Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF) has announced Amy Kravitz as its Honorary President for the Festival’s return to an in-person event after two years of sludging through a virtual existence (Sept. 21-25, animationfestival.ca). A longtime champion and supporter of the OIAF, Kravitz is known for her influential work as both an inspired teacher at the Rhode Island School of Design and for her small but poetically potent body of work.
“It’s been a long road. First, it took us years to convince the ever modest Amy [Kravitz] to accept the title. She eventually agreed in March 2020. And, well, you know the rest,” says OIAF Artistic Director, Chris Robinson. “Amy’s generosity, innovative teaching style, and compassionate nature are just a few of the reasons why we are proud to finally be able to honour her.”
Kravitz started making animated films when she was 11, later studying Social Anthropology at Harvard (AB) and then Experimental Animation at the CalArts (MFA). Her award-winning films (River Lethe, The Trap, Roost) have been screened throughout the world. Kravitz’s animation is a quiet testimony to the intimate collaboration between viewer and maker that takes place between each drawing. A retrospective of Kravitz’s animated works, including her latest film, will be presented this September at OIAF. Following the screening, Kravitz will participate in a talk and live Q&A session with the audience.
Nine-time Emmy-winning Baobab Studios (baobabstudios.com) announced key hires across both animation and gaming, building on the momentum of acclaimed short/VR projects Invasion!, Asteroids!, Crow: The Legend and Baba Yaga. The new hires include:
- Oscar nominee Erick Oh (Opera) joins as Director. He wrote and directed Namoo, and is currently in development on his next project. He was previously an animator at Pixar and directed the TV production PIG: The Dam Keeper Poems, which won an Annecy Cristal in 2018.
- Jony Chandra also comes in as Director. He spent 15 years at Blue Sky Studios in various creative leadership roles, including Head of Story, Director in Development and Story Artist on films ranging from Peanuts the Movie, Oscar-nominated Ferdinand and the Ice Age and Rio film franchises.
- Brian Tinsman and Michael McCormick as Games Creative Directors will accelerate game development. Tinsman brings 18 years of experience as a lead game designer with credits on more than 50 shipped titles, including Magic: The Gathering, Pokémon, Dungeons & Dragons, Star Wars, Transformers, Marvel and FarmVille. He has also spent the past five years working in the new fields of blockchain tokenomics and NFT gaming. McCormick is lending his talent on Baobab’s next multi-player game. His previous roles include Creative Director of Maxis, where he worked on games including The Sims franchise and SimCity. He also led design on games such as Telltale’s Walking Dead, Minecraft and Zynga’s Cityville.
- With over 15 years of experience, Hayley Porter joins as Director of Marketing. Porter has spent most of her career running marketing and PR campaigns for award-winning animation studios, including Aardman Animations. Porter has extensive international experience with teams in London, South Africa and Los Angeles and currently serves on the PR Committee for Women In Animation
Disney Branded Television recently announced teaming up with Baobab to create The Witchverse, an animated anthology series based on Baba Yaga, for Disney+. Baobab’s most recent release, Namoo (2022 Annie Award for Best Special Production, Best Animated Short 2022 Gold List Award), was acquired by Warner 150 earlier this year and is now streaming exclusively on HBO Max.
Creative production house Psyop (psyop.com) is launching their first studio in Europe, hitting Germany with a double location launch in Berlin and Stuttgart. Justin Stiebel, Matthias Bauerle, Stefan Susemihl, Hans-Christoph Schultheiss and Jan Tiller have come together to form the new leadership team, guided by Psyop co-founder Marco Spier. Psyop Germany debuts with a diverse roster of local and global directorial talent — including Juan Pablo Brockhaus, Elizabeth Leeb, Kariem Saleh and Lou Bones; continuing its relationships with RiffRaff (U.K.) and WIZZ (France); and recruiting new creators.
“We are independent of technology as we are fully cloud based. This makes it easy for us to be where our teams want to be. We can focus on building a true hivemind of creativity with artists from all over the country, continent or even the world.” — Jan Tiller, Director of Production & Executive Producer
“Berlin is a vibrant city of skilled artists across all visual mediums and the right place for us to establish our creative studio. Psyop has always been known as more than just a production company, but as a team of artists who come up with the unexpected and break through boundaries in our mission to persuade. That cultural legacy will be the focus of our work in Europe.” — Justin Stiebel, Managing Director
“We are not only bringing a dedicated roster of superlative talent to Europe, but we are connecting our clients and partners through the cloud to a global network of Psyop creatives. It’s a seamless integration of like-minded people who are passionate and deeply committed to what they do.” — Hans-Christoph Schultheiss, Executive Creative Director
Flavor (flavor.tv) and Cutters Studios (cuttersstudios.com) welcome back production veteran Kate Smith in the role of Executive Producer, Flavor’s MD Neal Cohen and Exec Creative Director Brian McCauley announced. Previously a Producer for Flavor in 2019, Smith spent the past year as Sr. Producer with Carbon developing high-profile brand campaigns, including BBH New York’s multiple award-winning “Black-Owned Friday” spot for Google.
Prior, she was a producer for specialized creative agency Leviathan, where she contributed to projects ranging from award-winning digital art and experiential installations for the Shops at 900 North Michigan and Northwestern Mutual, to the Super Mario World theme park attraction. Smith began her career with independent production studio Optimus, where she rose to the post of Producer Design & VFX, working on projects spanning commercials, TV series and feature films, over the course of 10 years.
Legendary comics creator Frank Miller (300, Sin City, Batman: Year One, Daredevil, The Dark Knight) has inked a three-year exclusive appearance deal with FAN EXPO HQ (fanexpohq.com) in North America (through 2024). The partnership kicks off with scheduled appearances at MEGACON Orlando in May and FAN EXPO Boston in August. Miller’s commitment to the world’s largest comic con producer is exclusive except for two industry events (New York City Comic Con and San Diego Comic Con) and one event rescheduled from 2021.
As of July 1, Markus Schaefer will assume the role of President & CEO of ZDF Studios GmbH (zdf-studios.com/en). He succeeds Fred Burcksen, who is leaving the company at his own request after more than 26 years. Together with co-director Karoline Meichsner-Sertl, Schaefer will be instrumental in guiding ZDF Studios into the future. Schaefer, who holds a doctorate in physics, has a wealth of knowledge in corporate development, portfolio management and strategic growth. His extensive industry background includes various management positions at All3Media Deutschland GmbH in Munich from 2004 before being appointed CFO in 2010 and CEO in 2014. He is also Deputy Chairman of the Board of the Alliance of German Producers – Film and Television.