Hello! My name is Kayla Dennis, and I am a transfer student majoring in Animation and minoring in Screenwriting here at APU. I’m currently in my first year in the Animation program, and one of the incredible opportunities my fellow classmates and I got to participate in this year was attending the 47th annual Annie Awards.
The Annies is a special awards ceremony hosted by ASIFA Hollywood (a chapter of the International Animation Society) to honor and recognize the animation industry and its most prolific artists, storytellers, TV shows, and films of the year. This year Tony Bancroft, professor and director of the Animation program, surprised our class with the announcement that we were all invited to the Annies to work behind the scenes as hosts for special guests. Everyone in my class was assigned to a specific guest that would be speaking or announcing the winners on stage. Our job was to make sure that they got to where they needed to be in a timely and organized manner, and to be helpful to assist them in any way we can.
I had the pleasure of hosting animation legend John Musker (who actually came to APU a few months back as a First Mondays guest). He directed famous Disney films such as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Princess and The Frog, Moana, and Hercules, just to name a few. That night he and Ron Clements, an animator that co-directed alongside Musker, were awarded with a special Winsor McCay Award, honoring their career achievements.
During the pre-party we were allowed to wait around and keep an eye out for when our assigned guest arrived in order to receive them. During the wait there were many familiar faces and names walking around. Showrunners, writers, and animators I have admired or have followed over social media were suddenly right there in person. It was really cool to get a chance to see professional animators in the industry face to face in a more casual setting. Everyone was very kind and considerate. It was a cold evening that only got colder, and I lost count the amount of times people checked up on me or asked if I was cold (I was cold, but I was ok!).
When the show began and I wasn’t on the job helping John Musker, I was sitting in the audience and watching the awards show. The film Klaus was the big winner of the night, taking home several well-deserved Annies. When the main event wrapped up, we were invited to enjoy the afterparty and free food. This is when we gathered on the red carpet and took a group picture. This was probably the best part of the night and the perfect time to mingle with each other and other artists. It was a moment I really took in for what it was, having been an animation fan for so long I always wanted to attend the Annie Awards someday, but I never thought the opportunity would be so soon.
The personal highlight of my night was talking with some animators behind How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. Anyone who knows me knows how much of a How To Train Your Dragon superfan I am. Mr. Dean DeBlois, writer and director of the films and my biggest inspiration, was in attendance that evening. I could not pass up the chance to talk to him again and take a picture with him (see below!). I also talked to other amazing animators who worked on the film franchise as well such as Simon Otto (head of character animation), Nico Marlet (character designer), Dane Stogner (animator) and Rani Naamani (animator). Having met most of these artists before, it was really cool to say hi again and thank them in person for their hard work on my ultimate favorite film franchise. After all, it is the film that inspired me to pursue animation in the first place.
I had an incredible time attending the Annie Awards, it was an amazing opportunity to expose us students to what the industry is like. Getting to mingle with professionals and hanging out with my friends made it a very fun night, I’ve created many great memories. The experience has only solidified that animation is a world I hope to be apart of one day, and a night I’ll never forget.