panda Holiday," Tim Johnson – DreamWorks Animation
Writing in a Television Production: "Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III": Geoff Johns, Matthew Beans, Zeb Wells, Hugh Sterbakov, Matthew Senreich, Breckin Meyer, Seth Green, Mike Fasolo, Douglas Goldstein, Tom Root, Dan Milano, Kevin Shinick & Hugh Davidson – ShadowMachine
Character Animation in a Television Production: David Pate, "Kung Fu Panda Holiday" – DreamWorks Animation
Character Design in a Television Production: Ernie Gilbert, "T.U.F.F. Puppy" – Nickelodeon
Music in a Television Production: Jeremy Wakefield, Sage Guyton, Nick Carr, Tuck Tucker, "SpongeBob SquarePants" – Nickelodeon
Production Design in a Television Production: Richie Sacilioc, "Kung Fu Panda Holiday" – DreamWorks Animation
Storyboarding in a Television Production: Fred Gonzales, "T.U.F.F. Puppy" – Nickelodeon
Voice Acting in a Television Production: James Hong as Mr. Ping, "Kung Fu Panda Holiday" – DreamWorks Animation

JURIED AWARDS
Winsor McCay Award –
Brad Bird, Eric Goldberg, Matt Groening
June Foray – Ross Iwamoto.
Ub Iwerks Award – Autodesk
Special Achievement – “Waking Sleeping Beauty”