A huge segment of the animation industry is aimed at entertaining and celebrating children and childhood, which is one of the reasons the ongoing child refugee crisis — most recently exemplified by events in Syria — affected kids entertainment veteran Grant Moran enough to act.
“I just felt bad. I’m just one guy, what can I do?” says Moran, an executive, producer and writer with 20 years’ experience in kids’ and family entertainment and currently a development consultant under his own shingle, Global Monster. “And then it struck me: I’m part of this global industry that’s all about kids, that’s inspired by kids and the very idea of childhood. And when I started looking around, it occurred to me — somewhat to my surprise — that there was no one vehicle through which people in our business around the world could stand together and express that love and support for the most vulnerable kids in the world.”
So Moran has spearheaded Kids Entertainment Professionals for Young Refugees, or KEPYR (pronounced “keeper”) for short, to help out with the worst child refugee crisis since World War II: 65.3 million people around the world have been forced from their homes. Among them are nearly 21.3 million refugees, more than half of whom are under the age of 18.
KEPYR officially launches its campaign June 5, having what Moran calls “KEPYR Champions” established around the world to promote a weeklong fund-raiser set for June 18-24 on Crowdrise.com that will directly benefit UNICEF. Those dates were chosen in honor of June 20 being World Refugee Day.
So far, Moran has recruited KEPYR Champions around the United States in Los Angeles, Boston, New York, San Francisco and St. Louis. In Canada, the bases of operation are Vancouver and Toronto. And KEPYR Champs also are set up around the world in Mexico, England, Ireland, Jordan, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Germany, Spain and the United Arab Emirates. In all, about 100 KEPYR Champions have joined the campaign.
Moran says he took a global approach to the campaign because it’s a global problem.
“It’s not just about Syrian refugees; this crisis exists on six or seven continents,” he says. “I thought UNICEF summed that up in most people’s minds. It’s the global brand most recognized for aiding kids in need.”
Key to the effort will be social media, with the KEPYR Champions — which include animators, board artists, writers, producers, voice actors, executives, show creators, composers, editors, distributors, designers, game designers, game developers and line producers all over the world — set to make a personal donation and promote the campaign to contacts within the kids entertainment industry, with a heavy reliance on social media. All efforts will drive donors to the Crowdwise site, where their donation goes directly to UNICEF.
In addition to being approved by UNICEF, JP Morgan Chase has committed to match donations up to $25,000.
Supporters include executives at Mattel, Marvel, Televisa, Turner EMEA, and Blizzard Entertainment; producers at Amazon Kids, Pukeko Pictures, Curl Stone Studios (Jordan), and DR Movie Animation (Seoul); the president of Women in Animation; the chairman of the Writers Guild of America Animation Writers Caucus; and a host of award-winning creators, animators, artists, writers, and voice actors. Among them: Christopher Keenan, Eric Radomski, Aglaia Mortcheva, Ken Duer, Ken Ito, Marge Dean, Kevin Hopps, Ralph Sanchez, Hiroe Tsukamoto, Tarek Mounir, Martin Baynton, and Bryan Evans.
So far, Moran says he’s been thrilled with the response to the campaign.
“When I got my very first assignment in animation, I felt like I discovered a community of people who were just like me in a lot of ways,” says Moran. “That was my instinct about this thing, which is people who go into this, go into it for reasons that I knew were going to connect with this sort of effort. And I’ve been so hearteningly proved right.”