Probably most of you know that I am one of the founders and the longstanding Secretary of the Anthropomorphic Literature and Arts Association (ALAA), which administers the annual Ursa Major Awards for the Best Anthropomorphic Motion Picture and the Best Anthropomorphic Dramatic Series or Short Work every year (and nine other categories not usually involving animation). Works featuring anthropomorphic or “funny animals” are invariably animated, although there have been rare exceptions. Our awards for 2012 were recently announced at the Anthrocon 2013 convention in Pittsburgh (July 4-7). Best Motion Picture was won by Pixar’s Brave, and Best Dramatic Series or Short Work was won by the Hasbro TV series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
There has not been any controversy over the “TV series award” (which sometimes goes to something other than a TV series), but there have been some screams of, “How can you say that Brave was the best anthropomorphic movie of 2012 when the Furry subplot only took place in the last half of the movie and only involved four (or arguably five) were-bear supporting characters, while Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted was almost totally Furry?” But these are nothing compared to the outrage in 2010 when the award for Best Anthropomorphic Motion Picture of 2009 went to James Cameron’s Avatar, for its Big Blue Aliens, narrowly beating Wes Anderson’s stop-motion Fantastic Mr. Fox which was emphatically Furry.
The thing is, the Ursa Major Award is a popular vote award, not decided by a committee of judges. Every year a call is sent out throughout anthropomorphics/Furry fandom for all who want to vote to register at the UMA website for a nominating form between mid-January and the end of February, and for the final ballot, listing the five most popular nominees in each category, from mid-March to mid- or the end of April, depending on where and when the presentation ceremony will be. (It is at a different Furry convention each year.) So Brave beat Madagascar 3 because it got more votes from the public. Avatar beat Fantastic Mr. Fox in 2010 because it got more votes from the public.
The Ursa Major Awards were first presented in late April 2002 for the best anthropomorphic works of 2001, at the Confurence 2002 convention in Burbank, California. The UMA was started by the annual Confurence Furry convention, and was originally planned to be administered and awarded by the Confurence each year. But although it was designed to be international in scope, it turned out that too many fans thought that the nominating and voting were for Confurence members only. So the independent ALAA was created and the UMA was turned over to it. The awards are now presented at a different Furry convention each year in the May-early July period, to emphasize that the awards are not tied to any particular convention.
Voting during the first two or three years was miniscule. Today it is up to 1,500 voters via the Internet, give or take a couple of hundred. The vast majority of votes are from Furry fans in the U.S., with less than a hundred each from Australia, Canada, Germany, and Great Britain, one or two dozen each from another half-dozen countries, and one or two from up to three dozen other countries. There were some fears in earlier years that the novel publishers and movie and TV series production companies might have their employees vote for their nominated works, and overwhelm the Furry fans’ vote, but this has never happened. (Frankly, there is no evidence that major publishers and movie and TV studios care about the Ursa Major Awards at all.)
The Best Anthropomorphic Motion Picture winners have been:
2002 – Lilo & Stitch
2003 – Finding Nemo
2004 – Shrek 2
2005 – The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
2006 – Over the Hedge
2007 – Ratatouille
2008 – Bolt
2009 – Avatar
2010 – How To Train Your Dragon
2011 – Kung Fu Panda 2
2012 — Brave
The Best Anthropomorphic Dramatic Series or Short Work winners have been:
2001 – Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat [TV series]
2002 – Greg the Bunny [TV series]
2003 — Gary the Rat [TV series]
2004 — Father of the Pride [TV series/some DVD original episodes]
2005 – Cake Dance, a.k.a. There She Is!! Step 2 [a Korean music video by SamBakZa]
2006 – Hammy’s Boomerang Adventure [short film on the Over the Hedge DVD]
2007 – Gridlock [a Doctor Who episode]
2008 – There She Is, Steps 3-5 [Korean music videos by SamBakZa]
2009 – The Penguins of Madagascar [TV series]
2010 – Wallace & Gromit’s World of Invention [TV series]
2011 – My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic [TV series]
2012 – My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic [TV series]
The 2012 nominees were:
Motion Picture: Brave; Ice Age: Continental Drift; Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted; Rise of the Guardians; Ted
Dramatic Series or Short Work: Crayon Dragon [student short film]; My Little Brony: Friendship is Tragic [parody short film]; My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic [TV series]; Puss in Boots: The Three Diablos [short film on the Puss in Boots DVD]; Simon’s Cat [Internet series]
There was a little worry expressed last year when Bitter Lake, the first motion picture (41 minutes) featuring an all-Fursuit-wearing cast, was produced by a group of Dutch and German Furry fans. There were fears that Furry fans around the world would bloc-vote for it over all of the commercially-produced motion pictures. These fears proved unfounded when Bitter Lake was released on DVD and fans got to see it. It barely got enough nominations to qualify for the final ballot. It demonstrated that, no matter how elaborate and beautiful full-body Fursuits may be, there is not much that can be done in them except to walk slowly and stand around and talk.
There has been some minor grumbling in recent years that the Best Dramatic Series or Short Work category ought to be split into two categories, because realistically a Short Work (invariably a little-known student animated film of less than ten minutes, or a DVD extra) does not stand a chance of beating a popular TV animated series. But the Ursa Major Awards already have eleven categories, and there are complaints that these are too many categories already without adding more.
For the record, the other categories are: Best Novel, Best Short Fiction, Best Other Literary Work (usually a short story anthology or collection, non-fiction or a collection of a comic strip), Best Graphic Story, Best Comic Strip, Best Magazine, Best Published Illustration, Best Website, and Best Game. I suppose that I should acknowledge that animation is employed in most video games today, but I don’t think that computer game animation is likely to compete with theatrical or TV animation for a long, long time to come.