Emmy’s Month: How The Emmy ® Statuette Is Made

The Emmys are this week! With that comes the speculation, the anticipation, and the inevitable consolation when your pick loses in their category (I expect to need lots of consolation). But I don’t want to talk about the nominees, I want to talk about Emmy herself.

Only recently have I ever wondered about the process of how awards are made. You’ve probably never seen an Emmy ® or an Oscar up close and in person (if you have, who are you and how did you find this tiny blog?), so it’s easy to dismiss where they come from. But they’re made somewhere, right? They don’t just appear from the sky into the winners hands, someone places an order, a company sculpts them, they’re shipped out to the award ceremony location, and stamped with the winners. So I decided to do a little research into how the award statuettes are made (and other random facts).

copyright ATAS/NATAS

According to the Emmy website, he Emmy ® statuette was designed by television engineer Louis McManus, who used his wife as the model. There’s gotta be something to the Oscar being a guy and the Emmy being a woman… There is the simple fact that Oscar was already a guy, so why not make the second biggest award in the industry a woman (and clearly a woman admired by the designer)? However there are some subtle correlations between the lauded importance of film (especially back in the day) and the second-class treatment of television (until the recent Golden Age where movie stars want to do TV and not because their careers are in the crapper). But this isn’t the point of this post.

Concerning the look of the statuette: “The wings represent the muse of art; the atom the electron of science.” It’s really easy to forget that television (and film as well) were scientific endeavors when they first began. We take the mechanisms behind it for granted, but television’s debut at the 1939 World’s Fair was basically someone presenting their giant science project. The Emmy represents both the art of the acting/directing/writing, but the science of cinematography and sound and color awarded in the (two) ceremonies today. (Those Creative Arts Emmys seem to often represent the more science-y side, despite its name. Those awards are given out the week before and aren’t widely televised like the regular award ceremony.)

Harry Lubcke, a pioneer television engineer and the third Academy president, suggested “Immy,” a term commonly used for the early image orthicon camera (there goes the science part again). The name stuck and was later modified to Emmy, which members thought was more appropriate for a female symbol. (x)

Each year, the R.S. Owens company in Chicago (who also make the Oscar, seen below) is charged with manufacturing over 400 statuettes ordered for the Primetime Emmys, which are awarded at the Creative Arts ceremony and Primetime Emmy telecast. As we get more and more television and the Emmys make adjustments to categories (like splitting up the miniseries category), I’m sure this will mean more Emmys to produce. R.S. Owens has been manufacturing the Oscar and Emmy Award trophies since 1983, after taking over from C.W. Shumway & Sons. In addition, between two hundred fifty and three hundred statuettes are ordered annually for the Los Angeles Area Emmy Awards, honoring excellence in local broadcasting. I think other local awards are produced elsewhere.

Here is a photo of Emmys in various stages of completion:

via Gizmodo. So cool!

The possibility of multiple winners is why the number of statuettes ordered varies each year. And don’t multiple writers on a show that wins best writing in a series get Emmys? (Otherwise, when the show is over, who keeps the Emmy? Writing duos wouldn’t just pass one back and forth every six months.) That would change how many people get a physical trophy as well, since some shows’ numbers differ. Surplus awards are saved for the following year’s ceremony.

Other Emmys Facts

  • Each custom casting is hand poured and takes five-and-one-half hours to make and is handled with white gloves to prevent fingerprints.
  • Emmys labels, declaring your name and category) used to (and probably sometimes still) be mailed to winners. But recently, the Governor’s Ball (held after the ceremony) hired an engraver to do it on the spot. (x)
  • The local South East chapter of the Emmys will replace your lost Emmy for a fee! (x) But what are you doing that you lose your EMMY?!
  • Each statuette costs about $400 to make and consist mostly of cheap metals, dipped in liquid gold. This cost is then passed on to the Emmy winners, as they’re required to purchase the statuette if they’d actually like to keep the award. (HuffPost) Woah! Imagine a show like Fraiser, which has won 37 TIMES (in various categories over 11 years)! But for a successful show/actor who just won an Emmy, the cost must be nothing compared to the increased pay, recognition, offers you must receive after getting the award.
  • The Emmy ® statuette must always appear facing left. ALWAYS.

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