'Wallace & Grommit' Takes Top Honors at Annie Awards

Hunks of hand-crafted clay trounced modern computer-animated images Saturday to take top honors at the 33rd annual Annie Awards, honoring achievements in feature film and television animation.

"Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit" from DreamWorks Animation SKG took the prize for best feature production. The film, which used computer animation only for some short scenes, beat the digitally animated films "Chicken Little" from The Walt Disney Co. and "Madagascar," also from DreamWorks.

The Annie Awards are presented by The International Animated Film Society. The awards often predict the winner of the Academy Award's best animated film category.

"Wallace & Gromit" also captured best directing honors for Nick Park and Steve Box, and won for best music and writing.

"Wallace & Gromit" was produced by Aardman Animations, which introduced the characters in three TV shorts from 1989 to 1995 and made the 2000 animated film "Chicken Run."

Also winning an award for voice acting in an animated feature was British actor Peter Sallis, who turned 85 on Feb. 1 and has been supplying Wallace's voice since Park began making movies as a film school student.

"Wallace & Gromit" was not a box office hit, although critics loved the film. The plot revolves around a cheese-obsessed Brit and his faithful dog, both crafted from clay and moved by hand one frame at a time in a process known as "stop motion."

Stop motion is one of the earliest forms of animation. Another nominated film, " Tim Burton's Corpse Bride," was also stop-motion animated using rubber skinned puppets.

In a reversal from past years, none of the three animated contenders for the Oscars this year are wholly computer animated.

In addition to "Wallace & Gromit" and "Corpse Bride," the third nominee is the hand-drawn "Howl's Moving Castle," produced by Japanese anime master Hayao Miyazaki and distributed by Disney.

Other awards given Saturday were:

• Animated television production: "Star Wars: Clone Wars II," Cartoon Network Studios.

• Animated video game: "Ultimate Spider-Man," Activision/Treyarch

• Voice acting in an animated TV production: Seth MacFarlane, the voice of "Stewie" in "Family Guy" on Fox.