Emmys 2012: Animation Showrunners Protest TV Academy Rules

Community Curriculum Unavailable Episodic - H 2012
Lewis Jacobs/NBC

Community Curriculum Unavailable Episodic - H 2012

UPDATED: NBC’s "Community" is the focus of a protest letter written by "Simpsons" showrunner Al Jean, who tells THR that "it seems the show is operating on an entirely different set of rules."

A protest letter written by The Simpsons showrunner Al Jean and signed by 52 of the business’ top animated program showrunners and producers was sent to Academy of Television Arts and Sciences chair Bruce Rosenblum on Monday outlining what they see as a double standard involving the NBC comedy Community, a live-action comedy series that also has become eligible for animated program and shortform animated program Emmy consideration.

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Animated series, such as The Simpsons and Family Guy, are by contrast only eligible to submit for consideration in the comedy series category or in the animation category, the latter given out at the lesser-promoted, more tech-y Creative Arts Awards.

Here is the letter in its entirety:

“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.

"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 shortform 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.”

Among the 52 names listed at the bottom of the letter are Family Guy and American Dad creator Seth MacFarlane; Simpsons creator Matt Groening and writer-producer James L. Brooks; and David X. Cohen, EP of last year’s animated program Emmy winner, Futurama.

"For 20 years, it’s been possible to submit as a comedy series or as an animated program, but if you submit as an animated program, you can’t submit for consideration for comedy series writing," Jean told The Hollywood Reporter. "Last year, Community submitted for animated and comedy, while Family Guy for example, only as an submitted as a comedy. We were told this year, 'That was a one-time thing.' Nothing against Community, but it seems the show is operating on an entirely different set of rules. People across the animation branch of the academy – there are between 500 and 600 of us -- have said, 'We’ve had enough.' We were advised by someone, I don’t want to name who, to get this out there as soon as possible. Only about 10 percent of our branch members could do it quickly, but everyone we asked said yes. This really unfair, patently unfair. It’s too stupid to even defend the logic. If an animated series writer submits for a writing award and he wins, doesn’t that mean it was good? Isn’t that the point of all of this?”

ATAS released a statement Monday:

"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. Eligibility in animation programming is an exception to this general rule, because the animation producers, writers and directors enter the animated program category together as a team. 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 is a comedy series that for the last two years has included an animated 'special episode.' 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."