CAPE Partners with Sony to Amplify Asian & Pacific Islander Voices in Animation

CAPE Partners with Sony to Amplify Asian & Pacific Islander Voices in Animation

Having successfully run development programs for screenwriters and creative executives for many years, the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment is now setting its sights on animation.

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, CAPE’s Board Chair Sanjay Sharma and Executive Director Michelle K. Sugihara announced On Sept 2, 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. It’s designed to equip and support Asian and Pacific Islander leaders in animation.

“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.

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 five-plus years in the animation field or related entertainment industry, and ambitions of being the creative lead for animation film or episodic projects.

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.

Sony Pictures Animation vice president of creative Justinian Huang and Michelle Wong, producer of SPA and Netflix’s Vivo, are co-chairing the accelerator. Huang currently is overseeing creative development on the feature K-Pop: Demon Hunters, and prior to joining Sony in April he was head of development at Shanghai’s Pearl Studio, where he under his watch the studio produced Netflix’s Oscar-nominated Over the Moon as well as Kung Fu Panda 3 and Abominable with DreamWorks Animation.

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.”

Added Wong, whose 18 years of feature animation experience has currently landed her at Netflix, in a statement: “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.”

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.

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