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Nimona goes from underdog to surprise animation awards contender

LOS ANGELES — After a rocky road to the screen, Nimona has emerged as an unexpected animated film awards contender after receiving the most nominations for the genre’s 2024 Annie Awards.

“It’s a dream. What a Cinderella story, a phoenix rising from the ashes,” said co-director Troy Quane of the nine Annie nods for Nimona, now streaming on Netflix.

“The studio got shut down. The movie was dead and then not only has it come back to life — we were just happy for it to get out into the world — but now here we are on the red carpet, getting all these noms for the Annies, standing shoulder to shoulder with giants and legends of the industry,” Mr. Quane said.

In early 2021, Disney shut down Blue Sky Studios and its film Nimona was subsequently canceled.

But the filmmakers never lost hope and persevered until the project was completed.

Like its gutsy main character Nimona, the movie defied the odds and was later picked up by Annapurna Pictures, and Netflix acquired its global distribution rights and premiered the film in June 2023.

“Our credits are 14 and a half minutes long because of how many people it took to get this movie to the screen,” producer Karen Ryan said.

The science-fantasy film, thought to be one of the underdogs of the animation race this year, was nominated for top Annie awards including best feature and best director.

Directed by Mr. Quane and Nick Bruno and based on a 2015 graphic novel of the same name by ND Stevenson, Nimona follows the character Ballister Boldheart, a former knight who was kicked out of a medieval-influenced futuristic kingdom after being accused of murdering the ruler, Queen Valerin.

When Ballister is pursued by authorities, including his boyfriend and fellow knight Ambrosius Goldenloin, he crosses paths with the shapeshifter Nimona, a spirited teen who insists on becoming his sidekick.

The voice cast includes Chloe Grace Moretz as Nimona, Riz Ahmed as Ballister and Eugene Lee Yang as Ambrosius.

The movie highlights diversity, including LGBTQ+ characters.

“Yeah, I think it was taking a cue from that character,” Mr. Quane said. “Just being unapologetic in the storytelling, we went with the movie to not shy away from the LGBTQ+ themes.”

For him, it was vital for the film to celebrate underrepresented characters, Mr. Quane said.

Experts polled by the Gold Derby website have Nimona listed as the fifth leading nomination contender for the Oscars behind such favorites as Studio Ghibli’s The Boy and the Heron and Pixar’s Elemental.

But given its history, Nimona may once again defy the odds when nominations are announced on Jan. 23. — Reuters

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