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Women in Animation Honors NFB’s Michael Fukushima, Animated Short ‘Music & Clowns’ With Diversity Awards

Women in Animation has named National Film Board of Canada’s Michael Fukushima, animation pioneer Brenda Banks, and the animated short documentary “Music & Clowns” as the recipients of the organization’s WIA Diversity Awards.

The honors will be presented on Thursday at the Spark Animation film festival in Vancouver.

Fukushima, studio head and executive producer of English animation at NFB, is being hailed for his role in making the org one of the first animation groups to achieve 50/50 gender parity, in line with WIA’s key initiative of 50/50 by 2025, which was launched in 2015.

“Opening doors has been the cornerstone of my NFB career. Often that has meant giving a leg up to those who’ve not been given chances in the past. It’s not hard, but it does take a commitment to making change,” Fukushima said. “I’m honored to have my efforts recognized by Women in Animation, who are equally committed to making real change.”

WIA is recognizing Banks for her contributions to animation history as one of the first female African-American animators, working in the industry for more than three decades, starting in the 1970s. Among her credits are Ralph Bakshi’s “Wizards” and “The Lord of the Rings,” a number of Looney Tunes episodes, “Jetsons: The Movie,” and TV series “Heathcliff,” “The Smurfs,” “King of the Hill,” and “The Simpsons.” Black Women Animate founder and CEO Taylor Shaw will accept the award on Banks’ behalf.

“Ms. Banks rose up in the ranks of animation when there were so few women. That took courage and persistence,” said WIA vice president Jinko Gotoh. “While it’s important for us to make paths to the future, it’s equally important to shine a light on our heroes from the past.”

Filmmaker Alex Widdowson will receive a juried award presented by SparkCG for his animated documentary short “Music & Clowns,” about caring for his brother with Down syndrome.

“The jury was particularly impressed by Widdowson’s clarity and his frank and realistic characterization of the individuals and situation, never victimizing his subject but rather painting a full picture of people with disabilities and their families,” explained Marina Antunes, Spark’s festival director.

The awards will be presented by WIA president Marge Dean. “Women in Animation’s mission is to affect change in the animation industry, and it is essential, in our view, to highlight and celebrate those organizations and artists who are making a difference,” she said. “We are so grateful to Spark CG for their partnership and to our honorees for their tremendous contributions to this cause.”

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