We Fixed The Hollywood Reporter’s Animation Roundtable

By  · Published on December 16th, 2016

Just to prove how easy it is.

On Wednesday, The Hollywood Reporter released its 2016 Animation Roundtable to the world. That, in itself, isn’t particularly newsworthy (aside from the fact that animation is awesome, of course) but…well, here, have a look for yourself:

First, the picture: Why, yes, that is a panel consisting of all white men. It’s not the first time this has happened and it infuriatingly won’t be the last (but at least this Tumblr account and also this one will always have fresh content).

Second, the headline: “Seth Rogen and 6 More on Avoiding Ethnic Stereotypes and How to ‘Break the Mold’ of Princesses.” We can’t think of anyone more qualified to speak to ethnic stereotypes and breaking the mold of princesses than a group of white men. Totally.

There’s absolutely zero excuse for this: if you’ve somehow ended up with an all male and/or all white panel, go back and try again. It’s especially frustrating because the 2014 Animation Roundtable included Bonnie Arnold (producer, How To Train Your Dragon 2) and Jorge Gutierrez (director, The Book of Life).

Now, if you’re thinking that maybe there just “weren’t any people of color or women animation filmmakers,” you couldn’t be more wrong and we’re maybe (definitely) rolling our eyes at you. In fact, to prove it we decided to “fix” the THR roundtable. Aside from two incredibly obvious choices, the rest only took a minor bit of internet research. Imagine that!

Presenting the much less-white, less-male 2016 Animation Roundtable, AKA the roundtable we wish we had:

Jennifer Yuh Nelson (co-director, Kung Fu Panda 3)

All together now: duh. Not only was she co-director on this year’s Kung Fu Panda 3, she solely directed Kung Fu Panda 2 (making her one of the few women directors working with a budget over $100 million ‐ $150 million to be exact). Before directing, she was head of story for the first Kung Fu Panda and worked as a story artist for films like Madagascar. Nelson would be queen of this roundtable and we’d all bow down before her.

“At the time of the first movie, when everything was transforming over to CGI, everyone was all excited about CGI and they became used to seeing it. 2D is such an amazing art form, and it can’t be lost.” ‐ Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Deadline

Osnat Shurer (producer, Moana)

Before working for Disney, Shurer was at Pixar as one of the heads in their “shorts” department (covering basically anything that wasn’t a feature film, including theme park rides and other such magical things). At Disney, she worked on early development for Zootopia and then took a producing role on Moana.

“We don’t have a great track record in films in general, in Hollywood, of telling great stories about women, especially about strong women. And Moana is a hero, and [the film is] an adventure story in which she goes out to save her world and with her, there is a really special combination of compassion and emotional intelligence and empathy, with courage and strength and bad-assery.” ‐ Osnat Shurer, Inside the Magic

Arianne Sutner (producer, Kubo and the Two Strings)

Sutner first worked with LAIKA ‐ the animation company responsible for stunning stop-motion films like Coraline and The Boxtrolls ‐ on the animated hit ParaNorman. Prior to that, she produced the animation sequence in Life, Aquatic (squee!), and was a Line Producer for KaBlam! (raise your hand if you remember that show!).

“Ideally as a producer my fantasy is that you create at the beginning a little corner of the world and you have your puppets in it and they match and you have your set and there it is. And sometimes it just develops and sometimes it happens really quickly too.” ‐ Arianne Sutner, Collider

Claude Barras (director, My Life as Courgette)

We’re not trying to fool you: Barras is a male Swiss animator. But there needs to be more love for foreign animated films on this roundtable and My Life as Courgette (also titled My Life as a Zucchini) is the perfect place to start. It recently won Best Animated Feature at the European Film Awards and was just shortlisted for Best Foreign Language Film at the upcoming Academy Awards.

“Stop motion is nearly like a family story for me, since I work with the same team for a very long time. My fascination with it is how you end up developing such a familiarity and nearly an affectivity with the puppets. In one way, you know very well how it’s made. We saw them being built and we know how it’s constructed, yet the first day of a shooting when they arrive, you have an emotion. You have a relationship with it.” ‐ Claude Barras, Deadline

Kira Lehtomaki (animation supervisor, Zootopia)

Prior to working on Zootopia, Lehtomaki worked on Frozen, Wreck-It Ralph, and Tangled…to name a few. She’s stated in interviews that she always wanted to be an animator when she grew up, which is both incredibly inspiring and totally roundtable worthy.

“Animators are just actors. We’re either actors with a pencil or a mouse. We have the voice actor come in and provide the vocal performance, and then we’re really responsible for the physical performance. … We have to move the characters to make you believe that voice is coming out of them.” ‐ Kira Lehtomaki, Michael J Cinema

Amy Lawson Smeed (co-head of animation, Moana)

Apparently Disney has never had a female head of animation on one of their films because Smeed is being touted as the first. To which we say: excuse us? And also: about time—come join this roundtable! Prior to Moana, she worked on other Disney films like Frozen and the short Paperman.

“I’d say there’s less than 15 of us. There’s probably around 10, 12, 13 female animators.” ‐ Amy Laweson Smeed, Detroit Free Press

Yong Duk Jhun (cinematographer, Trolls)

Yup, even animated films need the expertise and craft of a cinematographer. Without them, their crazy imagined worlds would have no framing or sense of space. Jhun was also the cinematographer for Kung Fu Panda. Having him at the roundtable would be an incredibly unique opportunity to get a perspective on what cinematography is like for a computer animated film.

“Yong Duk was also great at differentiating our action scenes, where we used deep space, from our drama scenes, where we used flat space. It’s something that you subconsciously feel and helps make the action scenes break out. The reason is you really see movement with deep space. You feel you’re moving with the actors.” ‐ Kung Fu Panda director John Stevenson, Newsarama

Galen T. Chu (co-director, Ice Age: Collision Course)

Before co-directing Ice Age 3, Chu worked as an animator on the prior films in the franchise and movies like Horton Hears A Who! and Rio. He also might be the only person who knows if Scrat the squirrel will ever get his damn acorn and is therefore integral to this roundtable.

“I love Scrat; he’s lovable and the reaction he gets from audiences in terms of his physical comedy is amazing. I was an animator at the forefront prior to being a director, so I worked a lot on Sid and with John Leguizamo, so I have a special connection with that character. He’s also lovable, and John is cool.” ‐ Galen T Chu, The Young Folks

Natalie Lyon (casting director, Finding Dory)

Lyon has been responsible for the casting of some of Pixar’s biggest hits, including Inside Out, Up!, Toy Story 3, and Cars 2. Casting human roles is hard enough, but imagine trying to cast for a car or a beluga whale. Bless you, Natalie Lyon.

“I really like that nobody says, ‘Find somebody really famous.’ If you look at our casts, you can see that there are definitely people who wouldn’t necessarily be known,” Lyon said, noting Inside Out scene-stealer Sadness, voiced by Phyllis Smith (The Office). ‐ Backstage

Lin-Manuel Miranda (songs, Moana)

Listen, the roundtable needs a big name for the headline and who is bigger, right now, than Lin-Manuel Miranda? Exactly. Also, the work he did with Opetaia Foa’i and Mark Mancina on the music for Moana shows incredible sensitivity to culture and history and it would be valuable to hear his insight on that (And if we’re lucky, maybe he’d rap for us).

“So, we sort of immersed ourselves in this world, and then Opetaia [FoaʻI], Mark [Mancina] and I jumped into a studio and just started banging on drums and really tried to find the pulse of this thing, in a way that honored the unique musical heritage and incredible rhythms that come out of this part of the world.” ‐ Lin-Manuel Miranda, Collider

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