‘Simpsons’ Writer Al Jean Rallies Animation Community in Emmys Protest

Al Jean, Matt Groening, Seth MacFarlane and others claim that "Community" is getting special treatment with Emmys eligibility in animation category

The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences has drawn the ire of the television animation community, and "The Simpsons" producer Al Jean is rallying his professional colleagues in a campaign to get the Television Academy to reconsider the way it categorizes Emmys eligibility.

In the letter, sent to the TV Academy on Monday, Jean takes issue with the fact that the live-action NBC sitcom "Community" was allowed to submit for nomination in the comedy series, writing, and animated program categories this year, whereas writers for animated programs have traditionally been constrained to eligibility in either the animated category, or in the comedy category if they wish to be eligible in the individual writing category.

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Jean sees a double standard  and is asking the Academy to rethink its policies.

"We the undersigned animation showrunners and writers desire to address what we have regarded as a pernicious and unfair ruling by the Academy for the past 20 years, which we believe now, more than ever, should be redressed," the letter begins.

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"We have been told that animated program writers could not also submit their work for writing Emmys, for reasons we never understood, but supposedly pertaining to the purity of the branches.

"This is why no one was more startled than we when last year 'Community' was able to submit for comedy series, writing, and animated program, in the face of everything we had been told for two decades. We were told that for some reason, a one-time waiver was granted.

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"Imagine our surprise when this year we see 'Community' once again eligible for comedy series, writing, animated program, and short-form animated program. This letter is in no way intended to be a slight on the terrific show 'Community,' but a request from us to enjoy the very same rights they now do. Clearly the Academy’s ban on submitting in multiple categories is being enforced in an arbitrary and unfair manner. We therefore request that we also be able to submit our programs for both animation and comedy series as well as in the writing category."

The letter was signed by Jean and 51 other heavy hitters in the animation world, including "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening, "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane and "King of the Hill"/"Bob's Burgers" executive producer Jim Dauterive.

In a statement to TheWrap, the Television Academy said the rules for animated fare are different due to the collaborative nature of the craft.

"It is a general rule of the Emmy competition that producers, writers and directors enter separately in their own program or individual achievement categories, e.g., comedy series writers enter the Writing for a Comedy Series category, drama series directors enter the Directing for a Drama Series category, etc.," the statement reads.

"Eligibility in animation programming is an exception … because the animation producers, writers and directors enter the Animated Program category together as a team," the Academy continues. "There is no separate category for the individual achievements of animation writing and directing.  (However, if an animated series opts to enter in Comedy Series rather than Animated Program category, then the individual achievement categories are open to them, e.g., writers can enter Writing for a Comedy Series category.)"

"Community," the Academy said, was allowed to enter in multiple categories because its animated episode can be characterized as a "special episode."

"'Community' is a Comedy Series that for the last two years has included an animated 'special episode,'" the Academy said. "The competition includes a rule that a special episode can enter as a stand-alone special, 'if it involved a significant and substantive format change throughout e.g. from whole-episode live action to whole-episode animation.'  The 'Community' producers followed that rule when they entered the producer-writer-director team for the animated episode in the Animation category and the regular, live-action episodes in the Comedy Series program and Comedy Series individual achievement categories."