In case you missed it, the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards were Sunday night. Before I narrowed my focus to animation, I used to really get into the Emmys. I watch my fair share of TV, so I enjoyed whether or not my personal tastes coincided with the awards. The last few years however, I've started to see that I don't really care anymore. It's not just because a handful of shows usually end up sweeping the categories (and at least one or two of them are always from either HBO or some BBC production), it's because I realized the state of animation at these awards.
If you watch the ceremony to see which of your favorite animated programs will win awards, don't waste your time. Animated categories are relegated to the less prestigious Creative Arts Emmys. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of hard working technical people who deserve recognition, but animation deserves more respect than to be lumped in with makeup artists and camera operators. In case you're curious, Outstanding Animated Program went to The Penguins of Madagascar, Outstanding Short-Format Animated Program went to Regular Show, and Outstanding Voice-Over Performance went to Maurice LaMarche for his work on Futurama. Aside from the last one there, I'm less than impressed.
Animated programs are a major force on television. Fox's "Animation Domination" block is a major draw on Sunday nights. Seth MacFarlane is one of the biggest names in the industry right now, but if he wants to win a televised award, he would have to submit Family Guy into the general Best Comedy category. It's been done, but the animated contender always gets trounced by the "30 Rock" and "Modern Family" establishment. The Simpsons has been on for 23 years and has not won any sort of award outside of the standard animated and musical categories. There have been times where it was literally the best thing on TV, but no properly prestigious awards were given.
My thoughts exactly, Homer.
Just last week I mentioned that veteran voice actor June Foray had finally been awarded an Emmy, but even that was a Daytime Emmy for a part she played on The Garfield Show. While she certainly deserves the recognition for a lifetime of wonderful performances, I'm flummoxed that it took Garfield to attain it.
The condescending stance of the Academy is maybe best illustrated by an incident that occurred when this year's nominations were announced earlier this summer. The NBC series Commmunity submitted an episode that had been animated as an old-school 8-bit video game homage for consideration in the various animated categories. This prompted a protest by 52 writers, directors, and producers of full-time animated programs, including Seth MacFarlane, Matt Groening, and David X. Cohen. Trey Parker and Matt Stone were conspicuously absent, but given their history of saying "Screw You!" to the Hollywood establishment, it's not surprising. The response from the Academy effectively said that non-animated shows can submit to the categories because they are treated as a, "special episode," and separate from the rest of the series. Animated writers, directors, and producers are welcome to submit to other stand-alone categories, but they would have to suffer the slings and arrows of a group that has little regard or respect for animation.
Why does the simple fact that a program is animated mean that it must be subjected to such harsh double standards? Over time, critics and audiences have consistently shown that animated shows are beloved, so why not give them a square shake? I think the answer lies with the embedded establishment of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Despite the fact that primetime animation has been around since the 60's, it still seems to be regarded as cartoonish kids' stuff and not on the same level as other non-animated programming. Maybe one or two more new smash-hit shows might change their way of thinking, but if The Simpsons or Family Guy can't do it, then I'm not holding my breath. At least there are the Annie Awards thrown by ASIFA (Association Internationale du Film d'Animation) to give animated shows and films the recognition they deserve.