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Comic-Con 2016: Five Must-See Animation Panels

San Diego Comic-Con International has evolved over the last 46 years from a traditional comic convention into a pop culture free-for-all that covers film, TV series, comics, toys, games, and yes, animation.

The 2016 edition, which begins today, will offer as usual countless previews and panels dedicated to mainstream animation. The only difference is that lately Comic-Con has lost pole position to Annecy for exclusive previews of major animation projects. Last month, for example, Annecy hosted previews of Samurai Jack, Trolls, and Moana, all of which will be presented this week at Comic-Con, too.

You can find a list of all the animation events on Comic-Con’s lineup on their web site. Between the exhibit hall and all the extracurricular activities, it can be difficult to find time to attend the panels and screenings, so I’ve picked just five events that sound like solid bets for the animation community. Have fun!

The Giant’s Dream: Documentary Screening & Chat with Brad Bird

Friday, July 22, 10:00-11:30am
From hundreds of hours of archival footage and myriad modern-day interviews comes a documentary that puts an in-depth spotlight on the beloved 1999 animated film The Iron Giant. Director Brad Bird (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, The Incredibles, Ratatouille) will lead a discussion following a final cut screening of this fascinating documentary that examines the intricate, behind-the-scenes details of the creative process in bringing this critically acclaimed film to the big screen. Author Ramin Zahed moderates.

di-VR-sity: Opportunities in VR/AR and Immersive Storytelling

Friday, July 22, 11:00am-12:00pm
This panel will highlight talented and diverse individuals who are making waves in virtual reality and augmented reality storytelling. These forward-thinkers will discuss emerging opportunities for women and other minority voices in this innovative medium. The panelists will also touch on the “state of VR” as an industry, including trends and different approaches to content in VR. The panel will culminate with tips for aspiring VR filmmakers and an audience Q&A. Moderators: Jonathan Nafarrete (editor-in-chief, VRScout.com) & Jana Davidoff (senior publicist, CW3PR). Panelists include Christina Heller (co-founder/CEO, VR Playhouse), Jenn Duong (director of VR, 1215creative), Evette Vargas (producer/writer/director, Digital-Reign Productions), Elia Petridis (founder/CEO, Filmatics Creative Services), Helen Situ (VR evangelist, NextVR) and Maureen Fan (CEO, Baobab Studios).

Cartoon Legends Speak: Diversity in the History of Animation

Friday, July 22, 1:30-2:30pm
A panel featuring great artists including Disney Legend and first African American animator hired at Walt Disney Studios, Floyd Norman (The Jungle Book, Monsters, Inc.), first African-American animator to get a screen credit and award-winning illustrator Ron Husband (The Rescuers, The Little Mermaid), Japanese American and Inkpot winner Willie Ito (Lady and the Tramp, The Flintstones), Jane Baer (Sleeping Beauty, Roger Rabbit) and Emmy Award-winning Mexican-American Phil Roman (Sleeping Beauty, The Simpsons). They’ll discuss their careers, their futures, and how diversity has played a role in their artistic lives. Moderated by Leslie Combemale of Animation Scoop.

She Made That: Nickelodeon Women in Animation

Friday, July 22, 6:30-7:30pm
A group of innovative and pioneering female cartoon creators discuss their careers and the opportunities for women in animation today. Panelists include women responsible for the original Nicktoons from the 1990s and others who are making some of today’s best animation for TV and the web. Hosted by Laura Prudom (Variety) and including panelists Lauren Faust (My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic), Mary Harrington (The Ren & Stimpy Show, Rocko’s Modern Life), Vanessa Coffey (Rugrats, Doug), Rikke Asbjoern (Pinky Malinky), Margaret Dean (Women in Animation), and Maija Burnett (California Institute of the Arts).

Storyboarding to Comics and Back Again

Saturday, July 23, 1:00-2:00pm
This program will focus on the profession of storyboarding in animation for TV and features as well as for live action and how those that work in the field are finding their voices in comics and graphic novels-and visa versa. Moderated by Jim Higgins (former DC Comics editor, comic arts professor), panelists are Peter Paul (storyboard artist at Warner Bros., Dreamworks, Disney, comic artist, instructor), Megan Nicole Dong (director/storyboard artist, Nickelodeon), Johane Matte (animator, storyboard artist, comic artist), Steve Ahn (storyboards on Legends of Korra, comic artist), Shannon Denton (storyboard artist, writer, comics artist), Fran Krause (professor, animator, comics artist), and Dan Panosian (professional comics artist and storyboard artist).

(Header photo: The Geekiary)