Michael Fukushima Michael Fukushima

Michael Fukushima has stepped down as executive producer of the English Animation Studio at the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). The public organization confirmed to Cartoon Brew that Fukushima announced his retirement on Tuesday.

A selection committee will hire his replacement. Julie Roy, the NFB’s director general of creation and innovation, will serve as interim head of the studio in the meantime.

Fukushima led the studio for more than seven years, in which capacity he shaped its slate and strategic vision. He first came to the NFB in 1990 to direct the short film Minoru: Memory of Exile. He joined the organization as an animation producer in 1997, and in 2002 he co-founded its emerging filmmaker program, Hothouse.

In all, Fukushima has produced or executive-produced more than 200 works at the NFB. His filmography boasts multiple Oscar nominees: Torill Kove’s Me and My Moulton, Patrick Doyon’s Sunday, and Animal Behaviour by David Fine and Alison Snowden. Other notable credits include Koji Yamamura’s Muybridge’s Strings, Elizabeth Hobbs’s I’m OK, Luc Chamberland’s Seth’s Dominion, Christopher Hinton’s cNote, and, recently, Joanna Quinn’s Affairs of the Art.

In his time at the NFB, Fukushima strove to increase diversity at the organization, both in its films and behind the scenes. In 2018, he received a Diversity Award from Women in Animation for helping make the NFB one of the first animation organizations to reach gender parity. The Hothouse program has nurtured filmmakers from under-represented backgrounds, sometimes explicitly: the latest edition was focused on Indigenous creators.

In December 2019, we sat with Fukushima and Roy in the NFB’s new Montreal offices for an in-depth interview about their work. Read the first part here and the second part here.

Recent years have seen change at the organization. Falling production budgets caused tensions between artists and management, prompting hundreds of filmmakers to revolt against the reappointment of NFB film commissioner Claude Joli-Coeur in 2019. The commissioner subsequently promised closer consultations with creators both inside and outside the NFB.

Last May, Roy, who was previously Fukushima’s counterpart at the French Animation Studio, was promoted to her current role. Christine Noël was named as the new executive producer of the French Animation Studio in December.

Read our two-part interview with NFB animation heads Michael Fukushima and Julie Roy