Our Best and Brightest

Hall of Fame

The Animation Magazine Hall of Fame Awards reflect the hard work, creativity and public spirit the icons of animation and VFX display in their careers and in their lives.

Animation and visual effects are fields with deep history that have always attracted very passionate people who use these media to bring to life the most experimental and unusual ideas ever put on film.

Many of these people are also as humble, modest and willing to share as they are brilliant at their work. Animators and effects artists love what they do so much there’s no such thing (perhaps besides a studio embargo) as a good reason not to talk about the work. That’s one of the things that has made Animation Magazine the convivial, educational and just plain fun publication that it’s always been. It’s also a spirit we have sought to instill in others, allow to spread, and to recognize in the work and actions of the best and brightest among us.

This was very much the idea behind the World Animation and VFX Summit, which has grown steadily in attendance and reputation as one of the must-attend, premier events of the year. The event also offered an ideal opportunity to recognize and honor the people who make the animation and visual-effects industries exciting and challenging places to be, leading us to establish our annual Hall of Fame awards.

The awards have varied significantly in the five years Animation Magazine has been presenting them — a suitably apt quality for art forms that themselves change, evolve and break new ground at an astonishingly quick pace. The names we have chosen, for those awards, have all stood the test of time or established new markers the rest of the industry aspires to in some way.

On this occasion of Animation Magazine’s 30th anniversary, it seems like a good moment to recognize our esteemed roster of honorees in a single place. Reading the pages ahead will inform you of their many and varied accomplishments, as well as a sense of who they are as people. Both parts of that equation matter and, with the sixth annual World Animation & VFX Summit set for Oct. 29-31, is a standard and a tradition among the animation and VFX communities that Animation Magazine is proud to honor.

Induction Ceremony 1: 2012

The first Hall of Fame Awards were presented during an opening-night cocktail party at the inaugural World Animation Feature Films and VFX Summit Oct. 28, 2012, at the California Yacht Club in Marina del Rey, Calif.

The memorable event saw Animation Magazine President and Publisher Jean Thoren present the Animation Humanitarian of the Year Award to Joan Vogelesang, then the president and CEO of Toon Boom Animation.

GKIDS’ award for Distributor of the Year and accepted on behalf of the company’s founder, Eric Beckman, by Jamie Bolio.

Distributor of the Year

GKIDS

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Since its formation in 2008, New York-based distributor GKIDS has emerged as one of the most important forces in the world of animated features. Headed by Eric Beckman, who also launched the New York International Children’s Film Festival in 1998, GKIDS has been on the forefront of offering acclaimed projects from Europe and Asia, including a slate of 13 Studio Ghibli films it acquired in 2011.

The studio has to date earned nine nominations for the Best Animated Feature Oscar, scoring two nominees in the category on three occasions: The Secret of Kells (2009), A Cat in Paris (2011), Chico and Rita (2011), Ernest & Celestine (2013), Song of the Sea (2014), The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2014), Boy and the World (2015), When Marnie was There (2015) and My Life as a Zucchini (2016).

Its upcoming slate includes Mune: Guardian of the Moon, The Breadwinner, Birdboy: The Forgotten Children and The Girl Without Hands.

The inaugural Distributor of the Year Award recognizes the achievement of Beckman and his team in assembling a top-notch collection of animated offerings from important artists and animators all over the world and giving audiences in the United States a chance to see refreshingly original titles in a theatrical setting.

Animation Humanitarian of the Year Award

Joan Vogelesang

Consultant at Joan Vogelesang Consulting; formerly president and CEO of Toon Boom Animation

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Joan Vogelesang embodies many qualities that few executives share. During her tenure at software maker Toon Boom Animation, she brought the company through the fire and took it from a single-product company and made it into a diverse software provider.

Since going out on her own in 2014, she continues to show admirable tenacity, curiosity and dedication to every project she takes on and elevates the animation industry at every turn. Her personal mentoring has opened and developed new markets in animation in China, India, Africa, South America, the Caribbean and the Middle East, creating thousands of studios, schools and jobs across the globe.

Numerous other awards recognize her extensive work on behalf of many charities and industry organizations.

As a longtime supporter of Animation Magazine, we know firsthand what it means to have Joan on your side. Bringing people in our industry together and finding synergy is what she is about. She knows that you have to just jump in and do it to make a change.

Simply put, Joan Vogelesang is an exemplary human being, well deserving of the inaugural Animation Humanitarian of the Year Award.

Induction Ceremony 2: 2013

It’s always a great night for animation and VFX folks when June Foray shows up, which she Nov. 3, 2013, did to accept a lifetime achievement award and enter the Animation Magazine Hall of Fame.

Award presenters included Oscars-nominated actress Catherine Keener (the voice of cavewomen Ugga in The Croods); Oscar-winning producer Jon Landau (Titanic, Avatar); executive producer Tiffany Ward (Mr. Peabody & Sherman); and president and CEO of Emmy-winning animation software powerhouse Toon Boom Joan Volgelsang.

Lifetime Achievement Award

June Foray

Legendary voice actress

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June Foray, one of Hollywood’s best-known animation icons, has lent her skills to such legendary characters as Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Natasha Fatale on The Bullwinkle Show, Cindy Lou Who from How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Granny in the Tweety and Sylvester series, and in The Bugs Bunny Show. Foray also voiced Looney Tunes’ Witch Hazel and was the voice of Jokey Smurf on The Smurfs.

Foray got into voice-over work at the age of 12, and her first major animation role came in 1950, playing Lucifer the Cat in Walt Disney’s Cinderella.

Foray won her first Emmy in 2012 for voicing Mrs. Cauldron on The Garfield Show.

She was also awarded the prestigious Governor’s Award at the Creative Emmy Award ceremony. She is also one of the key forces behind the influential Annie Awards, which have taken a leading role in honoring the best achievements in the field of animation each year.

Lifetime Achievement

John Knoll

ILM’s Chief Creative Officer

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John Knoll, Oscar-winning VFX veteran and Chief Creative Officer at Industrial Light Magic, began his career co-creating Photoshop with his brother, Thomas.

Knoll founded ILM’s Rebel (Mac) Unit, a creative incubator for fine artists and software developers to define working methodologies and advance the state of the art. This led to the development of a variety of breakthrough techniques including some of the earliest examples of digital compositing for The Abyss, and many cutting-edge digital camera projection techniques used on such films as Mission: Impossible, Star Trek: First Contact and Star Wars: Episode I, The Phantom Menace.

He was also a key contributor of the development of ILM’s pioneering on-set performance capture technology, Imocap, which saw its first use on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. More recently, he came up with the story idea and was executive producer on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

In 2012, Knoll was elected to the Academy’s Board of Governors representing the visual effects branch and is a four-time Academy Award nominee. In 2007 he won both the Oscar and the BAFTA for Best Visual Effects for his work on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.

Lifetime Achievement

Tapaas Chakravarti

CEO of DQ Entertainment

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Tapaas Chakravarti, chairman and CEO of India’s hugely successful animation studio DQ Entertainment, is responsible for the overall development, management and implementation of the studio’s various projects.

He has more than 25 years of experience across various industries both national and multinational and is a vital part of numerous national and international charitable organizations, which include extensive work for orphans, children with AIDS, and education for the deprived.

He has been nominated for the Ernst Young, Entrepreneur of the Year 2009 India Awards and awarded the Entrepreneur of the Year award from 2004 to 2005 by the Hyderabad Management Association.

Among his many animation production credits are The Pinky and Perky Show, Twisted Whiskers, Little Nick, The Little Prince, The Jungle Book, The Hive and Casper’s Scare.

Breakout Studio Award

Stoopid Buddy Stoodios

Founded by Seth Green, John Harvatine IV, Matthew Senreich and Eric Towner

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Based in Burbank, Stoopid Buddy Stoodios is the largest shop in California specializing in stop-motion animation. Well known for the Emmy and Annie Award-winning Robot Chicken on Cartoon Network, they have pushed traditional forms of animation to their greatest potential and beyond.

Their patented “Stop-Live Animation” technique has allowed them to combine stop-motion animated characters and documentary style live-action footage.

Other acclaimed projects include College Humor’s Dinosaur Office, stop-motion animated segments of Spy vs. Spy for MAD from Warner Bros. Animation for Cartoon Network, YouTube’s Stoopid Monkey channel, a feature project at Sony Pictures Animation, and the SuperMansion series for Sony’s Crackle.

Original Vision Award

Chris Sanders & Kirk DeMicco

Writers and directors of DreamWorks Animation’s The Croods

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Born into an artistic household, Chris Sanders grew up drawing and penning short stories. After studying at CalArts, Sanders worked for Marvel Productions and Walt Disney Animation Studios. While at Disney, Sanders worked as a story artist on Rescuers Down Under, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King. He was  head of story on Mulan and went on to win an Annie Award for storyboarding in an animated feature production. Following the success of Mulan, Sanders partnered with Dean DeBlois and conceived, wrote, boarded and directed the Academy Award-nominated Lilo and Stitch.

In 2006, Sanders left Walt Disney Animation Studios to join DreamWorks Animation. Teaming again with DeBlois, the duo wrote and directed the Academy Award-nominated How to Train Your Dragon, which won them the Annie Award for best directing in an animated feature production.

After graduating from USC, Kirk DeMicco’s writing and directing career began at the William Morris Agency in New York. In October of 1994, he transferred to the company’s Los Angeles office, and six months later sold his first spec screenplay, A Day in November, which Warner Bros. landed after a bidding war.

Among DeMicco’s additional studio film credits: writer and co-producer of the Warner Bros. family feature Racing Stripes; Sherlock Homeboy for Universal Family; Hong Kong Phooey for Warner Bros. and Alcon Entertainment; and Casper: Scare School for Classic Media.

DeMicco has also done production rewrites for feature films from Disney, DreamWorks, Spyglass Entertainment, and Warner Bros. He has also written two scripts with John Cleese and teamed up with filmmaker Barry Sonnenfeld as a first-time director for the animated film Space Chimps.

Induction Ceremony 3: 2014

By now, the scene was familiar: The opening night gala for the World Animation and VFX Summit featured some star power as six Hall of Fame honors were presented.

Amon the presenters were talk-show host and voice actor Craig Ferguson; Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson; Emmy-winning Simpsons producer Bill Schultz; and Julie Kane-Ritsch, head of animation and family entertainment for The Gotham Group.

Feature Producer of the Year Award

Bonnie Arnold

President, DreamWorks Animation

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Bonnie Arnold is the producer of DreamWorks Animation’s hit How to Train Your Dragon franchise, the third installment of which is due in theaters March 1, 2019.

Accomplished in nearly every genre, Arnold produced Sony Pictures Classics’ The Last Station, which was nominated for two Oscars. She also produced DreamWorks Animation’s Over the Hedge, Disney’s Tarzan and Pixar’s Toy Story. In 2015, Arnold and Mireille Soria were appointed co-presidents of DreamWorks Animation. Arnold has continued as president after Soria returned to a producer rule in late 2016.

Arnold’s first entertainment industry job was as unit publicist for American Playhouse’s King of America. She then worked with independent filmmakers via the American Film Institute and the Atlanta Independent Film and Video Festival.

Arnold is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as well as the Producers Guild of America.

Director of the Year Award

David Silverman

The Simpson, The Simpsons Movie

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David Silverman is a four-time Emmy-winning director, best known for directing numerous episodes of the animated TV series The Simpsons as well as The Simpsons Movie.

Silverman was involved with the series from the very beginning, animating all of the original short Simpsons cartoons that aired on The Tracey Ullman Show. He and went on to serve as director of animation for several years on The Simpsons. He also directed the The Simpsons Movie, and co-directed Pixar’s Monsters, Inc.

In 2012, Silverman directed the theatrical short The Longest Daycare, starring Maggie Simpson, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. He most recently was attached as producer and director on a new Pink Panther CG animation-live-action hybrid feature.

Voice Talent of the Year Award

Jim Cummings

Winnie the Pooh

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Since 1984, Jim Cummings has given life and voice to some of America’s most beloved cartoon characters, earning nominations for multiple Emmys and an Annie Award. Born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, Cummings spent Saturday mornings riveted to the TV screen as he mimicked the characters in his favorite cartoons, dreaming that one day he would voice them himself.

These days, Cummings is one of the best-known voiceover actors in animation. He has worked extensively for Disney and Warner Brothers, voicing such classic characters as Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Darkwing Duck and the Tazmanian Devil, as well as lending his voice to feature films and television shows for virtually every studio in the business.

Talent Manager/Producer of the Year Award

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein

Founder, Gotham Group

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Ellen Goldsmith-Vein is the owner and CEO of The Gotham Group, a multifaceted management and production company.

She was nominated for an Emmy and won an Annie in 2008 for the American version of Aardman’s Creature Comforts series. She previously was president of animation and family entertainment at Artists Management Group and an executive at Nelvana, William Morris Agency and Atlas Management.

A graduate of UCLA and Hollins College, she produced The Maze Runner features and is attached to produce several feature films.

Breakout Studio of the Year

Rubicon Group Holding

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Established in 1994, Rubicon Group Holding is a multifaceted organization devoted to storytelling across all platforms. With world-class talent and patented technology, RGH works in film and TV animation, themed entertainment, digital games, educational media, consumer products and virtual vocational training. RGH’s  flagship project, Pink Panther and Pals (co-produced with MGM,) premiered in 2010 on Cartoon Network worldwide and earned multiple awards and accolades. Founder and group CEO Randa S. Ayoubi leads the corporation, which employs more than 400 people in Amman, Jordan; Los Angeles; Manila, The Philippines; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Phil Roman

Founder of Film Roman

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Phil Roman is the founder of Film Roman, an award-winning studio that started out producing acclaimed Gar eld TV specials in 1984 before becoming the original animation house for Fox’s The Simpsons and King of the Hill. Winner of six Emmys, Roman began his career in animation in 1955 as an assistant animator on Sleeping Beauty. He contributed to countless TV commercials and worked at Warner Bros., UPA and MGM. For Film Roman, he produced a theatrical Tom and Jerry movie and has many TV credits. Film Roman went public in 1996, and Roman sold his interest in the company in 1999, founding the new Phil Roman Entertainment. He returned to Film Roman as chairman emeritus in 2015.

Induction Ceremony 4: 2015

The global growth of animation was clearly coming its own with this round of Hall of Fame Awards, presented Nov. 2, 2015 — again, at the California Yacht Club in Marina del Rey, Calif.

This year’s awards presenters had fun teasing and honoring the inductees.

“Blazing trails is something Margie has done for some time,” said two time Emmy-award winner Danny Jacobs in the voice he uses as star of King Julien on All Hail King Julien, presenting Head of Television for DreamWorks Animation Margie Cohn with the Trailblazer of the Year Award. “She’s been leading the way for nearly three decades.”

Titmouse creative director Antonio Canobbio presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Folivari president Didier Brunner. The four-time Oscar nominated producer of acclaimed animated films The Old Lady and the Pigeons, The Triplets of Belleville, The Secret of Kells and Ernest and Celestine, Winsor McCay winner, Annie Award winner and BAFTA award winner has no plans of slowing down his illustrious career.

The Creative Visionary Award went posthumously to Charles Schulz, creator of the beloved and world-renowned comic strip Peanuts. The Peanuts Movie director, Steve Martino, presented the award to Schulz’s youngest daughter, Jill Schulz.

“His approach to the art form was beautiful simplicity. I dearly would have loved to have met the man. He captured the human condition,” said Martino.

Executive Producer and co-founder of ZAG Animation Studios Michael Barnathan presented Jeremy Zag with the final award of the night.

Trailblazer of the Year

Margie Cohn

Head of Television, DreamWorks Animation

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Margie Cohn oversees all television development and production for DreamWorks Animation, including all content for the studio’s multiyear deal with Netflix.

Among the series Cohn has overseen at DreamWorks: the Emmy Award-winning All Hail King Julien, The Adventures of Puss In Boots, Dragons: Race to the Edge, The Mr. Peabody & Sherman Show and Dinotrux, the company’s  first original TV production.

Cohn previously spent 26 years at Nickelodeon, where, in various development and production roles, she helped make the network No. 1 in cable for 18 consecutive years.

She developed the hit animated series The Penguins of Madagascar and oversaw development and production for the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, Back at the Barnyard, El Tigre, The Adventures of Manny Rivera and Tak and the Power of Juju.

She managed the production of all animation and live-action series for Nickelodeon including: SpongeBob SquarePants, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, The Fairly OddParents, All That and The Amanda Show. She also oversaw the production of Rugrats, The Wild Thornberrys, Hey Arnold!, Kenan and Kel, Cousin Skeeter and The Secret World of Alex Mack.

Lifetime Achievement

Didier Brunner

President, Folivari

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Didier Brunner is an acclaimed French animation producer and four-time Oscar nominee best known for features such as The Old Lady and the Pigeons, The Triplets of Belleville, The Secret of Kells and Ernest and Celestine.

He received a César Award for Ernest and Celestine and has won the prestigious award for Best European Producer at Annecy several times. He also won BAFTA Awards for The Old Lady and the Pigeons and The Triplets of Belleville, as well as the prestigious Winsor McCay Award from the Annie Awards. He was named Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in De- cember 2014.

Brunner founded Trans Europe Film Co. in 1987, as well as Media Sense Communications, which became Les Armateurs in 1994. Last year, Didier created a Folivari with Damien Brunner, Pauline Brunner, Thibaut Ruby and Emmanuel Deletang. The company is producing an animated series, Ernest and Celestine: The Collection for France TV, and developing two feature films,

Creative Visionary

Charles M. Schulz

Creator, Peanuts

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Charles M. Schulz once described himself as “born to draw comic strips.”

Born in Minneapolis, Schulz read the Sunday comics from four different newspapers with his father each week, and enrolled in a correspondence course in cartooning.

After serving in the Army during World War II, Schulz’s  rst big break came in 1947 when he sold a cartoon feature called Li’l Folks to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. In 1950, Schulz met with United Feature Syndicate, and on Oct. 2, Peanuts, named by the syndicate, debuted in seven newspapers.

Today, Peanuts appears in more than 2,200 newspapers world- wide and has inspired Emmy-winning television specials, films, books and thousands of consumer products. Charles Schulz died in Santa Rosa, Calif., in February 2000 — just hours before his last original strip appeared in Sunday papers.

Breakout Studio

ZAG Entertainment

Jeremy Zag, founder

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ZAG is a private firm specializing in children’s and family entertainment franchises. Founded by Jeremy Zag, who will be accepting the award, ZAG Entertainment’ s multiple divisions include production companies and animation studios – located in Europe, the United States and Asia – that develop and produce feature films, TV series, movies and games.

Its animated TV division, Zagtoon, was created in 2009 in partnership with Jacqueline Tordjman. It has produced almost 200 half-hours of content that have been sold to broadcasters in more than 120 territories.

Other divisions include ZAG Animation Studios — a joint venture with Chris Columbus, Michael Barnathan and Haim Saban — ZAG Films, ZAG Digital and ZAG Records.

Induction Ceremony 5: 2016

For its fifth edition, the Hall of Fame awards ceremony outgrew the California Yacht Club, heading north along the Los Angeles shoreline to the Hotel Casa del Mar in Santa Monica.

The presenters included Sir Ben Kingsley, The Walking Dead producer Gale Anne Hurd, Fred Siebert of Frederator, longtime animation exec Toper Taylor, director Mark A.Z. Dippe, and former Disney chairman Michael Eisner (via video).

It bode well for the future of the Hall of Fame — the next installment is coming Oct. 29-31.

Betty Cohen

President of Betty Cohen Media Consulting; founding president of Cartoon Network

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Betty Cohen is a nationally-renowned TV network and digital media executive, as well as adviser and expert in brand creation. She was the founding president of Cartoon Network/Adult Swim/Boomerang and later served as president and CEO of Lifetime Entertainment Networks. Cohen launched and grew Cartoon Network into a global business with a $3 billion asset value within nine years, greenlighting such hit shows as The PowerPuff Girls, Dexter’s Laboratory and Samurai Jack, as well as launching Cartoon Network Studios, CartoonNetwork.com, Boomerang and Adult Swim. As president of Betty Cohen Media Consulting, her clients have included Speakaboos, Lynda.com, Meredith, Roadtrip Nation and the Paley Center for Media. Cohen has been inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame, and received the prestigious “Muse Award” from N.Y. Women in Film and TV. She was named one of “The 50 Most Powerful Women in Business” by Fortune magazine.

Butch Hartman

Creator of The Fairly OddParents, Danny Phantom, Bunsen is a Beast

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Butch Hartman is a multiple Emmy- and Annie Award-nominated and BATFA-winning animator, writer, director, producer, illustrator and actor, best known for creating the long-running series The Fairly OddParents, which debuted on Nickelodeon 15 years ago. Hartman is the creator of two other popular Nick series, Danny Phantom and T.U.F.F. Puppy. His new animated series, Bunsen is a Beast, about the first beast to ever go to a human school, will premiere on Nick in 2017. In 2015, Hartman launched his own entertainment network, the Noog Network, a free interactive app, and has jumped into the world of comic books with the original series Three O’Clock Club, co-created with Jordan Gorfinkel and published by Lion Forge Comics. Also, Hartman and his wife, Julieann, founded Hartman House, a charitable, non-profit organization that benefits needy children and families around the world.

Michael Hirsh

Chairman of TEAM, former founder Nelvana, TeleTOON Canada

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Michael Hirsh, chairman of The Entertainment and Media Finance Group, is a highly accomplished entrepreneur and executive who began his career in entertainment as a filmmaker and later founded Nelvana and TeleTOON Canada. When DHX Media acquired Nelvana in 2012, Hirsh became vice chairman and sat on the board of DHX for three years. Hirsh co-founded and is chairman of The Entertainment and Media Finance Group, which combines professional financial advice with interim and specialized lending for small and medium-size producers in Canada. He also is chairman at CineCoup, an independent and gamified film-funding agency, and CEO at Floating Island Entertainment, a producing team with many titles in development. Hirsh has earned numerous Daytime Emmy and Gemini awards and nominations, and is a regular speaker at industry panels and events.

Travis Knight

President and CEO, LAIKA

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Travis Knight is president and CEO of LAIKA, the award-winning feature film animation studio located in Hillsboro, Ore., and the director and producer of Kubo and the Two Strings. He was producer and lead animator on LAIKA’s The Boxtrolls and ParaNorman; and was lead animator on the studio’s first feature, Coraline. All of LAIKA’s features have been nominated for Academy Awards, as well as BAFTA and PGA Awards. Coraline and The Boxtrolls also were nominated for Golden Globe Awards; and ParaNorman was cited as Best Animated Feature by 14 critics’ groups; more than any other 2012 animated feature. Knight earned an Annie Award for his character animation work on ParaNorman and, as producer, received an Academy Award nomination for The Boxtrolls. He was named a Rising Star of Animation by Animation Magazine in 2007.

Ellen Poon

Supervisor, producer, artist

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Ellen Poon is an experienced supervisor, producer and artist in the field of visual effects and animation with 30 years of experience. Poon was a founding member of MPC’s Computer Graphics department in 1986. Later, at Rushes Post Production, Poon won critical acclaim for her work on a groundbreaking advertising campaign making a 3-month-old girl talk like an adult. Poon joined ILM in 1991 and was the first woman at the company to become a visual effects supervisor. Poon’s realization of the miracles in The Green Mile, creatures in Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace and the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park are just some of her on-screen accomplishments. Poon is now an independent VFX supervisor and producer. Her work with blockbuster Asian projects Hero and Monster Hunt have won her two Hong Kong Film Awards for Best Visual Effects. While Poon enjoys being a producer and supervisor, she equally enjoys being an artist where she can be hands-on to create some of the stunning imageries that we see on the screen. Her work on Frozen, Zootopia and, most recently, Moana, proves Poon is a versatile artist. She is a member of AMPAS and VES.

Pierre Sissmann

Chairman and CEO, Cyber Group Studios

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Pierre Sissmann is chairman and CEO of Cyber Group Studios and, over the past 25 years working in the development, production and distribution of cultural and entertainment products, has been involved in TV channel launches, live and filmed TV entertainment and music production and distribution. After spending 10 years at Sony Music as European and French VP of A&R, marketing and promotion, he joined The Walt Disney Company as president for France, then as executive VP for Europe, Middle East and Africa. He created Walt Disney Animation France, the biggest European animation studio, which worked on projects such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Tarzan. In 1996, he created and was the first president of  Disney Channel France. In 2005, Sissmann co-founded Cyber Group Studios, a French company that produces and distributes global content for kids and families, particularly CGI and 2D HD animated TV series. Nominated for an International Emmy for its preschool hit Zou and the recipient of more than 65 international awards the past decade, Cyber Group Studios is one of Europe’s leading animation studios. Since its inception, Cyber Group Studios has amassed an overall catalog of 1,000 half-hours, and has produced 800 episodes of TV animation, including its most-recent acclaimed show, Zorro: The Chronicles. Through its distribution arm, Cyber Group Studios also caters directly to more than 160 clients around the world. Sissmann, already a knight in the French Legion of Honor and National Order of Merit orders, was made a knight in the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture in 2014.