More change is afoot at the National Film Board of Canada, whose English Animation Studio is being restructured.

The unit, which resides at the NFB’s Montreal headquarters, is merging with the organization’s Vancouver-based Digital Studio. The new entity will be called the Animation and Interactive Studio. It will be led by Rob McLaughlin, who has been in the role on an interim basis since May 2021, following the retirement of studio head Michael Fukushima.

The Digital Studio has focused on experimenting with new mediums and technologies. It has published six to ten works a year, ranging from virtual and augmented reality to mobile games, art installations, and websites.

Based in Montreal and Vancouver, the new studio will continue to produce interactive and immersive works alongside films. It will be “in a privileged position to better connect with talent regardless of region and strengthened in its ability to provide specialized technical and administration support to its production teams,” wrote Julie Roy, the NFB’s director general, creation and innovation in a letter to industry colleagues shared with Cartoon Brew.

McLaughlin will define the programming strategy for animated and interactive projects, and will also be responsible for the studio’s financial and human-resource management. His team will include producers Maral Mohammadian, Jelena Popović, Dana Dansereau, and Nicholas Klassen.

Prior to his new role, McLaughlin had led the Digital Studio since 2016, and had served as director of digital content and strategy in an earlier stint from 2008 to 2011. Projects he has produced include Bear 71, Welcome to Pine Point, and Biidaaban: First Light VR. He has also held executive roles at Postmedia Network and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

The restructuring concerns the NFB’s English Program. The organization also has a French Program, which contains its own Animation Studio headed by Christine Noël, as well as a separate Interactive Studio. Both are based in Montreal.

Recent years have seen plenty of change at the NFB. 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. In response, the commissioner consulted widely with creators.

The NFB then released its 2020–23 strategic plan, under which the organization vowed to seek more funding and promote the voices of its filmmakers in decision making. The plan also stressed the need to make NFB content more widely available on digital platforms.

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