World Animation & VFX Summit Announces 2021 Honorees, Panelists

The 2021 edition of the World Animation & VFX Summit, taking place live and in-person November 7-10 on the grounds of the historic Garland Hotel in North Hollywood, Calif., has announced this year’s recipient of its Hall of Fame awards and panelist lineup. This year’s honorees, who will be presented with their awards at the opening night gala on Sunday, Nov. 7, are:

  • Gaumont Animation: International Studio of the Year. Award presented to U.S. President Nicolas Atlan and Exec VP of Creative Content Terry Kalagian.
  • Phil Lord & Chris Miller. The innovative producers of Sony Pictures Animation’s critically acclaimed features Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and this year’s The Mitchells vs. the Machines. Award presented by Sony Pictures Animation’s president Kristine Belson.
  • Tom McGrath. The acclaimed director of DreamWorks Animation’s two Boss Baby features, three Madagascar features and Megamind will receive the Hall of Fame: Billion Dollar Director Award.
  • Chris Meledandri. Founder/CEO of Illumination Entertainment and creator of Despicable Me, the world’s most successful animated franchise in cinematic history, which includes Minions, the fourth-highest-grossing animated film. Other career highlights include being the founding president of 20th Century Fox Animation and producing the Ice Age movies,  Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax and The Grinch, The Secret Life of Pets movies, Sing, and this year’s Sing 2.  He will receive the 2021 Vanguard Award.
  • Chris Nee. Creator of Disney’s Peabody Award-winning series Doc McStuffins, Vampirina and Netflix’s We the People, Ridley Jones and Ada Twist, Scientist. Award presented by animation veteran Jorge R. Gutierrez, creator of Maya and the Three and The Book of Life.
  • Jennifer Yuh Nelson. Oscar-nominated director of Kung Fu Panda 2 and supervising director of Netflix’s acclaimed anthology series Love, Death + Robots Volume 2. Award presented by Victoria L. Howard, producer of Love, Death + Robots, Robot Chicken and BoJack Horseman.
  • Bruce Smith. Trailblazing creator of The Proud Family and the upcoming Disney+ series The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder and director of Bébé’s Kids. Award presented by Ralph Furquhart, producer, The Proud Family and Da Jammies.
  • Cree Summer. Beloved animation voice actress, best known for her work on Rugrats, Kid Cosmic, Muppet Babies, DC Super Hero Girls, Vampirina, Voltron Legendary Defender, Dawn of the Croods and many others.
World Animation & VFX Summit Honorees
World Animation & VFX Summit Honorees

The awards ceremony will be hosted by animation voice actress and Annie Awards regular Dina Sherman (Bleach, Naruto, Mama Named Me Sheriff, Marvel Future Avengers).

The gala event will be followed by three packed Summit days: All-inclusive networking breakfasts, lunches and cocktail parties anchor the all-day panels of industry luminaries. The focus is on easy access, informative and face-to-face interactions. Speakers will share inspiring insights and information about their experiences, the current state and future of the animation and VFX industry, new ideas and innovations, the current job market and the technologies that help push the medium forward and help studio talent, artists, executives and VFX artisans.

“We are thrilled to be coming back as a live event in November to celebrate the vitality of our business and community and to highlight the achievements of iconic game-changers in the animation industry,” says World Animation & VFX Summit founder and president & publisher of Animation Magazine Jean Thoren. “We are very pleased to have some of the biggest innovators, creative talent and thought leaders in our field sharing their vision for the future with us at our event. We can’t wait to see all our friends in the global animation community and learn about their many innovations and fascinating projects.”

The eclectic lineup of Summit Panels this year explore many different facets of the animation and VFX industries, from behind-the-scenes tips on how to produce a successful international co-pro, to the nuts and bolts of creating content for VR, to informative talks with the directors and producers of this year’s feature and short films that are contenders for Academy Awards.

The 2021 Summit will showcase panels on the making of some of the year’s top animated features such as The Boss Baby: Family Business, Encanto, Flee, Luca, The Mitchells vs. the Machines, Raya and the Last Dragon, Ron’s Gone Wrong, Spirit Untamed, The Summit of the Gods, Vivo and Wish Dragon. It will also spotlight some of the most acclaimed animated shorts of the year, which will be competing for year-end awards. Among the titles slated to be screened and discussed are Blush, Demi’s Panic, Twenty Something, Far from the Tree, Namoo, Nona, Robin Robin, Steakhouse and Us Again.

Additional talks taking place Monday through Wednesday will focus on some of the innovations in new media, co-production opportunities, the future of streaming and the changes in the TV animation landscape and the promise of the VR universe. Also on tap will be discussions on promoting more diversity and inclusivity in the industry, how to bring animated projects to the attention of streaming gatekeepers, how to successfully launch an international co-production and how to polish your portfolio and resume to land your dream job in animation.

Among the distinguished animation and vFX professionals appearing on the panels this year are:

  • Kim Adams, Co-founder, Adventure Lab
  • Chris Applehans, Director, Wish Dragon
  • Liz Bartels, Manager Global Content Planning, LEGO Group
  • Kristine Belson, President, Sony Pictures Animation
  • Kelli Bixler, Owner, Bix Pix
  • Elaine Bogan, Director, Spirit Untamed
  • Špela Čadež, Director, Steakhouse
  • Eric Calderon, Exec VP, Falcon’s Beyond Global
  • Beth Cannon, VP TV, DreamWorks Animation
  • Dan Clark, Writer/Producer/Director, Dan Clark Company
  • Melissa Cobb, VP of Kids and Family, Netflix
  • Margie Cohn, President, DreamWorks Animation
  • Kirk DeMicco, Director, Vivo
  • Megan Nicole Dong, Creator & Exec Producer, Netflix, Centaurworld
  • Camille Eden, VP, Animation Recruitment, Nickelodeon
  • Jinko Gotoh, Producer, Klaus, Escape from Hat
  • Jorge R. Gutierrez, Director/Creator, Netflix, Maya and the Three
  • Jonathan Hagard, VR Director, Replacements
  • Chris Hamilton, President/Creative Director, Oddbot Studio
  • Emily Hart, Senior VP of Development, Disney TV Animation
  • John Harvatine IV, Co-Owner, Stoopid Buddy Stoodios
  • Chris Henderson, Founder, AstroNomical
  • Jasmine Johnson, Head of Studio, Stoopid Buddy Stoodios
  • Shyam Kannapurakkaran, VR Production Tech Artist, Stargate Studios
  • Christopher Keenan, Senior VP, Mattel Inc.
  • Cort Lane, Exec Producer, My Little Pony: A New Generation
  • Hillary Levi, Literary Manager, The Gotham Group
  • Gregory Little, Senior VP, Content, Mainframe Studio
  • Steve Loter, Exec Producer, Disney, The Ghost and Molly McGee
  • Tom McGrath, Director, The Boss Baby: Family Business
  • Paul Mezier, Exec Producer, Novelab
  • David Michel, Founder/President, Cottonwood Media
  • Connor Murphy, Virtual Production Manager, The Third Floor
  • Ramsey Naito, President, Nickelodeon/Paramount Animation
  • Vladimir Nikolaev, Co-Founder and CEO Wizart
  • Motoki Nishii, Environmental Art Director, The Third Floor
  • Erick Oh, Director, Namoo
  • Silvia Olivas, Writer/Exec Producer, Maya and the Three
  • Bill Plympton, Director, Demi’s Panic
  • Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Director, Flee
  • Mike Rianda, Writer/Director, The Mitchells vs. the Machines
  • Teddy Riley, Exec Producer/Co-Creator, Fairfax
  • Octavio Rodriguez, Co-director, Ron’s Gone Wrong
  • Khoby Rowe, Exec Director Animation, Fox Entertainment
  • Sander Schwartz, Exec Producer, Skylander Academy, Alien Xmas
  • Dane Smith, VP, The Third Floor
  • Aliki Theofilopoulos, Exec Producer, Doug Unplugs
  • Kevin Walker, Exec Creative Director, BUCK
  • Josh Wassung, Founder, The Third Floor
  • Michelle Wong, Producer, Vivo
  • Mark Zavadskiy, CEO, Riki Group

Health and Safety Policy: To ensure the safety of staff and guests, the World Animation & VFX Summit will require proof of approved vaccine administered at least two weeks prior to the Summit and a negative COVID test within 72 hours of attending the Summit. The event will also require a valid ID. Temperature checks will be conducted on all attendees upon arrival and masks are required to be worn at all times in accordance with L.A. County requirements. To learn more about the event and secure special discounted tickets, visit




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