Source: WIA

WIA members including president Marge Dean (centre)

“Animation, in all its forms, is the future of entertainment,” according to Marge Dean, president of Women In Animation (WIA), at the  organisation’s eight annual summit in Annecy this week.

 “Around the world there are new animation industries developing because of the potential to create jobs, tell stories, and celebrate cultures. The challenge is going to be to build these industries without too much dependence on Hollywood – the concept, not the location.”

In her opening day address on June 10, Dean said she  “did not believe” substantial layoffs signified “the end of the animation industry. “

Companies including Pixar, Sony and Paramount have all made hundreds of redundancies in their animation divisions, across film, series, gaming and other visual media in 2024.

“Boy, it’s a tough time for some of us in the animation community,” said Dean. “Some believe the animation industry has imploded on itself.”

Dean compared thesituation to the “dot com bubble” in the 1990s, adding that the “human cost” of current business practices was “devastating.”

However she noted the rise in popularity of anime as a reason for hope. “I don’t believe it’s the end of the animation industry. I think the industry is evolving,” said Dean. “Anime is exploding in popularity to the point where it overshadows the metrics of all the other forms of entertainment and is leading the way for an explosion of adult, genre animation like Invincible, Arcane, Scavenger’s Reign and Blue Eye-Samurai.”

The summit filled its 300-seat venue throughout the four sessions of the day, with several hundred simultaneous viewers on a livestream.

As it has been all week at Annecy, artificial intelligence was a major topic, including during a panel titled ‘The Creative Impact of the Technology Revolution.’ Panellists advocated for guidelines to protect creatives, but also saw opportunities for gender balancing.

“We’re not afraid of this new revolution,” said Janet Lewin, senior vice president of Lucasfilm visual effects and general manager of Industrial Light & Magic. “Technology is really an enabler, especially for women, because the playing field is more level, and [it can] nurture creative storytellers.”

Limitless Studios CEO Agnes Soyode-Johnson addressed the topic of representation in her panel ‘What Now? Global Opportunities In Animation’, through her family experience. “I saw there really wasn’t much [animation] that spoke to [my son] as a Black child, as a black African child living in Africa with an African name,” said Soyode-Johnson. “Where’s the content that he can watch and see himself in? Representation for kids is just as important as representation for adults. Just like we want to see ourselves in the content we consume, so do kids as well.”

The event also saw the opening of the 2024 WIA Membership Fund. Last year’s fund raised over $50,000 to support 1,000 WIA members facing financial barriers.