Why European Animation Execs Want Their Own Annie Awards

Shaun the Sheep Still - H 2015
Courtesy of Lionsgate

Shaun the Sheep Still - H 2015

While the European Film Awards, as well as the BAFTA and the Cesar Awards all have animation prizes, these ceremonies typically honor only the producers of the films.

Rome’s biggest industry market MIA kicked off Thursday, in parallel with the Rome Film Fest, with a special focus on animation. Leaders in the European animation scene gathered to discuss upcoming projects, co-production possibilities and where the industry is headed.

One of the main discussions centered around the recently announced European Animation Awards, which will officially have its first event in 2017. The U.K.’s Aardman Animations creative director Peter Lord (Shaun the Sheep, Chicken Run) will serve as the first president of the EAAs. Denmark’s Dane Marie Bro, France’s Didier Brunner and Ireland’s Paul Young will serve as vice presidents.

Academy Award-nominated Brunner, founder of Folivari and previously of Les Armateurs, created the EAAs as the first award ceremony in Europe dedicated solely to recognizing achievements in animation. The producer of The Triplets of Belleville and Ernest & Celestine designed the awards to recognize not only the producers of animations today, but also to the artists and technicians working in the industry.

While the European Film Awards, as well as the BAFTA and the Cesar Awards all have animation prizes, these ceremonies typically honor only the producers of the films. The EAAs aims to honor the entire teams behind the films, including animators, background designers and composers, with 20 categories overall set for the inaugural event next year.

“The main target of this award is to celebrate each year European professionals of the animation industry, acknowledging all the talents of animation from the bottom to the top, from assistant animators and character designers to directors and lead animators,” said Brunner. “There are lots of talents in Europe, there are very good schools here and studios renowned all over the world.”

Brunner hopes the EEAs will push forward the animation industry by honoring talent on the continent.

“The Annie Awards are mainly dedicated to the American industry, even if often Europeans are also awarded for their work in the American studios,” said Brunner. “There are lots of Europeans working in the studios. More than 60 French animators work for DreamWorks. In European festivals animation is only lightly represented, but Europe is the land of animation. At MIPCOM, Europe represented more than 70% of the animation screenings.”

Organizers reinforce that the event is not meant to be a parallel to the Annie Awards, America’s top animation awards, but to stand on its own legs. “The European Animation Emile Awards were not created to compete with the American awards, but rather they aim to put a larger focus on what is happening in Europe,” said Walking the Dog co-founder Eric Goossens. “The awards are also an opportunity for people in the community to meet and discuss new projects. For Italy, which is full of talents in the animation field, it can be a very important event.”

In addition to the creation of their own awards, European animators also on Thursday announced a new industry association at MIA, the European Association of Animation Producers. Cartoon Italia President Anne-Sophie Vanhollebeke will serve as the first vice president, pushing for greater cooperation between countries.

“The main characteristic of Italian animation is the fact that our products are already developed as international products,” said Vanhollebeke, praising MIA as a meeting ground for European animators to come together. “Producers are used to co-productions with other countries.”

MIA participants were optimistic on future collaborations coming out of the meetings Thursday. “The Future of animation, from web to video games to cinema, is great because it has become a universal language rooted in the imagination of the youngest generations,” said Mad Entertainment’s Luciano Stella, seeing continued success for European productions at the international box office.

MIA continues through Monday with 1,500 global industry professionals expected to present new projects and discuss challenges and opportunities across TV and film.