VIEW Conference presented, in partnership with OGR, a free virtual panel discussion with directors and producers behind five of this year’s Oscar contenders for best animated feature.The panel includes Byron Howard, director of Disney’s ENCANTO, plus co-director/co-writerCharise Castro Smith and producer Yvett Merino. Representing the Danish animated docudrama FLEE are director Jonas Poher Rasmussen and producer Charlotte de La Gournerie. Director Enrico Casarosa and producer Andrea Warren join the panel with Disney and Pixar’s LUCA, while director Mike Rianda and producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller represent Netflix and Sony Pictures Animation’s THE MITCHELLS VS THE MACHINES. Also participating are RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON directors Carlos López Estrada and Don Hall with producer Osnat Shurer. The moderator is Dan Sarto, editor-in-chief of Animation World Network.
For your viewing pleasure before the event, browse these online resources for the nominated films (see below for movie trailers)
Byron Howard previously directed Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Oscar®-winning feature “Zootopia” with Rich Moore. Howard also directed Disney Animation’s worldwide hit feature “Tangled” with Nathan Greno, and the duo teamed up again for the short film “Tangled Ever After.” As a child, Howard’s favorite Disney animated films included “Robin Hood,” “Cinderella” and “Sleeping Beauty.” He was also inspired by artists like Chuck Jones, Ronald Searle and Bill Watterson, and he would fill reams of computer paper with characters of his own creation. His love of art and animation continued through high school and college. Howard earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at The Evergreen State College in Washington, where he pursued his interest in filmmaking by studying cinematography, art and literature. By 1991, he was part of the Disney family, hosting the animation tour at Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando. In 1994, Howard officially joined the Walt Disney Animation Studios in Florida as an inbetweener and clean-up artist on “Pocahontas.” He quickly went on to become an animator on “Mulan” and a supervising animator on “Lilo & Stitch” and “Brother Bear,” as well as doing character design on both those films. Howard later relocated to California where he continued his study of cinematography and drawing as a story artist and character designer at Walt Disney Animation Studios before becoming a director in 2006. Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Oscar®-nominated feature “Bolt” marked Howard’s debut as a feature film director (alongside Chris Williams). Howard also designed some of the characters in that film. Howard loves the collaborative medium of animation because it combines art, cinematography, writing, design, acting and music with a family of supportive and talented artists and crew. Team members inspire each other to achieve something greater than they could alone. In addition to his lifelong passion for animation and a career spanning the last 20+ years, Howard’s interests include art, music, theater, travel and a deep love for animals.
Charise Castro Smith is a writer, producer, co-director and actor originally from Miami, Fla. She earned her MFA from the Yale School of Drama, and her playwrighting credits include “El Huracán” (Yale Rep), “Feathers and Teeth” (Goodman Theatre) and “The Hunchback of Seville” (Washington Ensemble Theatre/ Trinity Repertory Company). Her television credits include “The Haunting of Hill House” (Netflix), “The Exorcist” (Fox) and “Sweetbitter” (Starz).
Yvett Merino, and producer, ENCANTO
Yvett Merino first came to Walt Disney Animation Studios more than 25 years ago, and has worked in a variety of production capacities on some of the most popular animated features of all time. Among her most recent credits, she served as production manager on the Academy Award®-winning feature, “Big Hero 6,” as well as the Oscar®-nominated “Moana.” Launching her Disney Animation career in the Technology department, she moved into the world of Production as a supervisor on “Tangled.” She went on to work with the Stereo team on “The Lion King 3D,” and with various departments on “Wreck-It Ralph.” Merino was also a part of the team that started [email protected], the Studio’s first Latinx employee resource group, where she served as co-president for two years. Merino lives in Los Angeles, Calif., with her family. She holds an MBA from Loyola Marymount University and an undergraduate degree in Sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Jonas Poher Ramussen, Director, FLEE
Jonas Poher Rasmussen is a Danish/French film directorborn in 1981. He debuted in 2006 with the acclaimed TV documentary Something About Halfdan, followed by a series of radio documentaries from around the world. He graduated from the Danish film school Super16 in 2010.His feature film debut Searching for Bill, a mix of documentary and fiction, won him the Nordic Dox award at CPH:DOX, and the international competition prize at DocAviv. In November 2015 he premiered his documentary What He Did, which won the prestigious Fipresci (Int.Federation of Film Critics) at Thessaloniki Film Fest.2016.His new film FLEE, an animated documentary about aclose friend, was officially selected for Cannes 2020, won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, the best doc prize at Gothenburg and the Cristal award at Annecy among others.
Charlotte de La Gournerie, Producer, FLEE
Charlotte De La Gournerie is Executive Producer and Ceo of Sun Creature Denmark & France. She is devoted to bringing meaningful and inspiring entertainment and content to a global audience with the potential to fuel important conversations and bring about positive change.As a Producer, Charlotte is especially drawn to original projects with high ambitions, both in terms of story and visual expression. As a founding member of Sun Creature, Charlotte insists on staying true to the creator’s intention and vision, and is committed to helping creative talents reach their full potential. She allows artists to explore freely in a strong conviction that this is how to best serve the art and cultivate a creative environment. As Co-Founder, Charlotte has high ambitions for Sun Creature and remains strong in her desire to help shape the studio and carve out its unique portfolio.On a personal level, Charlotte has already achieved great recognition. She is renowned for her talks at festivals and venues around Europe where she regularly shares her unique insights into the production.She is currently producing several major animated projects, including both feature films and series. In 2020, Sun Creature’s first feature film FLEE with Charlotte as Animation Producer was awarded the esteemed Cannes label.
Enrico Casarosa, Director, LUCA
Enrico Casarosa joined Pixar Animation Studios in January 2002. He began as a story artist on “Cars” before moving on to work on the Academy Award-winning feature films “Ratatouille” and “Up.” He made his directorial debut with the Academy Award®-nominated short film, “La Luna,” which screened theatrically with “Brave” in 2012. He then went on to work on “The Good Dinosaur” and the Academy Award®-winning feature “Coco.” Casarosa then turned his sights to his own feature film, directing Disney and Pixar’s “Luca,” which released on Disney+ on June 18, 2021. Casarosa found early influences in Hayao Miyazaki’s work and grew up watching Miyazaki’s television series in Italy. Born and raised in Genoa, Casarosa moved to New York City in his twenties, to study animation at the School of Visual Arts and Illustration at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Before coming to Pixar, Casarosa worked as a storyboard artist at Blue Sky Studios on “Ice Age” and “Robots.” He also worked as a background designer and storyboard artist for a number of Disney Channel Television Series’ including “101 Dalmatians” and “PB&J Otters.” Casarosa currently lives in Berkeley, CA with his wife, daughter, and three chickens.
Andrea Warren, Producer, LUCA
Andrea Warren joined Pixar Animation Studios in 1998, when she began as a marketing production assistant on “A Bug’s Life.” She then moved on to be an art department coordinator for the Academy Award®-winning feature, “Monsters, Inc.,” and served as a digital painter for another Academy Award-winning feature, “Finding Nemo.” Warren accepted her first managing role on the Golden Globe®-winning, “Cars,” when she acted as the art department manager. Next, Warren stepped up to production manage Academy Award-winning features, “WALL•E” and “Brave.” Warren made her producing debut with the short film, “LAVA,” and went on to co-produce the feature film “Cars 3.” She most recently served as producer on Disney and Pixar’s newest feature “Luca,” which released on Disney+ on June 18, 2021. Prior to Pixar, Warren interned on the Walt Disney Pictures feature, “James and the Giant Peach,” and was a web editor for JavaSoft. Warren attended Westmont College, a liberal arts college in Santa Barbara. She grew up loving the art of story telling in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and drew early inspiration from Babar books, the Muppets and Star Wars. Warren currently lives in Alameda, CA with her husband and two children.
Mike Rianda, Director/Co-Writer, THE MITCHELLS VS THE MACHINES
Michael Rianda is the writer and director of Sony Pictures Animation’s original feature comedy "The Mitchells vs. The Machines," a very personal project inspired by his own delightfully crazy family, and a childhood infatuation with robots.Rianda was born in Salinas, California in 1984. He faced a hard truth when he was 11 years old: he was a loser that wore sweatpants every day. To try to escape the mockery of his classmates, he began trying to exploit his only two marginal skills: making bad jokes and drawing. The other children still found him to be a loser, but one that drew and said amusing things, and was thus deemed acceptable. This path led him to the California Institute of the Arts where he studied character animation from 2007-2010 and made the short films, “Everybody Dies in 90 Seconds” and “Work.” He has since been employed by Pixar Animation Studios and JibJab, taught at CalArts, and worked at Disney Television Animation where he served as a writer and creative director for the Annie Award-winning TV show, “Gravity Falls.”
Phil Lord, Producer, THE MITCHELLS VS THE MACHINES
Chris Miller, Producer, THE MITCHELLS VS THE MACHINES
Academy Award-winning filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller are the prolific multi-hyphenate duo behind some of today’s most successful films including “Spider-Man: Into the Spider- Verse,” “The Lego Movie,” “The Mitchells vs. the Machines”, “21 & 22 Jump Street,” and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” Known for their unique sensibilities and maverick mindset as writer- producer-directors, Lord and Miller have spent their careers pushing the boundaries of creativity to deliver a fresh, unexpected perspective with each of their projects. Immensely talented and endlessly innovative, the pair’s projects have successfully drawn in audiences of all demographics time and time again, collectively earning over $3.3 billion at the worldwide box office. On the features side, Lord and Miller most recently produced the animated feature “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” which has been called the best animated film of the year and has been awarded multiple critics’ awards. In 2019 Lord and Miller won an Academy Award for their film “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse.” The film, which Lord co-wrote and the pair produced, opened to 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and has been praised by critics for its groundbreaking visuals that bring comic book illustrations to life for the big-screen in an unprecedented way. The film won the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature, along with a BAFTA Award, seven Annie Awards and 20+ Best Animated Feature awards by various critics’ groups including the coveted Broadcast Film Critics Association and Los Angeles and New York Critic groups. Lord Miller has several feature projects in various stages of development including the live- action feature tent-pole “The Last Human,” “Artemis” based on the novel by Andy Weir and Project Hail Mary, an adaptation of Weir’s forthcoming novel, starring Ryan Gosling. They recently wrapped production on “Cocaine Bear,” a unique character-driven thriller written by Jimmy Warden with Elizabeth Banks directing and the adult comedy “Strays” starring Will Ferrell, Jaime Foxx and Will Forte. Other projects in development for Lord Miller include a feature adaptation of Michael Lewis’ best selling novel “The Premonition: A Pandemic Story,” “Everyday Parenting Tips” starring Ryan Reynolds which is based on Simon Rich’s New Yorker short story, a sci-fi adventure feature based on an original idea by Weir and “48 Hours in Vegas” about Dennis Rodman’s legendary trip to Las Vegas during the Chicago Bulls 1998 NBA finals. Additionally, they'll reteam with “21 Jump Street” star Channing Tatum to produce a monster movie and they are writing and producing the upcoming “Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse 2” which is set for release in 2022. In 2014, Lord and Miller wrote and directed “The Lego Movie,” which debuted at #1 and remained on top of the box office for four straight weeks. The film earned over $469 million worldwide and was the 5th highest-grossing domestic feature of 2014. It earned Lord and Miller rave reviews for their imaginative and unique sensibilities, as well as the BAFTA, PGA, and BFCA Critics Choice Awards for Best Animated Feature, the National Board of Review Award for Best Original Screenplay, and The Annie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Writing for an Animated Feature. “The Lego Movie” was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Film and was named one of the top ten films of 2014 on over 75 critics’ lists. The film inspired two spinoffs, “The Lego Ninjago Movie” and “The Lego Batman Movie,” which each opened in 2017 to rave reviews, and great box office and critical success. In 2018, the pair wrote and produced the sequel to the massively successful franchise, “The Lego Movie 2.” Lord and Miller also directed “22 Jump Street,” which debuted at #1 and has garnered over $331 million worldwide, earning Lord and Miller praise for their innate ability to transform unlikely material into cinematic brilliance. Lord and Miller had previously directed the hit action- comedy “21 Jump Street,” which took in over $200 million worldwide in 2012 and earned a Critics Choice Award nomination for Best Comedy. The duo’s first feature was 2009’s “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” which they wrote and directed. The film was loosely based on the beloved children’s book of the same name and earned Lord and Miller a Golden Globe and Critics Choice nomination for Best Animated Feature along with four Annie Award nominations for excellence in animation, including Best Direction and Best Screenplay. On the television side, Lord and Miller have an overall deal at Sony Pictures Television, where they continue to develop live-action and animated series in both comedy and drama. Most recently the duo launched The Afterparty on Apple TV + which was written and directed by Miller and executive produced by Lord. They are also developing a suite of television series based on Sony’s Marvel Characters, led by a live- action series from writer Lauren Moon that will center on the popular “Silk” Spider-Man character. Lord & Miller are also behind the upcoming reimagining of popular series “Clone High,” alongside Bill Lawrence who they co-created the original series with. Previously Lord & Miller were behind the comedy series “The Last Man on Earth,” which was written by and starred Will Forte. The series ran for four seasons and was nominated for five Primetime Emmy Awards, including a nomination for Lord and Miller for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series. They were also behind the comedy series “Bless the Harts” which was created by Emily Spivey. Lord and Miller’s collaboration began when the pair met as students at Dartmouth College. The two contend it was a mistake that landed them a job developing Saturday morning cartoons, which led to their stint developing primetime animated.
Carlos López Estrada, Co-Director, RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON
Carlos López Estrada joined Walt Disney Animation Studios in late Spring 2019, and is a member of the Studios’ story trust. In addition to “Raya and the Last Dragon,” he has another animated feature in development. López Estrada’s debut film, “Blindspotting,” premiered opening night at Sundance 2018 and subsequently sold to Lionsgate for a theatrical release. The film was produced by Snoot Entertainment and stars Daveed Diggs. López Estrada was selected for Variety’s “10 Directors to Watch” for 2018 List and was nominated by the Directors Guild of America (DGA) for Outstanding Directorial Achievement of a First-Time Feature Film Director for 2018. His second film, “Summertime,” premiered opening night of Sundance 2020 and will be released next year. On the TV side, López Estrada directed an episode of FX’s “Legion” and has an original piece in development at UCP. López Estrada is also a prolific music video/commercial director and a founding partner of the multi-disciplined production studio, Little Ugly. He’s won a Latin Grammy for an animated video he directed for artists Jesse & Joy, which established him as the youngest director to win a Latin Grammy to date. He’s worked with musicians such as Billie Eilish, Father John Misty, Thundercat and Flying Lotus, Carly Rae Jepsen, Capital Cities, Clipping and Passion Pit. Carlos lives in Los Angeles, CA with his dog Cous and a large family of plants.
Adele Lim, Co-Writer, RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON
Adele Lim is a writer-producer for film and television whose credits include, in addition to “Raya and the Last Dragon,” “Crazy Rich Asians.” A Malaysian native of Chinese descent, she came to the U.S. at age 19 and graduated from Emerson College in Boston. She has 17 years of experience writing and producing primetime television dramas, including “Private Practice” and “Lethal Weapon,” and was the co-showrunner and executive producer of “Star-Crossed.”
Osnat Shurer, Producer, RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON
Osnat Shurer, p.g.a. previously produced the 2016 Academy Award®–nominated “Moana.” Shurer joined Walt Disney Animation Studios in 2012 as vice president of development, working with filmmakers to move features and shorts through the creative process. As producer of “Moana,” Shurer helped manage the film through story, script, music and casting, and led the film’s partnership with publicity, marketing and consumer products. Shurer also created the film’s Oceanic Story Trust, a team of Pacific Islander consultants from the islands with whom production collaborated closely throughout the making of “Moana.” Previously Shurer served as the executive producer of the shorts group at Pixar Animation Studios, responsible for Pixar’s short films. While at Pixar, Shurer produced or executive produced a host of hit shorts, including the Oscar®-nominated “Lifted” (2006), “One Man Band” (2005) and “Boundin’” (2003). Her credits at Pixar also include video shorts like “Jack-Jack Attack” and “The Adventures of Mr. Incredible.” Shurer’s duties at Pixar also included creating and supervising an in-house documentary department to produce DVD bonus material content and other archival materials, as well as overseeing the development and production of commercials and theme park attractions. For “The Incredibles,” Shurer produced and directed “Vowellet: An Essay by Sara Vowell” and executive produced “The Making of ‘The Incredibles.’” She also produced “Exploring the Reef with Jean-Michel Cousteau” for director Andrew Stanton, in conjunction with the release of “Finding Nemo.” At Pixar, Shurer was also responsible for helping to create several cutting-edge multimedia shows, including MoMA’s impressive “Pixar: 20 Years of Animation,” which opened in 2006 and went on to travel the world. The exhibit featured “Artscape,” a widescreen projection space that provided viewers with a unique digital artistic experience, and “Zoetrope,” a dynamic 3D installation, modeled on pre-cinema technology, which used dimensional character sculptures to simulate continuous motion. Shurer was consulting producer on the 2011 Golden Globe®–nominated feature “Arthur Christmas.” Prior to joining Pixar in 2002, Shurer produced and directed film and television in various media—live action, animation, live television and various interactive presentations for museums. She worked on documentaries and narrative films throughout the world, in such places as India, China, Tibet, Japan, Africa and Europe, with directors ranging from Michelangelo Antonioni to Alfonso Cuarón. Shurer was born in Israel, and, as the child of an airline executive, she grew up in many parts of the world. She received a degree in film from New York University and resides in Los Angeles, Calif.
Dan Sarto (Moderator), Editor-in-chief of Animation World Network
Dan Sarto is co-founder and publisher of Animation World Network, AWN.com, the largest, most comprehensive and respected source for animation news and information resources on the Internet. Key publications and industry portal websites include AnimationWorld Magazine, VFXWorld Magazine, AWNtv, the Animation Blogspot, the Animation Industry Database as well as the Animation Flash, AWN Spotlight, AWNtv Spotlight and VFXNewswire newsletters. Each month, AWN's portals are visited by over 300,000 unique readers from more than 100 countries. Dan and his business partner Ron Diamond founded AWN in 1995. They officially launched the online monthly AnimationWorld Magazine and accompanying animation portal website on April 1, 1996 with a vision to bridge the physical boundaries that separated the world's animation community with a wide-ranging array of interesting and entertaining animation related information. Now in their 19th year of publishing, Dan and AWN have stayed true to their goals, passion and deep commitment to provide the professional and enthusiast communities a cohesive assembly of the best animation, visual effects and related resources that exist today, in an interactive and enjoyable environment. Dan frequently speaks about animation at industry events, having served on juries, delivered keynotes or moderated panels at events such as the Hong Kong Entertainment Expo, 3D Festival, FMX, VIEW Conference and VIEWFest, London Effects and Animation Festival, eDIT VES and VES Festivals as well as the Ottawa and Annecy International Animation Film Festivals.