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Women in Animation panels prove that there's more to San Diego Comic-Con than just promotion of pop culture

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Women in Animation panels prove that there's more to San Diego Comic-Con than just promotion of pop culture

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Thanks to Comic-Con International, now through Sunday, San Diego is the white-hot center of the pop culture universe.

Photo by Jim Hill

Mind you, there's more to this four day-long event than those high-profile presentations in Hall H. Which is where various movie studios will be parading celebrities & showing exclusive clips. All with the hope that those 6000 early adopters who have (some of them, anyway) been camped out in this cavernous convention center for hours ahead of time will then hop on social media and start evangelizing about how cool that footage from next summer's would-be blockbuster looked.

But if you can look past those long lines for limited-edition merchandise and/or the tens of thousands of people who are cosplaying, you'll see that there's another, more serious side to Comic-Con International. And that's the part of this four day-long event which allows a lot of creatives to reconnect with one another.

Take - for example - Marge Dean, the general manager of Stoopid Buddy Stoodios (i.e., that Burbank-based operation which is responsible for "Robot Chicken," television's longest-running stop motion series, as well as Sony's just-about-to-begin-production-on-its-second-season-for-Crackle superhero spoof, "SuperMansion"). Over the past decade, she's made at least eight trips down to San Diego for Comic-Con International. And what Marge loves most about this four day-long event is all of the old friends she invariably runs into as she's coming & going from the convention center.

Photo by Jim Hill

"Whenever I'm down in San Diego for Comic-Con, I just love the experience of getting outside the hall, walking down the street and then suddenly going 'It's you ! A guy I haven't seen in three years ! How are you !," Dean recalled during a recent phone interview. "Even though I really don't like driving to Comic-Con - which is why, these days, I always take the train down from LA - I really enjoy strolling around San Diego and then running into people that I haven't seen for a long, long time."

Mind you, Marge is sure to run into a lot of people that she knows / has previously worked with today in Room 24ABC at the San Diego Convention Center. That's because this is where Comic-Con's "Cartoon Creatives: Women Power in Animation" panel will be held starting at 4:30 p.m. PT. And joining Dean at this gathering (which will be shining a spotlight on Women in Animation's goal to have a 50/50 workforce by 2025) will be a veritable who's who from the worlds of television & feature animation.

Among those who are scheduled to appear today are:

Daron Nefcy, the creator / executive producer of "Star vs. the Forces of Evil."
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved 

  • Lauren Faust (the creator of "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic")
  • Brooke Keesling (the director of animation talent development at Disney TV Animation)
  • Katie Krentz (the senior director of development at Cartoon Network)
  • Lauren Montgomery (the co-executive producer of "Voltron: Legendary Defender")
  • Daron Nefcy (the creator / executive producer of "Star vs. the Forces of Evil")
  • Gina Shay (the producer of DreamWorks Animation's "Trolls")
  • Stevie Wermers-Skelton (the co-director of Disney's upcoming "Frozen" holiday special)

Dean (who serves as the co-president of WIA) views this hour-long session (which will be moderated by Leslie Combemale of Animation Scoop) as a great example of a lesser known aspect of Comic-Con International. Which is the many ways that this four day-long event educates the fan community. Gives them a clearer understanding of what's really going on in today's entertainment world.

Marge Dean, co-president of Women in Animation, speaking at a WIA event 
honoring Nickelodeon's contributions to television animation. 

"I mean, did you know that women hold only 20% of the creative roles in today's animation industry? While the landscape has obviously changed over the 20+ years that I've worked in this field, women still predominantly work on the management side of animation. Not the creative end of things," Marge continued. "That's a big part of what the Women in Animation organization is all about. More to the point, why we're doing outreach to the fan community at Comic-Con this week. We're looking to shine a spotlight on this disparity in the industry and hopefully create some opportunities for more women to break through creatively in the future."

Of course, in order to know where you are (more importantly, where you're headed next), it helps to have to have a firm understanding of where you've been. Which is why WIA will be holding a second panel at Comic-Con International, "She Made That? Nickelodeon hosts Women in Animation." This presentation (which will also be held in Room 24ABC from 6:30 - 7:30 p.m. PT on Friday, July 22nd) will honor some of the real pioneers of television animation. The women who helped create such memorable Nicktoon series as:

  • Vanessa Coffey ("The Ren & Stimpy Show," "Rugrats" & "Doug")
  • Mary Harrington ("Invader Zim," "Hey Arnold!")

Television animation pioneer Margaret Loesch

Of course, Coffey was quick to credit the woman who gave her a leg up when she was just getting her start in animation in the early 1980s. And that was Margaret Loesch, the then-President and CEO of Marvel Productions.

"At that time, Margaret was the only woman working in television animation. I was just this intern, working down the hall from Stan Lee. But Margaret took a chance on me," Vanessa remembered. "And Margaret not only mentored me, she genuinely inspired me. I mean, here she was running this huge production company in a field that was mostly run by men. Margaret proved to me that not only should women in the animation business but that they could be these huge successes."  

You see? That's what's really great about Comic-Con International. If you can just get past all of the hype (not to mention handle those super-crowded conditions you'll encounter out on the show floor), you might then discover that some real education has been mixed in with your entertainment.

(L to R) Vanessa Coffey, Stephen Hillenburg (the creator of
"SpongeBob SquarePants") and and Butch Hartman (the
creator of "The Fairly Oddparents." 

Comic-Con International is running at the San Diego Convention Center now through Sunday, July 24th

This article was originally posted on the Huffington Post's Entertainment page on Thursday, July 21, 2016.

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  • The most inspiring article I've read on this site in a while.

    Have you heard anything about the where-abouts of Glen Keane lately?

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