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Animation’s Top Organization Looks Forward to Tooned-Up Future in Hollywood

When Frank Gladstone was elected president of ASIFA-Hollywood in 2011, he and the new board set a number of goals they wanted to accomplish to move the organization behind the animation industry’s Annie Awards forward.

Bring Disney back into the fold: Check.

Establish an advisory committee with reps from each animation studio: Check.

Update membership qualifications: Check.

Revise the voting structure for the Annie Awards: Check.

Find a home for its film animation archive: Check.

Improve the org’s financial health: Check.

Build the Annies into a bigger, more professional prestigious event: Check.

Now one of ASIFA’s biggest goals is about to be realized. If everything goes according to plan, ASIFA will have a new building and screening room by the end of this year.

The organization hands out its awards Feb. 3 at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus.

Well, the structure isn’t exactly new. It’s the facility ASIFA has occupied in Burbank for the past decade, but officials have decided to renovate it into the space they’ve always wanted. The front will be a series of offices and at the rear, where there is a warehouse that once stored part of ASIFA’s animation archive, there will be a state-of-the-art screening room that will seat about 60.

The org is awaiting approvals from the city of Burbank and neighboring businesses to make the changes. “Once all of that is done, we’ll start the construction,” Gladstone says.

And the new building will have a toon-worthy name: The ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Center & June Foray Screening Room, named for the legendary voice actor who was a founder of ASIFA-Hollywood and started the Annie Awards. Foray died last year just shy of her 100th birthday. The Annies will honor Foray with a special tribute at this year’s ceremony on Feb. 3 at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus.

The renovations are the culmination of the org’s decade-long efforts to operated in the black. “When I started seven years ago, we didn’t have any money, and we’ve carefully not overextended ourselves, and now we have the money for it,” Gladstone says.

Gladstone is hoping that the new digs will help raise awareness about the org’s efforts such as ASIFA’s community outreach and philanthropic efforts, the grants for animation students and educators, aid to toon professionals going through hard times, and preservation and restoration of classic cartoons.

“I think when people start to come to this thing, see other things we’re doing and take a bigger interest, we might be able to generate more members who’ll want to get involved,” he says. “For me, personally, that’s been the biggest, best part of this job. We have come from not really doing much of anything, except basically keeping the door open and holding the Annies, to all the other things we’ve been up to. I’m hoping we can go well past $150,000 in grants, animation aid, outreach.”

In particular, Gladstone hopes there can be more money available for the Animation Aid Foundation. “We’ve had that for years, but there was a time when we really couldn’t even have used very much of it because we just didn’t have that much. And now, every month we have somebody who needs some help, and we can do that.”

Looking forward, Gladstone says ASIFA wants to do more of the same. “The Annies are important, but the most rewarding thing is that we have become an actual, real non-profit doing what non-profits are supposed to do: Raise funds and give them back. To me that has become the thing I didn’t count on when I started and that’s been the most rewarding for me and I think our board members as well.”

10 Things to Know About ASIFA-Hollywood

1. ASIFA is a signatory of Unesco, the international organization dedicated to promoting peace through global collaborations for educational, scientific and cultural reforms

2. ASIFA-Hollywood is one of more than 30 ASIFA chapters worldwide.

3. While June Foray came up with the idea to give out awards for outstanding achievement in the animation industry, it was her husband, Hobart Donavan, who came up with the name “The Annies.”

4. There are about 3,500 paid members of ASIFA-Hollywood.

5. The Annie Awards are live-streamed at http://annieawards.org/watch-it-live

6. ASIFA-Hollywood will debut a new logo at the Annie Awards. Exec director Frank Gladstone says it looks a phenakistiscope, an old animation device.

7. The actual Annie Award is shaped like a zoetrope.

8. ASIFA-Hollywood sponsors the GLAS Animation Festival, in Berkeley, Calif., and the Animation Is Film Festival in Hollywood.

9. ASIFA stands for Assn. Internationale du Film d’Animation, which was created in Annecy, France, in 1957.

10. Brothers Max and Dave Fleischer were the first people honored at what became the inaugural Annie Awards dinner in 1972.

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