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DIFF Announces Texas Avery Animation Award Winners
by Stephen Becker 29 Mar 2011

The festival also announced a few more award recipients, as well as a few last-minute films added to the lineup; keep reading for the news release.


The Dallas International Film Festival, which opens on Thursday, announced that Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders are the recipients of this year’s Texas Avery Animation Award. DeBlois and Sanders most recently collaborated on the Oscar-nominated How to Train Your Dragon. The award is presented by Reel FX Entertainment and is named after the famed Warner Bros. animator, who was born in Taylor, Texas.

The festival also announced a few more award recipients, as well as a few last-minute films added to the lineup; keep reading for the news release:

Dallas, TX, March 29, 2011 – The DALLAS International Film Festival presented by Cadillac (March 31 – April 10, 2011) announced today that two new Honorees have been added to the slate of DALLAS Star Award recipients – writer, producer and director Scott Z. Burns (THE INFORMANT, THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM) and posthumously to Texas legend and Academy-Award winner Horton Foote (TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, TENDER MERCIES).   The popular Texas Avery Animation Award presented by Reel FX Entertainment will be awarded to the writers and directors of the Academy Award nominated HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON and LILO & STITCH, Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders.   Previous recipients include Pete Docter (UP), Henry Selick (CORALINE),Chris Wedge (ROBOTS) and Brad Bird (RATATOUILLE,THE INCREDIBLES). Three world premieres have also been added to the festival line-up along with Warner Bros’ documentary BORN TO BE WILD.

Horton Foote and Scott Z. Burns join Ann-Margret and Steve James on the 2011 roster of DALLAS Star Award recipients, all four of whom will receive the stunning Steuben Crystal awards courtesy of Neiman Marcus. Horton Foote becomes the fourth person in the festival’s five-year history following Gregory Peck, Jack Lemmon and Rita Hayworth to be posthumously honored with this award.

“I am so proud of our DALLAS Star Award honorees this year,” said Tanya Foster, President & CEO of the DALLAS Film Society. “To have the opportunity to put Horton Foote’s incredible writing career on a pedestal and bask in everything that he has done, and at the same time be able to celebrate the rising achievements of a young writer/ producer in Hollywood is exactly the purpose of our mission at the DALLAS Film Society. To honor those individuals, young or old, who have made important contributions to modern cinema and the advancement of the art of film is so fitting to our fifth celebration.”

Horton Foote’s career spanned 70 years in the entertainment industry. He started out as an actor but on receiving better reviews for his writing than for his acting, he switched his focus to the written word.  His reputation as a television dramatist grew through the 1940s and ’50s and in 1962 he won his first Academy Award for TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, which also marked the debut performance of previous DALLAS Star Award recipient, Robert Duvall. Ten years later, Foote and Duvall collaborated again on the critically acclaimed TOMORROW, which prompted Duvall to call Foote “the rural Chekhov”. Ten years on, Foote wrote TENDER MERCIES (1983) for Duvall, which earned them both Academy Awards for Screenplay and Best Actor respectively.  Foote’s third Academy-Award nomination came in 1985 with the emotive classic, A TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL.  Other awards included the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play THE YOUNG MAN FROM ATLANTA (1995) and an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries or a Special for his second adaptation of William Faulkner’s OLD MAN (1997).

Foote’s daughter, Hallie, will receive the award in her father’s memory at the DALLAS Film Society Honors on April 8.  In celebration of the Dallas arts community paying tribute to Horton Foote, A TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL will be screened at the DALLAS IFF on April 9 at the Texas Theatre.

Award-winner Scott Z. Burns will receive the DALLAS Shining Star Award at the DALLAS Film Society Honors on April 8.  After graduating Summa Cum Laude from the University of Minnesota, Burns began his career in advertising before moving into writing, producing and directing for television and film.  His first award as a Producer was the Humanitas Prize and the Stanley Kramer award from the Producers Guild of America for the Academy Award winning documentary, AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH (2006).  His screenplays and collaborations with directorsSteven Soderbergh andPaul Greengrass have earned him the recognition of being one of Hollywood’s rising stars in screenwritings – HBO Film’s PU-239 (2006), THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM (2007), THE INFORMANT (2009) and the yet to be released CONTAGION (2011).  Currently Burns is adapting Jules Verne’s classic 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA for Disney and another feature script for Soderbergh based on the 1960s TV series MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.

The Texas Avery Animation Award presented by REEL FX Entertainment honors a lifetime achievement in animation filmmaking. 2011 is the first year that there will be two recipients of this award.  Collaborators Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois are highly respected in the animation world after being propelled to fame for the Academy Award- nominated film LILO AND STITCH (2002).  Sanders is also known for his work on BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991), ALADDIN (1992), THE LION KING (1994) and MULAN (1998).

DeBlois was already an accomplished animator and writer at the time LILO & STITCH became a worldwide phenomenon, having worked on THE NUTCRACKER PRINCE (1990), THUMBELINA (1994) and as head of story on MULAN (1998), another collaboration with Chris Sanders. He then stepped behind the camera to direct the indie critical darling HEIMA (2007) and most recently he and Sanders have regrouped to bring audiences the breathtaking HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON (2010).

“For the past five years, Reel FX Entertainment has sponsored the Texas Avery Animation Award, which honors achievement in the animation industry,” said Ed Jones, CEO of Reel FX Entertainment. “This year, we give the award to two recipients – Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders – for the first time. With films like HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON and LILO & STITCH, they have created unforgettable characters whose stories are told through very different styles of animation. We feel their creativity and versatility embody the spirit of the award, and its namesake.”

Finally, Warners Bros’ BORN TO BE WILD and three world premieres, SPLIT MILK, BETWEEN NOTES and IN THE LAND OF FIREWORKS have been added to the slate of wonderful films at the upcoming festival.

Director: Christopher Grissom
A musician trades his dream for a corporate job to keep his relationship but when the girl leaves him, he’s left wondering what went wrong. Is he ready to fall in love again with a person or just with an idea of love?

Director: David Lickley
Narrated by Morgan Freeman, BORN TO BE WILD documents the animal orphan rehabilitation program at the Birute Galdikas’ research station in Borneo.   It gives audiences an intimate look at these amazing beasts in their natural habitats.

Director: Joel Curry
A successful businessman sees his professional and personal life veer out of control after his girlfriend announces she is pregnant.

Director: Blake Calhoun
A disenchanted assistant manager of a local grocery store is the victim of a late-night robbery during his night shift and as everyone is taken hostage in the store, the group is forced together to wait in the safe.

  • Sherry Carter

    Wondering why Tex Averys
    Daughter Nancy didn’t attend
    This year…..,