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CAPE Teams with Sony to Launch Animation Directors Accelerator for API Creatives

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Animation in the United States is a particularly interesting industry because it’s so heavily impacted and inspired by Asian art and culture, and yet there are shockingly few Asian creatives in positions of leadership. It’s always disappointing to look up a beloved animated projected that clearly incorporates Asian aesthetics or is influenced by Asian stories, and yet there are no Asian creatives involved at the top.

In recognition of this problem, the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE), one of the most impactful groups supporting Asian and Pacific Islanders in Hollywood, has teamed with Sony Pictures Entertainment to launch the inaugural Animation Directors Accelerator program, designed to equip and support Asian and Pacific Islander leaders in animation. Justinian Huang (VP, Creative, Sony Pictures Animation) and Michelle Wong (Producer, Vivo) will co-chair the initiative, which is CAPE’s third incubator program.

CAPE Animation Directors Accelerator Co-Chair Michelle Wong (Producer, Vivo) Credit: Sony Pictures Animation
CAPE Animation Directors Accelerator Co-Chair Michelle Wong (Producer, Vivo)
Credit: Sony Pictures Animation

The program will feature a series of panels, workshops, and masterclasses from high-level executives, producers, and creatives in the animation industry, as well as one-on-one executive mentorship for the participants. Submissions for the inaugural program are open now, and will close on September 30th. Given the current state of events, the 2021 program will be virtual and Sony will cover all application fees. It’s really great to see that Sony is invested in a critically important program like this.

Check out all the details below and be sure to apply by September 30th if you’re interested! I’m greatly looking forward to seeing some incredible Asian leaders in animation come from this program!

CAPE Animation Directors Accelerator Co-Chair Justinian Huang (VP, Creative, Sony Pictures Animation) Credit: Ben Yi
CAPE Animation Directors Accelerator Co-Chair Justinian Huang (VP, Creative, Sony Pictures Animation)
Credit: Ben Yi

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CAPE PARTNERS WITH  SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT TO LAUNCH FIRST OF ITS KIND  INITIATIVE FOR ASIAN AND PACIFIC ISLANDER CREATIVE VOICES IN ANIMATION

Los Angeles, SEPTEMBER 1, 2021 CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment), the premier non-profit organization creating opportunities and driving success for Asian and Pacific Islanders in Hollywood for the past 30 years, is setting its sights on Animation. CAPE’s Board Chair Sanjay Sharma and Executive Director Michelle K. Sugihara announced today the CAPE Animation Directors Accelerator, a new initiative to identify and train the next generation of animation leaders, powered by Sony Pictures Entertainment, parent company of animation titan Sony Pictures Animation. Submissions open on September 1 and continue through September 30, with Sony Pictures Entertainment covering application fees for this inaugural year. 

Selected rising animation directors will hone both their artistic and leadership skills through a series of panels, workshops, and masterclasses from high-level executives, producers, and creatives in the animation industry, as well as receive one-on-one executive mentorship. Ideal candidates will have 5+ years in the animation field or related entertainment industry, and ambitions of being the creative lead for animation film or episodic projects. More information can be found here.

The accelerator is co-chaired by Justinian Huang (Vice President, Creative, Sony Pictures Animation) and Michelle Wong (Producer, VIVO) who will help vet submissions and coordinate opportunities for program participants.

“Studies show that children as young as 5 years old are capable of racial biases, which highlights the importance of authentic storytelling in animation,” said CAPE Executive Director Michelle K. Sugihara. “Furthermore, we know that when Directors and EPs behind the camera are diverse, it leads to more diverse crew and stories. Despite the relative number of Asians working in animation, there are woefully few Asian or Pacific Islander studio animation directors or EPs, making this a critical pressure point to accelerate change in the industry.”

“We’ve enjoyed a long partnership with CAPE and it was important to us to support this significant initiative to increase the exposure and opportunity for Asian and Pacific Islander talent even beyond our doors,” said Paul Martin, Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Chief Diversity Officer. 

As Vice President of Creative at Sony Pictures Animation, co-chair Justinian Huang is responsible for overseeing creative development of a number of animated features and series at the studio, including “K-POP: DEMON HUNTERS” directed by Maggie Kang & Chris Appelhans. Prior to joining Sony Animation, Huang was Head of Development at Pearl Studio in Shanghai, where he led the team that oversaw the historic co-productions “KUNG FU PANDA 3” and “ABOMINABLE” in partnership with DreamWorks Animation, as well as the studio’s most recent film, the Netflix original “OVER THE MOON,” which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2021. Huang was also the executive in charge of the upcoming Netflix original “THE MONKEY KING,” which will be Stephen Chow’s first global animated film. In his last year at Pearl, he launched a new slate of projects helmed entirely by Asian directors.

Currently at Netflix, co-chair Michelle Wong is one of the producers behind Sony Pictures Animation’s original animated musical “VIVO,” which features brand new songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creative force behind the Broadway smash “Hamilton,” and is available now on Netflix. Wong has 18 years of experience in feature animation and has worked on “CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS,” “HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA,” and “HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2.” Prior to producing “VIVO,” she produced the 2017 feature, “SURF’S UP 2: WAVEMANIA,” directed by Henry Yu.

“Excitingly, there are more pathways to becoming a director in animation than ever before,” said Huang. “This accelerator invites the most talented folks out there to join us in navigating those paths, strategically and mentally, as we launch a new class of directors that finally reflects the abundance of the AAPI community in animation.” Wong adds, “It’s time to look beyond the current state of directors in animation. This is a groundbreaking opportunity that will give exposure to a community that has a wealth of originality and innovation.”

It was just a few years ago that animation was denigrated as an exclusive “boys club.” But today, most Hollywood studio heads in feature animation are now women. Similarly, the pathways to becoming a director in animation have evolved as well, as the desire for authentic storytelling and diverse ideas appears to be opening the door to historically underrepresented creatives. The CAPE Animation Directors Accelerator is a necessary component to propel the change, because it takes more than just artistic talent to become an animation director. Tune in to learn more about this important issue and the CAPE Animation Directors Accelerator at the Lightbox Expo Online on September 11, 2021 at 1pm PT!

The CAPE Animation Directors Accelerator joins other industry-renowned CAPE initiatives such as the CAPE New Writers Fellowship and the CAPE Leaders Fellowship. CAPE is also incubating several other initiatives, including ones for assistants and stand-up comedians, as well as the CAPE Database, a public-facing database for Asian and Pacific Islander talent, executives, reps, and more. 

About CAPE

CAPE is the premier non-profit organization creating opportunities and driving change for Asian and Pacific Islander (API) success in Hollywood. We work to shift culture through storytelling to create a better world. For the past 30 years, we have fought for API representation in film and television, because what we watch on our screens should reflect the world in which we live and project a better one. CAPE advances representation for APIs in Hollywood through three main verticals: (1) nurturing and engaging creative talent and executive leadership; (2) providing cultural content consulting and talent referrals; and (3) championing projects for critical box office and streaming success. Follow @CAPEUSA on Instagram and Twitter or like CAPE on Facebook. For additional information, visit capeusa.org.

About Sony Pictures Entertainment

Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) is a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Group Corporation. SPE’s global operations encompass motion picture production, acquisition, and distribution; television production, acquisition, and distribution; television networks; digital content creation and distribution; operation of studio facilities; and development of new entertainment products, services and technologies. Sony Pictures Television operates dozens of wholly-owned or joint-venture production companies around the world. SPE’s Motion Picture Group production organizations include Columbia Pictures, Screen Gems, TriStar Pictures, 3000 Pictures, Sony Pictures Animation, Stage 6 Films, AFFIRM Films, Sony Pictures International Productions, and Sony Pictures Classics. For additional information, visit http://www.sonypictures.com/corp/divisions.html.

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Ron is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of POC Culture.  He is a big believer in the power and impact of pop culture and the importance of representation in media.

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