Speakers at OIAF 2023
Director, Walt Disney Animation Studios
Dan Abraham (Director) helms Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Once Upon a Studio alongside Trent Correy; the two previously directed the Frozen-inspired short film, Once Upon a Snowman, together. Abraham is a veteran storyman, director and animator. He began his association with Disney Animation in 2005 when he started an internship leading to full-time roles at Disney Animation and Disneytoon Studios. Abraham previously directed the Mbita episode of the Disney+ series Baymax! He was also a story artist on Frozen 2, and the Academy Award®-winning Encanto. Abraham was part of the story team on the first five Tinker Bell direct-to-DVD projects for Disneytoon Studios. As head of story on the 2013 animated feature, Planes, he oversaw a team of eight-story artists in the challenging assignment of bringing a wide range of plane characters to life. In 2014, he made his directing debut on the Disneytoon short, Vitaminamulch: Air Spectacular, which offered an all-new adventure featuring the colourful characters from the world of Planes. Abraham was trained in traditional animation at Sheridan College in Toronto, from which he graduated in 1993. From there, he launched his career at Heart of Texas Productions where he worked on films for Warner Bros. and DreamWorks Animation. Moving to Los Angeles in 2000, Abraham worked as a clean-up animator and animator for Klasky-Csupo on a variety of commercials, and also illustrated interactive children’s books and provided character design for The Learning Company.
Nick Bruno is an American film director and animator formerly with Blue Sky Studios, who is Directing his second film Nimona based on the popular graphic novel of the same name by ND Stevenson. Bruno was born and raised in Mohegan Lake, NY, USA, where at an early age he learned he could combine his love for drawing and filmmaking by pursuing a career in animation. He studied illustration and the fine arts at UMass, Dartmouth and went on to receive his Masters at NYU studying computer animation. In 2005, Bruno joined Blue Sky Studios as a Junior Animator on the feature film Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006). Most recently, Bruno Directed Spies in Disguise (2020) and has published his own graphic novel Urban Legendz (2019). Additional animation credits include work on The Peanuts Movie (2015), Dr Seuss’ Horton Hears A Who (2008), Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009), Rio (2011), Epic (2013), Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012), Ice Age: Collision Course (2016) as well as two short films – Surviving Sid (2008) and the Oscar®-nominated, No Time for Nuts (2006). Bruno resides in his hometown, with his wife Allison and their three children.
Creative Director (Toronto), Brown Bag Films, 9 Story Media
Cory Bobiak is a Toronto-based director and artist with an extensive list of television, design and artistic achievements. Cory has worked in both children’s and adult television programs ranging from the Emmy award-winning Peg + Cat, to Comedy Central’s Ugly Americans. He has animated, designed and storyboarded on numerous series including Mucha Lucha, Jimmy Two Shoes, Rick & Steve –the happiest gay couple in all the world, Ugly Americans, Wibbly Pig, and Peep and the Big Wide World.
Cory has received many nominations for his work including Emmy Nominations for Outstanding Direction with Peg + Cat and Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum. Cory is currently Creative Director (Toronto), overseeing direction within the Toronto Studio.
Senior Product Manager, Toon Boom Animation
Marc-André joined Toon Boom in 2001 and became our new Product Manager for Harmony and Storyboard Pro in 2014. With audio/video production experience and several technical roles at Toon Boom under his belt, he has a broad understanding of the technology and needs of Toon Boom customers. He regularly visits customers to gain first-hand knowledge of their projects, helps set up production pipelines, and provides his expert guidance on product use. He is passionate about how Toon Boom software is used across the industry and is dedicated to developing working relationships with our clients.
Kulbinder Saran Caldwell
CEO / Founder, REALLIFE Pictures Inc
Kulbinder Saran Caldwell is a creative entrepreneur and global storyteller. She is an award-winning producer/literary agent, certified professional coach, an active community builder and dedicated diversity advocate. She believes there is a profound lack of diverse stories and points-of-view making it onto television and cinema screens. In 2017, she created REALLIFE Pictures Inc., an integrated full service production company and boutique literary agency, sought out for our expertise in purposefully inclusive content creation. Based in Toronto, Canada, REALLIFE exclusively represents diverse, neurodiverse and LGBTQIA+ screenwriters who create authentic stories based on their lived experience, for a global audience. The Founder & CEO, through her company, is spearheading the production of “Dan Sharp Mysteries”, a television adaptation of a books series by Lambda-award winning Canadian author, Jeffrey Round. Kulbinder is an active member of CMPA and Producers Roundtable of Ontario.
Storyboard Supervisor, Industrial Brothers
Bradley has over 20 years of experience in the animation industry since graduating from the Classical Animation program at Sheridan College in 2001. While teaching Interpretive Illustration II in the Illustration and Concept Design program at Algonquin College part-time Bradley is primarily working as a Concept Artist, Art Director, Storyboard Artist and Storyboard Supervisor most recently, he’s been fortunate to work in feature on films such as “100% wolf” and the Kidscreen Award winner for Best TV Movie, Pirate’s Passage as well as acclaimed TV series such as PBO’s Wild Kratts, Disney’s Dino Ranch and the Netflix Series, Daniel Spellbound. He’s also been nominated for several other MuchMusic Video Awards for his work creating and directing some Canadian music videos for the likes of Universal Soul, Spesh K, The Jimmy Swift Band and Nelly Furtado. Story, Concept Design and World Building are all at the heart of his career.
Executive in Charge of Production, Children’s and Youth Programming, Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC)
It has been a wild ride working in Kids content for the past 25 years. At CBC Kids, I am lucky enough to work on some classic award-winning series both in live-action and animation. Most recently, as Executive in Charge of Production on Macy Murdoch (you read that right, William Murdoch has a great, great, great granddaughter), the super sweet 3D/2D animated preschool series, Dylan (launching in 2024) and Dino Ranch 2 & 3.
I am a Toronto Metropolitan University Film graduate working in my field while pursuing other artistic ventures of the wearable kind.
Director, Walt Disney Animation Studios
Trent Correy (Director) helms Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Once Upon a Studio alongside Dan Abraham; the two previously directed the Frozen-inspired short film, Once Upon a Snowman, together. Correy started at Disney Animation in 2012 as an animation trainee in the Talent Development Program (where he was mentored by acclaimed Disney animation veteran Amy Smeed). He made his directing debut on the short film, Drop, part of Disney Animation’s Short Circuit Experimental Films. His Disney Animation credits as animator include Frozen, Big Hero 6, Zootopia and Moana, as well as Frozen 2, where he oversaw the animation of Olaf and Bruni the fire spirit salamander, among other characters, in his role as animation supervisor. Born in Ottawa, Canada, Correy grew up during the second golden age of Disney Animation (“The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” “The Lion King,” etc.). With a passion for art and film, he decided to pursue animation as a career by the time he was in 12th grade, with guidance and encouragement from his mother and a high school film teacher. After attending Algonquin College, he got his professional start in animation at age 19, working for five years in Canada in television, commercials and film. Before joining Disney, he worked at Sony Animation, Mercury Filmworks, Bardel Entertainment, Kratt Brothers, and worked as a freelance artist. Correy and his wife, Gillian, live in Los Angeles.
Senior VP of Production, Jam Filled Entertainment
As Senior Vice President of Production at Jam Filled, Victoria oversees all animation production across Jam Filled’s three studio locations: Ottawa, Toronto and Halifax. Under her leadership, the team has produced shows such as The Loud House, A Tale Dark & Grimm, Final Space, DC Super Hero Girls, Dino Ranch and Inside Job. Prior to her work in production, Victoria studied animation at Algonquin College and worked as an artist at numerous studios within Canada. Victoria is passionate about collaboration, communication and fostering an inclusive work environment that supports artists.
CEO and Executive Producer, Epic Storyworlds
Steve Couture is a successful entrepreneur in the kids entertainment business. Now CEO and Executive producer at Epic Storyworlds, a kids content Canadian company developing and commercializing brands (TV, Games, Toys) from creators around the world. The company includes an animation studio and a dedicated Roblox experience studio.
Previously, Co-Founder and CEO for 15 years of the Canadian renowned entertainment studio Frima, Steve produced and led many major kids games and animated content. The studio has been involved in many successful virtual worlds, generating more than 100 million active players, including Club Penguin, Littlest Petshop online, Bearville, Neo Pets and Webkinz. The studio also produced linear content, including Lego Bionicle for Netflix and the Canadian movie The Rooster of Saint-Victor.
Many times an award winner in the videogame industry, the youth content and the business world, Steve, bachelors in computer science and MIT graduate, enjoys passing on his passion as a lecturer in business events and university classes.
Director & Supervising Producer, Mercury Filmworks
Director of the award-winning Hilda animated series based on the captivating and best-selling series of graphic novels, as well as the Hilda and the Mountain King movie.
With 20 years of experience in animation production, Andy’s passion lies in storytelling; bringing ideas to life with innovative art design and animation techniques.
Andy resides in Ottawa Canada, with his wife Erika and two children: Erin and William.
Creative Director – Executive Producer, Sphere Animation
First and foremost a creative thinker, Ghislain Cyr understands artists and knows how to inspire them. After starting out as a graphic designer in the late 1980s, he was involved in software development at Softimage, a pioneer in 3D animation. While at Public Technologies Multimedia, he headed the production of Mon Mannequin Virtuel, a cutting-edge virtual modelling simulation program. He also served as Director of Operations at Behaviour Studios and later on as Vice-President of Operations at 4elements. He launched Sardine Productions in 2002 which is now part of Sphere. Under his leadership for 20 years, this production company made its reputation with several original animated series, locally and on international markets. Its hits include Leon (winner of a Gémeaux award for best animated program or series), My Goldfish is Evil!, Chop Chop Ninja, ToonMarty and The Game Catchers.
Managing Partner, Entertainment Lawyer, Edwards Creative Law
Mark Edwards is the founder and managing partner of Edwards Creative Law, LLP, an entertainment law boutique with offices in Ottawa and Toronto and a practice that extends to every common law province in Canada. Mark’s personal focus is live-action and animated films and series, video games, and digital media.
Mark acts for Canadian producers and studios and for US and foreign buyers of Canadian entertainment products and services. He brings nearly 25 years of experience structuring, funding, financing, producing and exploiting linear and interactive media – to ensure that his clients minimize their risks while maximizing the benefits of Canada’s favourable production environment, low dollar and generous production tax credits.
In addition to his legal practice, Mark has developed, financed and delivered hundreds of episodes of children’s animation – most often as international co-productions under one of Canada’s many bi-lateral audio-visual production treaties; launched CrowdWave, a proprietary, mass-interactive game platform for professional and collegiate sports; and managed the development and production of state of the art branded content and destination web sites for major US advertisers.
President and Executive Creative Director, Guru Studio
Frank Falcone has been bringing film and television projects to life as an animator, director and executive producer for over 25 years. Under his creative vision, Guru Studio has become a leader in character-driven storytelling and high-quality animated entertainment for kids and families around the world. Guru’s roster of hit shows includes the global phenomenon PAW Patrol, True and the Rainbow Kingdom, Big Blue, Justin Time, Ever After High, and the Sesame Street animated spin-off Mecha Builders. The company is currently in production with Moonbug Entertainment on the widely popular YouTube hit, My Magic Pet Morphle and the family mini-series Charlotte’s Web with Sesame Workshop for Max. Frank also served as an Executive Producer on the Academy Award-nominated film, The Breadwinner, where, under his watchful eye, Guru’s team contributed visual development which brought the rich ‘story world’ sequences to life. Frank recently co-created the preschool series Pikwik Pack, which launched on Disney Junior US and Treehouse Canada.
Director, RBS studios
Chris Fequiere is the Creator and Director of Burning Rubber and a Co-Founder of Reel Black Studios (RBS) with his wife Dara. RBS is a Black-Owned animation studio dedicated to telling captivating and authentic stories. Their clients include global brands like Netflix, AT&T, IBM, HULU, and PUMA.
VP Development & Production, 9 Story Media Group
Karen is a multi-Emmy award winning EP who has deep experience as a creative executive and a track record of developing series that get greenlit into production. Since joining 9 Story 4 years ago, she has been instrumental in series development that turned into 4 greenlights with 3 of those series now in 2nd season discussions. A creative partner to top talent and to future stars, Fowler loves comedy and characters and story. She is a flexible strategic thinker who working with collaboratively can take an idea and shape it to fit a unique niche in the market. She loves to pitch projects and celebrate the victories with her team at legendary karaoke parties. True? Only her hairdresser and her brilliant daughter know for sure. She is a citizen of the US and Canada, and when not transfixed by a northern lakeside sky, covets an address in London.
Vice President Nelvana Studios, Nelvana / Corus Kids
Athena Georgaklis is the Vice-President of Nelvana Studios. A highly respected creative executive in the kids & family entertainment industry, Athena leads the creative direction of the studio starting with the acquisition of rights and the development of all original concepts all the way through to production. Athena is committed to developing and producing content that will resonate with kids of all ages and find a home in all markets. Working with the studio’s producers, creators, and talent in-house or around the world, she is committed to assembling the best storytellers under one umbrella. Athena helmed the creation of Nelvana’s The Most Magnificent Thing and subsequent CG series Millie Magnificent, Agent Binky: Pets of the Universe, and many more to come.
Athena has worked in Canadian broadcast and production for more than 22 years. Prior to Nelvana, she oversaw all original animation production for Corus Entertainment’s kids’ networks, supervising the development and production of Canadian content in both English and French. During her time, she led the production and development of hit shows like Johnny Test, Camp Lakebottom, Mysticons, 6TEEN, Cupcake and Dinosaur, Rocket Monkeys, and the Total Drama Island franchise.
Media and Entertainment Business Consultant
I am a Montreal-based Finance, Operations, and Business Development professional currently focused on consulting services in the Media and Entertainment industry. With substantial expertise in animation, film, technology, interactive/digital media, physical installations, and XR, I aim to support companies with their tactical and strategic needs.
As a co-founder of art + tech driven animation studio E.D. Films in 2013, I helped build the business over 10 years while executive producing many internationally award-winning projects. I am a board member of the Canadian Media Producers Association. I live and work in Bengali, English, French, and Spanish.
Senior Director, Content Production, PBS KIDS
Tommy oversees content in production for the U.S. public broadcaster’s slate of children’s programs, collaborating with producers, PBS station programmers, co-production partners, and distributors on series including Arthur and its companion podcast, Odd Squad, Peabody-winning Molly of Denali, Alma’s Way, and the new series Work It Out Wombats! Prior to his current role, Tommy served as Director of Children’s Programming for PBS, leading broadcast and rollout strategy for the national children’s service and the PBS KIDS 24/7 channel and live stream. In 2020, he won an Emmy for his work on the special “PBS KIDS Talk About: Race and Racism”. Originally from eastern Kentucky, Tommy joined PBS in 2009 after stints at the U.S. Senate and NPR.
Supervision Director, Mercury Filmworks
I’ve been in the animation industry for over 25 years. I started out in Montreal doing Posing/Layouts, and later tried storyboards and designs. After moving to Ottawa in 2000 I was a contract worker for a few years before trying digital animation at Mercury Filmworks. Since then I’ve had the opportunities to work on the most amazing shows, and made my way up from animating to directing on shows like Star vs. the Forces of Evil, Tangled, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and Centaur World. Now as a Supervising Director, I get to work with multiple directors so we can all learn from each other and elevate our skills.
VP of Content and Development – Kids and Family, Sphere Media
As VP of Content and Development Kids and Family for Sphere Media, Andrea leads the development strategy and is responsible for the execution of Sphere Media’s original scripted, unscripted, and animation slate for the global marketplace. Her progressive leadership style and fierce commitment to story have earned her a unique place as an executive who creates and produces across multiple genres. Currently, Andrea is the EP overseeing 30 episodes of the original scripted animation series, Riley Rocket (TVOkids, TFO, SRC, Knowledge:Kids). She is also executive producer on a soon-to-be-announced kids’ factual series about science.
Prior to joining Sphere, Andrea was a production executive for HGTV Canada and Food Network Canada for ten years where she developed and oversaw top-rated lifestyle series and brands that have sold internationally such as Holmes and Holmes, Scott’s Vacation House Rules, Backyard Builds, and Big Food Bucket List.
CFO & Co-owner, Squeeze Studio Animation
Before joining Squeeze, François worked as a banker in major financial institutions. Because of his passion for the animation industry, new technologies and his strong belief in Squeeze’s potential, he joined the team and became CFO and partner in 2014. François is ensuring the management of the studio’s finances, accounting and all the administrative and legal aspects of the company. Francois helps Squeeze go from 10 employees to more than 220 in two locations. He is also collaborating in the distribution of the original IPS, such as Cracké worldwide.
Co-Founder and CEO, Agora Studio
David always dreamed of making movies in his childhood. Soon after finishing animation school, he travelled the world and worked as a character animator on various productions including Happy Feet, Hellboy: The Golden Army, Shrek 4, Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss in Boots, Madagascar 3 and The Croods. He then became an animation instructor and supervisor before directing video game cinematics for the Deus Ex and Tomb Raider franchises. Along the way, he discovered remote freelancing and envisioned how remote work could revolutionize the animation industry, which led to the creation of Agora Studio.
His films Seventeen and Junkyard were invited to numerous festivals and won many awards, including the Grand Prize at the OIAF. Besides writing, directing, painting and animating for his animated films, Hisko composed the orchestral soundtracks for his own films.
In 2014 Hisko Hulsing made large animated sequences for Cobain: Montage of Heck, the acclaimed documentary about Kurt Cobain. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was theatrically released by Universal Pictures worldwide.
Hisko Hulsing directed both seasons of Undone, an animated series for adults on Amazon Prime. Undone appeared in Top Ten lists of the New York Times, Vanity Fair and Time Magazine and won the jury award in Annecy.
In 2022 Hulsing directed the bonus episode of The Sandman for DC Comics, Warner Bros and Netflix called ‘A Dream of a Thousand Cats’. It was released in 2022 and was viewed over 30 million times in the first 6 weeks.
Co-Coordinator / Professor, Animation, Algonquin College
Neil has over 25 years of experience in the animation industry. He has been involved in every aspect of the field from running his own small commercial studio to working on feature films and has held positions including senior animator, storyboard artist, story editor, designer, director, head creative and associate producer. Neil has worked for studios such as Disney, Universal Cartoons, Film Roman, Nelvana and Cinar as well as on award-winning projects such as The Raccoons, Beetlejuice, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, X-Men Evolution, Undergrads, RoboRoach, Jacob Two Two, Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas, Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? and many others. During his nearly 10 years at the college, Neil has written the curriculum for the current 3-year advanced diploma program as well as the college’s international partners in India and South Africa where he travelled and taught. Neil has twice been nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Animation and is currently on the Ottawa International Animation Festival’s advisory board.
Commissioning Editor, Kids TV, TVO Kids
As Commissioning Editor, Kids TV Kirsten is responsible for all programming on the TVOkids broadcast block as well as a suite of digital channels. She oversees a robust production and development slate and oversees acquisitions, scheduling and the website tvokids.com. TVOkids aims to serve Ontario kids ages 2-8 with enriching educational and entertaining programming and interactive experiences.
Head of Talent Acquisition, Guru Studio
Sue leads Guru Studio’s recruitment process for all studio positions, attracting and nurturing top talent for productions like the global smash hit PAW Patrol, the Sesame Street animated spinoff Mecha Builders, the widely popular YouTube hit My Magic Pet Morphle with Moonbug Entertainment, and Sesame Workshop’s new mini-series Charlotte’s Web. Sue has over fifteen years of experience leading talent management for companies such as Soho VFX, Snowball Studios, and Toonbox Entertainment.
Senior Director Visual Development & Production Design, Spin Master Entertainment
Alexandra was born in Sofia Bulgaria and immigrated to Canada in the early 90’s after the fall of communism. She grew up with her single mother (also an artist) in Montreal where she attended the Fine Arts and Core Education school all throughout primary school until 10th grade. She moved to San Francisco and graduated from School of the Arts High School and then went on to get her 3-year diploma at Sheridan College for the Classical Animation Program. She did an additional year of 3D Maya at Seneca College, and shortly after that, she began work at House of Cool as a Junior Designer. Since then she has worked in many of the major animation studios in Toronto such as George Elliot Studios, Guru, Arc Productions, M2 Animation and Industrial Brothers. Alexandra began her career as Art Director with Barbie and her Sisters in the Great Puppy Adventure. Since then she’s been art directing several Barbie Films, Lego Friends, 2018 Reboot, Remy and Boo and most recently she’s been supervising art director for Unicorn Academy and Rubble and Crew. She is currently Sr. Director of Visual Development and Production at Spin Master Entertainment overseeing multiple projects from development to production.
Head of Animation Talent Development, Bento Box Entertainment
Brooke Keesling is the Head of Animation Talent Development at Bento Box Entertainment. She has worked in the animation and VFX industry for decades as a filmmaker, in recruiting & development, and in education. Prior to joining Bento Box, Brooke recruited animation talent for Cartoon Network, Disney, and Warner Bros.
Keesling earned her MFA at CalArts where she produced the stop-motion film, Meatclown, and the Student Academy Award-winning film, Boobie Girl. Upon graduation, she worked in practical and miniature VFX on many films such as Inception, The Dark Knight, Hugo, and The Aviator. Brooke is a member of the Motion Picture Academy, the Television Academy, Women in Animation, and she’s the Vice President of ASIFA Hollywood. Brooke is also on the advisory board of the GLAS Animation Festival, and she teaches in the Character Animation department at CalArts.
Founder & CEO, Kelencontent
Kelencontent (KCI) was founded by CEO, Tanya Kelen in 2008. The company is celebrating 15 years of creativity and innovation in developing, producing and distributing projects with emerging and established BIPOC creative studios, entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs. The company’s production, distribution and creative management divisions curate relationships between producers, directors, writers and studios to finance, produce and distribute content via its unique distribution and production consortium across animation, kids and family, scripted and unscripted divisions. The company has also secured all worldwide rights for leading Indigenous animation studio www.JerryCo.tv and a now launching their first 100% Indigenous award-winning animated feature film www.sednafilm.com KCI is also executive producing the spin-off musical edutainment series Sedna and the Little Tricksters now in development that is tied to a national mentorship and incubation program.
SVP, Global Trends, Dubit
Strategist, analyst, author, speaker, and connector, David Kleeman has led the children’s media industry in developing sustainable, child-friendly practices for more than 35 years. He began this work as president of the American Center for Children and Media and is now Senior Vice President of Global Trends for Dubit, a games studio and strategy/research consultancy.
When he began this work, “children’s media” meant television. Today, he is fascinated by, and passionate about, kids’ wide range of possibilities for entertainment, engagement, play and learning. David uses research, insights and experience to show that much may change, but children’s developmental path and needs remain constant.
David is the advisory board chair to the international children’s TV festival PRIX JEUNESSE and on the board of the Children’s Media Association. He looks worldwide for best practices in children’s entertainment and learning. He has spoken (and, more importantly, listened!) on six continents.
Dara King (she/her) is the Reel Black Studios writer and producer. She began her partnership with Chris over a decade ago writing many of the scripts he animates. As the team has grown, her role has expanded to producer and she spends her days managing the diverse and creative bunch at Reel Black Studios. She also recently served as the writer and executive producer of their HBO Short, Burning Rubber. In addition to managing RBS, Dara runs their children’s book brand called All My Emotions.
Co-Executive Producer & VP Creative Content, Sony Pictures Television – Kids
Bryan Korn is Co-Executive Producer of the Emmy, Annie, and BAFTA award winning animated series Hilda.
Creative Director / Co-Founder, Jam Filled Entertainment
Phil is one of the co-founders of Jam Filled Entertainment and a Creative Director for Jam Filled Originals. Phil spent the first part of his career designing and making animated video games. He then made the leap to television animation and never looked back. He continues to work as a Character Designer, Storyboard Artist, Show Creator, Director, Executive Producer and Show Runner. Having already sold two series, and helped develop two others to get on air, Phil continues to create new IP for an ever-evolving market.
Co-founder, The Happy Producers
Virginie is a film and television producer with over 15 years of experience.
Passionate about emotional intelligence and organizational management, Virginie co-founded The Happy Producers with LP Vermette. She creates training programs to help her industry peers optimize their processes while reducing stress levels. She is on a mission to make well-being the most popular topic in daily production.
She holds a Master’s degree from Concordia University, where she was trained as a post-secondary teacher. Production is her vocation, and gratitude is her superpower!
“I put my expertise to the service of the Film and TV community by teaching happy-minded industry professionals, managers, and leaders how to increase their productivity while lowering stress.”
President, LeFort Talent Group
Starting in creative, Lance moved into Talent Acquisition and executive roles at studios. He worked in Video games, Animation and VFX. He currently runs LeFort Talent Group, focused on recruitment and management consulting to several industries. His clients and connections span the globe. https://www.leforttalentgroup.com/
Artist, Studio Ekosi
Caeleigh Lightning is a Nehiyaw 2 Spirit artist. They are lead artist and illustrator at Studio Ekosi, creating narrative games about Indigenous futures.
President & Manager/Co-Founder, Fourth Wall Management/BRIC Foundation
As an artist, Alison Mann always knew she wanted to work in Animation. She began her career at Nickelodeon Animation Studio as a finance department intern while attending Columbia College Chicago. After graduating, she was offered the amazing opportunity to continue working with Nickelodeon/MTV as their Recruiter/ Coordinator of Talent Relations. Through her 20 years in the industry, she gained experience in TV, Film, and Gaming while working at Walt Disney Animation Studio, Zynga, Disney Interactive, Paramount Pictures Animation, Illumination Entertainment, and Sony Pictures Animation.
Mann is the co-founder of the BRIC Foundation, an organization set up to solve how to create new access points for women and people from underrepresented groups so they can excel at creative leadership and enable culture change through engaging and empowering talent. As a creative supporter of talent, Mann is passionate about storytelling and identifying and working with inspiring creators who can continue to elevate the animation industry.
Vice President, Original Series and Movie Development, Warner Bros. Media and Cartoon Network Studio
Lauren Martinez serves as Vice President, Original Series and Movie Development at Warner Bros. Animation (WBA) and Cartoon Network Studios (CNS). In this role, Martinez reports to Audrey Diehl (Senior Vice President, Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network Studios) and is responsible for the creative development of programming specifically focused on the kids 6-11and family/co-viewing audience. Martinez joined WBA and CNS following a nearly 13-year run at Disney Television Animation, helping develop a wide variety of series such as Kiff, Amphibia, The Owl House and The Ghost and Molly McGee, and bringing in the upcoming shows Primos and School for Sensitive Souls, along with several other unannounced projects. As a member of the Disney Junior development team, her efforts contributed towards doubling the number of series greenlights per year including Star Wars: Young Jedi Adventures, Firebuds, Alice’s Wonderland Bakery, Eureka, Pupstruction, Kindergarten: The Musical, the Roots’ Rise Up, Sing Out anti-racism shorts, Mickey and Minnie’s Once Upon a Christmas, Mickey Saves Christmas, and other exciting preschool projects soon to be announced. Martinez also developed the Creative Mentorship Program at Disney Television Animation which pairs up-and-coming artists and writers with seasoned studio veterans resulting in fostering creative leadership who have gone on to develop their own projects at the studio.
Assistant Executive Director, Writers Guild of Canada
Neal McDougall is Assistant Executive Director at the Writers Guild of Canada (WGC). Since 2013, Neal has advocated for Canadian screenwriters in policy proceedings before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), federal Parliamentary committees, and with funding bodies and elected officials. Prior to that, Neal worked in policy and program development at the Canada Media Fund. He has worked as a professional screenwriter himself and was an award-winning student filmmaker. Neal holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from Osgoode Hall Law School, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from York University, where he studied film and video production.
Current Series Executive, Spin Master
Jason is a multi CSA Award-winning Producer with over 20yrs of film and television experience. Jason joined Spin Master in the summer of 2015 coming onto the flagship brand, PAW Patrol. As Current Series Executive on PAW Patrol, Jason oversees all creative aspects of the series from scripts through to final produced episodes.
Prior to Spin Master, Jason also produced the first season of eOne’s hit preschool series “PJ Masks”.
Producer, PsyOp and Executive Producer
Amanda Miller is a producer and EP based in LA.
With an emphasis on world-building and characters, Amanda focuses on storytelling that leverages her considerable experience in animation.
Her most recent project, Christopher at Sea directed by Tom CJ Brown, world premiered at the Venice Biennale in 2022 and screened in competition at Sundance, SXSW, Santa Barbara Int’l Film Fest among others in 2023. She produced the inaugural season of HBO Max’s animated shorts anthology Only You which premiered in March of 2023. She developed and produced Devil May Care for Peacock/SyFy and Grandma’s Cats Are Trying to Kill Her for Dreamworks. Amanda has partnered with some of the world’s largest brands, including Apple, Coca Cola and Supercell. The cinematics she produced for Supercell have been viewed billions of times.
VP Production, Spin Master Entertainment
Dan is an Emmy Award-winning Producer with over 25 years of Animation experience. In his role at Spin Master he oversees multiple award-winning productions including the launch of Spin Master’s first feature film Paw Patrol: The Movie. Prior to joining Spin Master, Dan was Head of Production at Jam Filled where he oversaw the Toronto studio with projects including Thomas & Friends and Rusty Rivets. He also previously held senior production roles with Arc Productions, working on high-end CG series and feature productions, such as Barbie, Ice Age, Trollhunters, How to Train Your Dragon: Race to the Edge and Lego Marvel Avengers with previous production roles at Elliot Animation and Nelvana Ltd.
President, Big Jump Entertainment
Rick is a graduate of Sheridan College’s classical animation program. In 2008, Rick co-founded Big Jump Entertainment located in Ottawa, Canada. As a full-service animation production facility. Big Jump is proud to have rostered a client list that includes the likes of Comedy Central, Warner Brothers Animation, HBO, Sony TV, ABC, Nick Jr., Amazon and Netflix to name a few. Rick also executive produced Big Jump’s proprietary properties; Shutterbugs and Big Words, Small Stories.
Director, Big Atomic Cartoons
Patrick has spent the past 13 years in the Ottawa Animation scene working on projects for Disney, Netflix and Universal. His most recent credits include Director on Teenage Euthanasia for PFFR and Adult Swim, and Animation Director on Little Demon for FXX. When he grows up, he wants to be a dinosaur.
Co-Founder, Relish Studios
Paul is a co-founder of Relish Studios and has been producing award-winning content for 25 years. He is the co-creator of Weirdwood Manor — a narrative game that Apple selected as iPad App of the Year Runner-up. Over the course of his career, he has produced gaming and animation projects for clients such as NFL, Nickelodeon, Corus Entertainment, PBS Kids, Mattel, Dell, 9 Story Media, john st, and Sid Lee.
Artist & Creator
Luke Pearson is a British comics artist, illustrator and writer, best known as the creator of the Hilda graphic novels and co-executive producer of the award-winning animated series of the same name.
Sandrine Pechels de Saint Sardos
Ottawa Film Commissioner, Ottawa Film Office
As the Ottawa Film Commissioner, I am passionate about promoting Ottawa as an affordable boutique destination and experience for filmmakers, developing the local film industry and its infrastructure, and supporting the diverse and talented producers, crew, and talent in the national capital of Canada. With over 20+ years of experience in the entertainment sector, I have an extensive illustrative career in film, broadcasting, production, co-production, creative development and distribution with impressive global relationships and deep experience in deals & negotiations, 360° all covered.
Prior to joining the Ottawa Film Office, I worked in sales and distribution at CBC/Radio-Canada, growing their kids’ catalogue offerings. I also co-founded Rocket Launch Media and Sanden Media, where I created and distributed engaging and pristine content for kids and families, based on published book properties and original IPs. Further, I handled co-production, acquisition, programming, gaming, and sales at TFO, a Franco-Ontario multiplatform broadcaster. I also spent nine years with Bejuba! Entertainment as EVP of Sales & Acquisitions, building a catalogue of over 600 half-hours of kids’ TV and secured co-development and co-production deals. Prior to Bejuba, I worked in NYC for 10+ years for an array of major entertainment companies in creative development, co-production, and distribution. This includes Sunbow Entertainment (Transformers, My Little Pony, G.I. Joe, etc.), Sony Wonder/Sony Music, TV-Loonland, Hallmark, and Classic Media/Dreamworks. While at Classic Media/Dreamworks, I spearheaded WW sales and co-productions on Casper, George of the Jungle, and other titles.
I am also very much involved in the industry as I regularly participate in various festivals and organizations as a juror, mentor, panellist, and research adviser.
I am dedicated to using my creative, leadership skills and, negotiation abilities, with a human touch, to choose and execute projects that align with my vision of diversity, inclusion, and sustainability in the film industry.
José has worked for over 20 years in the animation industry. Has worked in almost every department in a studio environment. From hand-drawn animation to compositing. As much as he enjoyed directing and supervising. His favourite work comes from board-driven shows.
Troy Quane is a Canadian film director and 27-year veteran of the animation industry. Following his feature film directing debut on Spies in Disguise (2019), he has just completed directing his second feature film Nimona, based on the award-winning graphic novel of the same name by ND Stevenson. In 1995, having studied Classical Animation at Sheridan College in Oakville ON, he began his career as a traditional animator for Walt Disney Animation Canada. Troy continued as a Senior Animator on various top-end commercials and feature films until 2005 when he accepted the opportunity to work as Storyboard Supervisor on the critically acclaimed live-action Disney film Enchanted. Troy continued working in the story department for various studios which ultimately led him to direct the twenty-two-minute short film The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol (2011) for SONY Pictures. Additional film credits include Fox Feature Animation’s Titan A.E. (2000), Warner Bros. Feature Animation’s Osmosis Jones (2001), Universal’s Curious George (2006), 9 (2009) for Focus Features, Aardman Animation’s Arthur Christmas (2011), SONY Pictures Animation’s Hotel Transylvania (2012) and Blue Sky Studios feature films The Peanuts Movie (2015), Ice Age: Collision Course (2016) and the Academy Award®-nominated film Ferdinand (2017). Troy currently resides with his family in Ridgefield, CT.
Senior Development Executive, CAKE Entertainment
Martha Sepulveda was born and raised in Bogota, Colombia, but has called Toronto, Canada her home for the past 17+ years. She holds a BFA in animation from the Savannah College of Art and Design.
Martha joined CAKE in 2022 and leads the creative development on a number of shows on the CAKE slate, with creators from around the world and in particular those from North and South America.
Martha has over 15 years of international experience in kids’ media development and production, working with award-winning companies including Sinking Ship Entertainment, Breakthrough Entertainment and most recently, 9 Story as Senior Director of Development. Martha is known for actively creating change about diverse content, and authentic representation in front of, as well as behind the screen.
Director of Production, Mercury Filmworks
Nearing 20 years of production experience in the film and television sphere, Anja has been instrumental in the development, production, and post-production of multiple award-winning live-action projects. In 2022 she decided to try something new, hanging up her on-set shoes and leaping into the colourful world of animation at Mercury Filmworks, a prestigious Ottawa-based studio. Instantly aligned with Mercury’s core values of Boldness, Diversity, Leadership, Innovation, and Commitment, Anja has become a valued member of the Senior Management Team, assuming the role of Director of Production. With a proactive spirit guided by empathy, she champions true collaboration, nurturing an environment where the mix of creativity and execution can strike the perfect balance.
Indigenous Writer, Director, Producer, JerryCo Animation
Born in NunatuKavut, of both European and indigenous descent, Jerry has always had a profound interest in his indigenous heritage. In 2004, after 15 years as a graphic artist, Jerry decided to pursue his lifelong ambition and launched JERRYCO ANIMATION, North America’s first indigenous-owned and operated animation studio.
Since then he has written, directed and produced over 250 episodes of indigenous television. Committed to the preservation of indigenous languages and cultures, all of Jerry’s productions feature indigenous characters, settings and languages.
News Editor, Kidscreen
Ryan Tuchow is News Editor of Kidscreen, the top trade publication covering the global kids entertainment industry. Ryan oversees content for the magazine as well as the Daily newsletter, which is read by industry professionals around the world every day.
Jennifer Twiner McCarron
CEO, Atomic Cartoons/Thunderbird Entertainment
Jennifer Twiner McCarron is an award-winning producer and has been the CEO of Thunderbird Entertainment Group since 2018. Having joined Atomic Cartoons (Thunderbird’s Kids and Family division) as the Head of Production in 2011, Jenn was promoted to its chief executive in 2016, and under her leadership the studio grew from 25 artists to more than 1,000 today. She continues to hold both CEO roles, overseeing Thunderbird’s overall business as well as a team of more than 1,200 people across Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and Los Angeles.
Co-Founder, The Happy Producers
Louis-Philippe has been working in the animation industry for 25 years.
He has held many roles, starting his career as an artist before becoming a team leader, producer, and member of higher management. He is the Canadian co-producer of the feature film 10 Lives and the line-producer of the international co-production The Last Whale Singer.
Inspired by his passion for the animation industry and a growing interest in personal and professional development, Louis-Philippe co-founded The Happy Producers to make well-being the most crucial topic in animation production.
“With my partner Virginie, we founded The Happy Producers to offer our experience and help other growth-seeking leaders find their way toward human-driven leadership without compromising the people’s well-being or the project’s deliverables.”
Sr. Manager of Development and Production, Nick Jr.
Niki Williams is a television executive with two decades of experience in the entertainment industry. She is currently a Sr. Manager of Development and Production at Nick Jr. She most recently worked as the Executive in Charge for the iconic reboot of the character Face called Face’s Music Party.
As a USC School of Cinema & TV Production alum, Niki began her career at DreamWorks SKG where she worked alongside brilliant filmmakers such as Debbie Allen amongst others. From there, she landed at Nickelodeon Movies, where she worked on such films as Spongebob, Charlotte’s Web, and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. She had the time of her life working alongside Jared Hess and Jack Black on the cult favourite Nacho Libre before continuing her work with Julia Pistor at Pistor Productions where she oversaw the development of film and TV projects with Walden Media, HIT, Andre 3000, Mattel, and will.i.am. Later, she went over to DreamWorks Animation’s The Boss Baby before moving to NYC where she currently resides.
However, her biggest achievement has been living in a domestic partnership with her wise 85-year-old gray and white tuxedo cat who likes to sing, lecture, and watch spiders.
Co-Founder/Head of Creative,Studio Smokescreen
Kris Wimberly is Co-Founder and Head of Creative for Studio Smokescreen, an independent, Black-owned animation studio dedicated to leading significant changes in diversity and inclusion across the animation industry. The full-scale, Los Angeles-based “bridge” studio, the first of its kind, is designed to elevate marginalized and underrepresented talent striving to break into roles on big studio projects.
Kris is a classically trained director and storyboard artist who currently serves as director on Disney’s newest hit animated series, Firebuds. He also has a new project in development at Disney about a time-travelling treasure hunter.
Kris’ additional credits include HBO Max’s Close Enough, Disney’s Elena of Avalor, Universal’s Curious George 4: Royal Monkey, Nickelodeon’s Spongebob SquarePants and Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans Go! He specializes in comedy and action-comedy and has worked on animated productions of nearly every type – from 2D, CG and Flash Animation to script-driven and storyboard-driven, and across preschool, kids and primetime television series, as well as feature films.
A graduate of California State University, Fullerton, Kris worked as a custodian at Disneyland while working his way up the ranks to pursue his passion for animation.
After graduating from the Department of Fine Arts at Kyushu Sangyo University, Yuasa joined Ajia-do Animation Works and studied under Tsutomu Shibayama. Later he worked as a freelancer. Yuasa was one of the primary staff for the TV series Chibi Maruko-chan and Crayon Shin-chan. His directorial debut, Mind Game (2004), won numerous awards including Best Film, Best Director, and Best Script at the Montreal Fantasia International Film Festival. He has also received many awards for television shows he directed, such as The Tatami Galaxy (2010) and Ping Pong: The Animation (2014). In 2017, he released two of his feature films, Night is Short, Walk On Girl
and Lu Over The Wall in theatres. Night is Short, Walk On Girl won not only the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year but was also the first film directed by a Japanese director to win the Grand Prize for Best Animated Feature at the Ottawa International Animation Festival. His first original feature film, Lu Over The Wall, won the Cristal for Best Feature Film at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival.
Following the worldwide distribution of his two anime series, DEVILMAN crybaby (2018) and Japan Sinks 2020 (2020) which won the Jury Award for a TV Series at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, Yuasa’s works have become wildly popular not only in Japan but around the world. One of his most beloved shows adapted from Sumito Ōwara’s manga of the same title, Keep Your Hands Off of Eizouken!, was named “one of the best TV shows of the year” by the New York Times. Additionally, his 2020 film Ride Your Wave won Best Animated Film at the Shanghai International Film Festival, as well as many national and international awards, including the Best Animated Feature Film at the Sitges – International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia. In INU-OH, his 5th full-length feature film, he took on the difficult task of creating a musical movie set in Muromachi-era Japan for the first time, as his love for challenges knows no bounds. The film debuted and earned Yuasa his first invitation to both the Venice Film Festival and TIFF. His unbridled imagination and dynamic drawing style have attracted attention both inside and outside the animation industry. Yuasa is one of the most notable and talented animation directors in the business today.
Editor in Chief, Animation Magazine
Ramin Zahed is an LA-based author and journalist who specializes in animation, visual effects, pop culture and indie films. He is the editor-in-chief of Animation Magazine and has written for Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Los Angeles Times, Sight and Sound and others. Among his recent books are The Art of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, The Art of My Father’s Dragon The Mitchells vs. the Machines, The Art of Vivo, The Art of Love, Death + Robots, and The Art of Klaus.
Half of Afterman Animation, the animation directing team of Tsvetelina Zdraveva and Jerred North. Based in Los Angeles, they collaborate remotely with clients and production artists all over the world to create animated films, commercials, and game cinematics.