An effort to unionize Sony Pictures Imageworks drew about 80 animators to an initial meeting Friday, according to organizers with the Animation Guild.

The animators attended a three-hour session at the Culver Hotel, a block from the Sony lot.

“We will try to build on the momentum of a pretty good turnout,” said Steven Hulett, business rep for Local 839 of the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

Sony Imageworks employs more than 400 visual effects workers. Under federal labor law, at least a third of the workforce must sign authorization cards seeking to be represented by a union for an election to be held.

A spokesman for the studio said, “While Sony Pictures offers our visual effects employees a great work environment, competitive compensation and excellent benefits, we respect their right to consider union representation.”

Hulett also said that the Animation Guild is preparing a class-action lawsuit against several animation companies for alleged violations of federal labor laws by misclassifying vfx artists as independent contractors. “The companies are using third-party administrators to get around the requirements covering employees,” he added.

Visual effects artists are one of the largest non-unionized sectors in showbiz. IATSE and the Intl. Brotherhood of Electrical Workers launched organizing drives in late 2010 with the IBEW backing away from the effort last year at IATSE’s request.

The last major group of showbiz workers to be organized was the approximately 500 casting directors and associates who affiliated with the Intl. Brotherhood of Teamsters in 2005.