Connect with us

Events

How does Universal Studios get ready for a red letter day? By handing out pink slips.

With just days ’til Universal Orlando’s sure-to-be smash hit attraction, “Revenge of the Mummy” officially opens to the public, Jim Hill wonders: How is Universal ever going to top this attraction? Particularly since the company has just laid off most of the people who actually designs ride & shows for its theme parks?

Published

on

According to Friday’s headline in the “Orlando Sentinel,” “It’s just business as usual” at Universal’s theme parks. That virtually nothing has changed since General Electric formally completed its acquisition of Vivendi Universal this past Wednesday. Which resulted in the creation of one huge, brand-new mega-media conglomerate: NBC Universal.

Well, it certainly wasn’t “business as usual” for some 24 members of the Universal Creative team (I.E. The folks who actually design all the rides & attractions for the Universal theme parks). For these folks got calls at home late last Tuesday night, saying (in essence) “Don’t come into work tomorrow. You don’t work for Universal Creative anymore.”

Mind you, Universal management immediately tried to put the best possible face on this after-hours massacre. Insisting that it wasn’t anything special. That it was strictly a coincidence that all of these Universal Creative workers were being laid off just hours before the NBC / G.E. acquisition was complete. That the real reason that all these folks — who had been working on Universal Studios Shanghai — were being let go was because the Chinese government had yet to provide the corporation with the necessary permits to go forward with construction of that theme park.

However, those who are familiar with what’s REALLY been going with Universal’s theme park division insist that it wasn’t the Chinese government that was at fault here. But — rather — the Universal Parks & Resorts management team. Who are determined to do whatever they have to in order to Universal’s theme park division look good to G.E. management. Even if it means getting rid of the very artists & engineers who actually create all the rides, shows & attractions for the parks.

According to one Universal insider:

“It’s all about keeping the numbers up and the head count down. Making sure the books look good to our new bosses at NBC. Which will hopefully convince the folks at General Electric that it would really be worth their while to hang onto the Universal theme parks.”

Mind you, last Tuesday’s after-hours cutback wasn’t the only “reduction in force” that Universal Creative has had to endure. Just five months ago, over 100 people worked for this division of the company. Now there are fewer than 20 staffers working for Universal Creative. And most of these folks are veteran managers & their assistants. I.E. The paper pushers. Not the hard-core creatives who actually do most of the heavy lifting on the theme park projects.

The real irony here is that Universal Creative is coming off one hell of a winning streak. Just in the last 12 months, they’ve successfully opened “Jimmy Neutron’s Nicktoon Blast” and “Shrek 4-D.” Two film-driven attractions that have proven to be huge hits with visitors to the Universal theme park.

And this coming Friday, Universal Orlando opens “The Revenge of the Mummy.” The new thrill ride which was getting rave reviews from theme park enthusiasts even during its test-and-adjust period last month. Even though key effects & animatronics had yet to be insulted.

Folks who had ridden USF’s “Mummy” attraction over this past weekend (now that all the ride’s effects & figures are finally in place) say that it’s the very best thing that Universal Creative has ever done. That this attraction is destined to become Universal’s “Pirates of the Caribbean.” As in: It’s the attraction that will redefine what you think of the Universal theme parks.

Normally, news like this would be a cause for celebration. But — given that there’s virtually no one left in Universal’s Creative department — what’s the point of celebrating now?

Don’t get me wrong, folks. Universal Studios’ “Revenge of the Mummy” ride is a wonder. (And just wait ’til tomorrow, when you get to see the pictures that Chuck Oberleitner took during his recent walk-through of Universal Studios Hollywood’s soon-to-be-opening “Revenge of the Mummy” ride.) But — as any serious theme park fan will tell you (And — yes — I realize that “serious theme park fan” is kind of an oxymoron) — great shows & attractions don’t grow on trees.

And to be celebrating this great new addition to Universal Studios Florida just as the folks who actually created “Revenge of the Mummy” are out there, brushing up their resumes … All because their old bosses at Universal want to look good for their new bosses at G.E. … Just seems a trifle bizarre to me.

So how do you folks feel about this development?

Jim Hill

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Events

From toxic gas leaks to the triumph of ‘Finding Dory,’ Lindsey Collins has loved every minute of her time at Pixar Animation Studios

Published

on

When it comes to “Finding Dory” producer Lindsey Collins, she takes “going-with-your-gut” to a whole new level.

To explain: This Occidental College graduate joined Walt Disney Animation Studios straight out of school in 1994. And after working as a PA on “Pocahontas” & “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” Lindsey had just been made assistant production manager on “Hercules” when she began hearing people talk about Pixar.

“I was working at Disney with Ron & John (Author’s note: That’s Ron Clements & John Musker, the acclaimed animation directing team behind not only “Hercules” but also “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin” and WDAS’ soon-to-be-released “Moana“) and was really enjoying that experience. But just before ‘Toy Story’ came out, there was a brief blurb in the company newsletter about Pixar. And I was like ‘Well, who are these guys?’ And then I got to meet John Lasseter and was just totally blown away by what he and his team were doing,” Collins recalled during a recent phone interview.

Lindsey Collins. Copyright Disney Pixar

“Anyway, Disney liked what I was doing at Feature Animation and really wanted me to stay on there. So they offered me a contract. And I was like ‘I’m fine. I can stay here.’ So I signed that contract. And then I went home and threw up all night,” Lindsey laughed.  “The very next day, I went back into Disney and said ‘I’m sorry. I can’t do this. I really have to go.’ Then I went up to the Bay area and basically pounded on Pixar’s door & said ‘please, please, please hire me.’ “

Luckily for Ms. Collins, Pixar Animation Studios was just in the process of gearing up to do “A Bug’s Life.” More to the point, Sharon Calahan – the director of photography on that production – saw lots of potential in this recent Mouse House escapee.

“Sharon was hugely involved with Pixar’s decision to hire me. And part of that was because I had worked with background painters while I was at Disney Feature Animation. So even though I had no clue how CG worked at that time, I could talk with Sharon in the terms of painting. And she was like ‘That’s exactly how I want people around here to start thinking when it comes to how we light our scenes,’ ” Collins continued.

Sharon Calahan. Copyright Disney Pixar

“Mind you, I was the one who kept telling Sharon ‘I don’t know how helpful I can be to you guys. Because I really don’t understand a lot of what you’re saying when it comes to CG.’ But she wouldn’t give up on me. Sharon kept insisting that – because I had already worked with artists and knew how to communicate a vision for a painting – I was also going to be able to communicate with software engineers. It was just a matter of learning a new language. Sharon was instrumental in convincing me that I had any right to be at Pixar,” Lindsey stated.

Which isn’t to say that life was initially easy for Collins at Pixar. First there was that steep learning curve which came with her new job (“When I first got here, I had no idea what a render farm was. I was like ‘There’s a farm? Like a petting zoo?’ “). Then there was the fact that the Port Richmond office park which housed this animation studio at that time was downwind of a Chevron plant (“Sometimes – because there’d be explosions or gas leaks at that plant — we’d then be told to shelter in place or to not come into work at all that day. We used to call those toxic snow days”).

But even under these somewhat stressful & occasionally toxic conditions, Lindsey thrived. Largely because she really loved her new co-workers at Pixar (“They were people who could really make me laugh. In a way I didn’t know that real adults / professionals could make me laugh. And I feel like I haven’t stopped since I got here”).

Copyright Disney Pixar

But it hasn’t all been big laughs. Take – for example – what happened when Ed Catmull, the president of Pixar Animation Studios, approached Collins (who was producing “Finding Dory” at that time) about a change that he wanted to make to that Andrew Stanton film.

“Pixar had this new renderer that it wanted to try out. And Ed felt ‘Dory’ would be the perfect project to try this new technology on. The only problem was that – when Ed approached me – we were already well into production on this ‘Finding Nemo’ sequel. Which meant – if we were going to take full advantage of what Ed was offering us – we’d then have go back and redo a bunch of stuff we’d already done on this movie,” Lindsey said.

“But the good news was – because “Dory” was a sequel to “Nemo” – we weren’t discovering a look for this movie. We were just trying to improve on it,” Collins continued. “And that was the handshake deal that Ed was offering. That – if we agreed to use this new renderer plus some new lighting & shading tools. Basically reinventing the entire back end of the Pixar production line – we’d then end up with a far better looking film that was still set in the same world as ‘Nemo.’ As long as the studio delivered on that promise, Andrew was willing to go for it. Mind you, it would be another full year before Andrew would then actually get to see any footage that this new renderer produced. So it was a huge leap-of-faith on his part. But Andrew was incredibly excited when the redone ‘Dory’ footage began coming in and it all looked so great.”

Copyright Disney Pixar

Another technology challenge that Lindsey had to deal with while producing this “Finding Nemo” sequel was Hank the septopus. But in this case, as soon as Collins saw this character described in an early draft of  Stanton’s ‘Dory’ script, she immediately got Pixar’s character department involved.

“When you’re working as a producer, you get to see pages a lot earlier than the rest of the crew. And as soon as I read that first scene with Hank, I turned to Andrew and said ‘Just how big a character are we talking here?’ And he said ‘I think it’s a pretty big role.’ And I was like ‘Okay.’ And I then went down to the character department and told them that Andrew wanted to add an octopus to the cast. And they all went kind of pale,” Lindsey said. “I think what they knew right-off-the-bat that – if we were going to do an octopus in the ‘Nemo’ / ‘Dory’ world with all of the realism & beauty that entails and then have that character fit in – it was going to be incredibly difficult if not kind of impossible to pull that off. Largely because the character of Hank couldn’t be super-cartoony.”

“I mean, on ‘Finding Nemo,’ we had had Pearl, the little octopus who was in Mr. Ray’s class. But clearly the whole point of a character like Hank was that he needed to be a jack-of-all-trades. That this character was going to have to be able to get in & out of everything. So the character department knew – right off the bat – that this was going to be something that would kind of break the bank, if you will,” Collins continued.

Copyright Disney Pixar

“Now what you have to understand about Pixar is that we play ‘Chicken’ a lot here. By that I mean, we see how long we can let something sit on the page before we then have to finally move it into production. But when it came to Hank, that just wasn’t an option,” Lindsey stated. “Based on this character’s needs, Hank was going to take every minute we had, all the time between when he first appeared in Andrew’s script and when we’d be in full production on ‘Dory’ to build this. So we needed to commit very early on this character. But the good news is that I think we bet right on Hank. He actually wound up being a far bigger character in this film. And I think that was partially because the technology which drove this character was so cool.”

So how did it feel – after five years of hard work – to have “Finding Dory” become this hugely popular motion picture? The fifth animated film in all of Hollywood history to earn over a billion dollars at the worldwide box office? Collins – the mother of three – put a somewhat maternal spin on her reply.

“You have to understand that – when you work on projects like ‘Dory’ or ‘John Carter‘ for as long as Andrew and I did – these movies are kind of like your kids. In that they then go off & have their own successes & failures which are kind of beyond your control as a parent,” Lindsey said. “But as you’re finishing up working on a film, emotions do sometimes well up at the weirdest time.”

Thomas Newman (L) and Andrew Stanton in the booth during the recording sessions for “Finding Dory” ‘s score. Copyright Disney Pixar 

Take – for example – what happened while Collins & Stanton were sitting in the recording booth as Thomas Newman rode herd on “Finding Dory” ‘s scoring sessions.

“We’d had this huge orchestra for four days. And then – on the last day – Tom cleared the stage and recorded the scene where Nemo, Marlin & Dory reunite in the pipes under the Marine Life Center. Now you have to understand that this is one of the only times in his score for ‘Finding Dory’ that Tom reprises a cue from “Finding Nemo.’ And he has this single clarinet – or was it an oboe? – play that cue,” Lindsey recalled. “And as this was happening, Andrew got really quiet. He was just sitting there, watching.”

“So I went up to him and said ‘What’s going on? How are you feeling about all this?’ Because we were finishing this film up at that time. And Andrew looked at me and he was really emotional. And then he said “I remember the first time I wrote Dory’s name on a piece of paper. I can’t believe how far she’s come.’ And that’s when I started getting emotional too, ” Collins said.

Andrew Stanton & Lindsey Collins. Copyright Disney Pixar

And speaking of ” … how far she’s come,” one might say the same thing about Lindsey. Who – it should be noted here – when she was studying at Occidental College 25 years ago, didn’t major in business or film studies. But – rather – diplomacy and world affairs.

“Those diplomacy skills do actually come in handy when you’re working on a movie. But you want to honestly know the very best thing you can do at college if you eventually hope to become a producer? Work as an RA,” Collins concluded. “Katherine Sarafian – who’s also a producer here at Pixar — also ran a dorm while she was in college. And the two of us agree that that job was great training for becoming a producer. When you’re constantly dealing with people and have to get answers to ridiculous questions like ‘Okay, who pooped in the closet?’ “

The Blu-ray & DVD version of Pixar’s “Finding Dory” hits store shelves today.

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Jim Hill

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

Continue Reading

Events

How Hurricane Matthew forced Universal Orlando to extend Halloween Horror Nights 2016’s run through early November

Published

on

Halloween is one of those holidays that lingers, isn’t it?

Whether it’s all of those decorations that are still out in the yard (which you’ll finally get around to taking down & packing away later this weekend … right?) or that bowl of leftover Treat-or-Trick candy that you’ve been slowly make disappear one fun-sized bar at a time, while All Hallows Eve should have been over at the stroke of midnight on October 31st … Well, just like that jack-o-lantern that the kids carved (which should have gone in the trash days go, but is still proudly displayed out on the front steps), this holiday somehow always manages to hang on a few extra days.

That’s certainly what happened this year at the Universal Orlando Resort. Universal Studios Florida‘s Halloween Horror Nights went into extra innings (Just like the Chicago Cubs did in Game 7 of the World Series. Go Cubs!) with that super-popular after-hours hard ticket seasonal event continuing on through tonight.

Photo by Jim Hill

Mind you, this was all Matthew‘s fault. You remember that hurricane which happened in early October, right? The one that – at one point — achieved Category 5 status while it was out in the Atlantic basin, gathering strength. And when the National Weather Service’s computer models showed that there was a very high probability that Matthew would come barreling out of the Caribbean and then send torrential rains & hurricane-force winds Central Florida’s way, Universal Orlando officials swung into action.

“Given what this Resort has to do in order to prepare for a hurricane, we knew that Matthew was going to impact at least two days of this year’s Halloween Horror Nights event,” explained Alyson Lundell, the director of Public Relations for Universal Orlando. “Once we made the decision to close the parks on Friday, we were in constant communications with our Guest Relations team. Who were ultimately going to be the front line when it came to dealing with that closure. We were also fortunate that – out ahead of Matthew – our call center was properly staffed and ready to deal with all of the people who’d now be looking to exchange or reschedule their Halloween Horror Nights tickets.”

Unfortunately, what with both of Universal Orlando’s theme parks & CityWalk closing at 5 p.m. Thursday (so that the Resort’s team members would then have sufficient time to get home safely and begin their own preparations for Matthew’s arrival), that meant that UO’s call center also had to shut down.

Copyright 2016 Universal Orlando. All rights reserved

“But that’s what’s great about having a partner like Loews. When we were forced to temporarily close our call center in Orlando, Loews was able to jump in and help us with a call center that they had out-of-state that could then assist us with answering guests questions until our own call center team could get back up and running the following day,” Lundell continued.

Speaking of teams … While first Universal Orlando’s call center and then Loew’s call center was helping Halloween Horror Night fans exchange or reschedule their tickets, out ahead of Matthew’s projected arrival, Universal Studios Florida was a veritable bee hive of activity. As the HHN tech & décor teams scrambled to dismantle all of this annual event’s temporary stage spaces. Not to mention all of that gruesome décor, those thousands of carefully constructed props & set pieces which are placed throughout this theme park to properly set the scene for this seasonal show.

“I definitely have to give credit to our tech & décor teams — and honestly almost every discipline or division at UO — in their ability to react to this situation,” said Patrick Braillard, who’s a show director with Universal Orlando’s creative development department. “This was the first major hurricane to even come close to us in – what? – the last 12 years. And while the theme parks themselves, wherever you go, they’re all hurricane-rated as far as their infrastructure is concerned. But as for all of that Halloween Horror Night décor, that had to be quickly & carefully struck and secured. Largely because – as soon as this storm passed – it was then all going to have to go back up again.”

Copyright 2016 Universal Orlando. All rights reserved

“That’s the thing that truly amazed me about the teams here at Universal Orlando. They were able to strike every temporary element for Halloween Horror Nights in just 12 hours and were then able to get everything back in place 24 hours after that,” Braillard continued. “Just the fact that they were able to navigate through the logistics of doing all that, getting our parks back in full operation so quickly, just amazes me. Our teams really went above & beyond the call here in terms of trying to figure out how exactly to do that.”

But even so, in the wake of Hurricane Matthew’s passing, Universal Orlando was then facing a huge HHN-related challenge. The 2016 version of this after-hours hard ticket had originally been scheduled to run for a record 31 days. And since tickets had been on sale since June, there were now thousands of people who’d been impacted by the Resort’s decision to cancel those two Halloween Horror Nights which had originally been scheduled for October 6 & 7th.

Using social media (as well as other media outlets in & around Central Florida like the Sentinel & local television stations), Universal Orlando quickly got the word out that  that tickets purchased for the October 6th & 7th dates of the event would be honored on any other night of HHN 26.

Copyright 2016 Universal Orlando. All rights reserved

“But even then, we knew that we’d really need to do more here in order to give back to our guests what they’d lost. So pretty early on, we decided to extend Halloween Horror Nights’ run, tack on two extra days to make up for those that had been lost to Matthew,” Alyson stated. “To be honest, it didn’t take all that long to get everybody on the same page and get this decision made. The only real hold-up – and it was really a brief one – was in getting this new ticket product online so that people could then actually book those dates. But this decision was made literally on the heels of that hurricane passing us by.”

Which brings us back to Halloween Horror Nights extending its run into early November. Which might confound those who work in retail (Which — according to what I witnessed in our local Target this past Wednesday – there was a one day-long post-Halloween sale. Which was then immediately followed by a store-wide “deck-the-halls” effort in order to get that place ready for the holidays). But according to Braillard, adding two extra days to HHN 26’s operating schedule is really Christmas-come-early for horror fans.

“This extension now gives them the opportunity to reexamine, reexperience this event. Do a deeper dive on the nine mazes, five scare zones and 2 shows that we’ve staged at Halloween Horror Nights 26,” Patrick enthused.

Copyright 2016 Universal Orlando. All rights reserved

And speaking of shows, given that this year’s HHN features the 25th anniversary edition of “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure,” the very last presentation of this live stage show is sure to be something that pop culture fans really don’t want to miss.

“Traditionally, the final show of the season for Bill & Ted — because so many Halloween Horror Night fans have already seen this live show multiple times over the course of the event, they’re now screaming the lines along with the actors onstage because they now know this show so well – can get pretty wild,” Braillard said. “Especially when you get 2000 people in the stands doing that.”

But as much as Patrick is looking forward to that Rocky-Horror-meets-rock-concert moment at HHN 26, he and his team are already hard at work on HHN 27. In fact, just before getting on the phone with me to talk about Hurricane Matthew’s impact on this year’s event, Braillard had been down in the lab with his colleagues at Universal Creative discussing concepts for mazes for next year’s event.

Copyright 2016 Universal Orlando. All rights reserved

“We are literally knee deep – or should I say neck deep?  – in what’s going to be happening at the 2017 edition of Halloween Horror Nights,” Patrick concluded. “That’s truly where our focus is right now.”

So while you’re spending your week actively looking for excuses to put off pulling this year’s Halloween decorations out of the front yard and then putting them away, Universal Creative team members are already hard at work designing mazes & decorative elements for Halloween 2017. Doesn’t that make you feel lazy / ashamed?

Here. Eat a fun-sized Snicker’s bar. It’ll make you feel better.

Copyright 2016 Mars, Incorporated. All rights reserved

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Saturday, November 5, 2016

Jim Hill

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

Continue Reading

Events

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

Published

on

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.

Jim Hill

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

Continue Reading

Trending