'Family Guy,' 'Simpsons' writers protest 'Community' animated episode on Emmy ballot, want 'same rights'

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UPDATED: Animated series writers are protesting a decision by the Television Academy to allow NBC’s Community to compete for Emmys in animated categories, arguing that they should be allowed similar cross-genre privileges.

Community made it onto the Emmy nomination ballot in several categories, including best animated program — along with 33 entries from full-time animated shows. The episode, “Digital Estate Planning,” features the cast rendered into 8-bit characters to compete in an old-school-style video game.

Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy), David X. Cohen (Futurama) and Al Jean (The Simpsons) are among the 52 writer-producers who signed a letter to the TV Academy arguing that it’s not fair that Community writers can submit their work in both traditional comedy and animation categories. Animated writers have long been told they can only submit episodes for animated writing slots, which are handed out during the less glamorous Creative Arts ceremony instead of the major prime-time telecast. An animated program can, however, choose to compete against live action for the top prize of best comedy series — Family Guy has attempted to win the main category in the past — but apparently the rules are different for the writing categories.

Here’s the protest letter in its entirety. (No South Park guys entering the cartoon wars?). And below that, we’ve just added the TV Academy’s reply.

To Whom It May Concern:

Television Academy

We the undersigned animation showrunners and writers desire to address what we have regarded as a pernicious and unfair ruling by the Academy for the past 20 years, which we believe now, more than ever, should be redressed.

We have been told that animated program writers could not also submit their work for writing Emmys, for reasons we never understood, but supposedly pertaining to the purity of the branches.

This is why no one was more startled than we when last year “Community” was able to submit for comedy series, writing, and animated program, in the face of everything we had been told for two decades.  We were told that for some reason, a one-time waiver was granted.

Imagine our surprise when this year we see “Community” once again eligible for comedy series, writing, animated program, and short-form animated program.  This letter is in no way intended to be a slight on the terrific show “Community” but a request from us to enjoy the very same rights they now do.  Clearly the Academy’s ban on submitting in multiple categories is being enforced in an arbitrary and unfair manner.  We therefore request that we also be able to submit our programs for both animation and comedy series as well as in the writing category.

Respectfully,

Richard Appel
Mike Barker
Kit Boss
James L. Brooks
Stewart Burns
Steve Callaghan
Brett Cawley
Joe Chandler
David X. Cohen
Joel Cohen
Jim Dautrieve
John Frink
Tom Gammill
Valentina Garza
Stephanie Gillis
David A. Goodman
Dan Greaney
Matt Groening
Michael Henry
Mark Hentemann
Eric Horsted
Al Jean
Artie Johann
Stephen Kane
Ken Keeler
Brian Kelley
Jon Kern
Rob LaZebnik
Tim Long
Robert Maitia
Seth MacFarlane
Steve Marmel
Ian Maxtone-Graham
Patrick Meighan
Wendy Molyneux
Bill Odenkirk
Carolyn Omine
Don Payne
Michael Price
Eric Rogers
Michael Rowe
Jon Schroeder
Brian Scully
Mike Scully
Matt Selman
Rick Singer
Patric M. Verrone
Ali Waller
Josh Weinstein
Matt Weitzman
Jeff Westbrook
Marc Wilmore

UPDATE: TV Academy replies:

It is a general rule of the Emmy competition that producers, writers and directors enter separately in their own program or individual achievement categories, e.g., comedy series writers enter the Writing for a Comedy Series category, drama series directors enter the Directing for a Drama Series category, etc.

Eligibility in animation programming is an exception to this general rule, because the animation producers, writers and directors enter the Animated Program category together as a team.  There is no separate category for the individual achievements of animation writing and directing. (However, if an animated series opts to enter in Comedy Series rather than Animated Program category, then the individual achievement categories are open to them, e.g., writers can enter Writing for a Comedy Series category.)

“Community” is a Comedy Series that for the last two years has included an animated “special episode.”  The competition includes a rule that a special episode can enter as a stand-alone special, “if it involved a significant and substantive format change throughout e.g. from whole-episode live action to whole-episode animation.” The “Community” producers followed that rule when they entered the producer-writer-director team for the animated episode in the Animation category and the regular, live-action episodes in the Comedy Series program and Comedy Series individual achievement categories.

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