One of the local animation industry’s most important events, the fourth annual Animation Opportunities Expo, sponsored by ASIFA-Hollywood, takes place Friday and Saturday at the Pasadena Civic Center.

Organizers expect this year’s event to have a bigger impact than ever, now that they have joined forces with the World Animation Celebration. Recruiters from the major and independent animation studios will man booths promoting products and services during the weekend, while also seeking new talent by answering questions and examining portfolios of industry hopefuls.

Antran Manoogian, president of ASIFA-Hollywood — the largest chapter of the worldwide ASIFA organization (ASIFA is a French-language acronym that translates to Intl. Assn. for Film Animation) — says it was logical to place the event under the World Animation Celebration umbrella.

“When you think of the animation industry, we call ourselves an industry, but in a lot of ways, we’re more of a community,” Manoogian says. “Compared to live-action television or motion pictures, we’re a fairly small group. So I consider (the WAC) a community effort. The animation community has come together and collectively, each doing their own part, we’re putting on this event.”

World Animation Celebration director Leslie Sullivan agrees that the ASIFA-WAC combination was a natural fit.

“ASIFA had the Opportunities Expo at the Universal Hilton last year, but they were unable to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend,” she says. “They were looking for a larger venue anyway, and we thought it was suited perfectly for our event. So we asked them to join us. It just made sense. They were taking place around the same time frame anyway and were targeting the same people. Since ASIFA is so important to the animation community, they needed to be part of the World Animation Celebration.”

In conjunction with another industry organization — Women in Animation — ASIFA will offer animation seminars as part of the Expo on Saturday, including approximately 50 panel discussions. Topics will range from “Principals of Character Design” to “How to Run an Independent Studio.” Today, ASIFA will conduct animation workshops on skill development, including storyboarding, writing and voice acting. It also will offer educators and students a workshop addressing how to start animation programs in schools.

ASIFA will hold an Independent Animator’s Caucus on Friday to discuss the challenges facing independents attempting to find distribution. “With so much commercial animation taking place, a lot of independent animators are not getting the kind of exposure they are used to,” Manoogian says. Proceeds from this event will be used to start an independent animator’s grant program.

Most major and many independent studios will have a strong presence at the Expo, say organizers. Ellen Cockrill, VP of development and current programming for Universal Cartoon Studios, says the event is useful for studios. “It’s a good opportunity for us to meet talent and, at the same time, give them a sense of who we are,” she says. “We don’t have a single ‘look’ here at Universal, but rather a diversity of visual styles. So we’re looking for talent that is either versatile, or is tailor-made to a certain style that we are working with.”

In the case of industry powerhouses such as Disney and Warner Bros., diversity also creates opportunities for multiple divisions of the studio. The Walt Disney Co.’s exhibition will be staffed by recruiters from eight divisions, ranging from feature and TV animation to theme parks. Similarly, Warner’s exhibit will house recruiters for six distinct divisions, while HBO Animation, affiliated with Warner Bros., will have its own separate booth.

Karen Schmidt, director of recruiting at Warner Bros. Feature Animation, is coordinating WB’s participation. “We will be showing artwork from shows that are either in release, in production or in development,” she says. “We will have recruiters there who will be looking at portfolios, and we will have a sample portfolio on hand to give recruits an idea of what is needed to get a job.”

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