Linda Simensky Upped to Head of Content for PBS KIDS

Accomplished kids’ TV exec Linda Simensky has been promoted to the new role of Head of PBS KIDS Content. Simensky will lead the development of a multi-platform video content strategy for PBS KIDS, designed to respond to the quickly evolving media environment and meet the needs of current and future viewers. In this expanded role, she will spearhead new, experimental approaches for emerging platforms to engage kids and support their learning, developing a slate of content that represents the next generation of children.

Simensky will continue to lead PBS KIDS’ children’s programming and maintain the pipeline of children’s programs for PBS stations’ primary channels and PBS KIDS 24/7 channel. She will continue to report to Lesli Rotenberg, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager for Children’s Media and Education, PBS.

“Linda is a world-class industry leader who has developed PBS KIDS content that kids love and parents trust,” said Rotenberg. “I look forward to her leadership as we expand on our mission of creating high-quality, educational, and entertaining multi-platform video content for the next generation of children.”

Since joining PBS in 2003, Simensky has worked with renowned producers to develop hit shows that now reach 72% of all kids ages 2-8 in the U.S. on television, and 10.9 million monthly users across digital platforms – such as animated favorites Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Wild Kratts and Dinosaur Train or live-action hit Odd Squad. Her efforts to transform PBS KIDS’ content have brought PBS to the forefront of the children’s media space. The American public rates PBS KIDS as the most trusted educational media brand for children, and PBS KIDS programs consistently rank highly with moms and preschoolers. PBS KIDS has been named Channel of the Year in Kidscreen’s broadcasting awards for five out of the past seven years.

Before joining PBS, Simensky was Senior Vice President of Original Animation for Cartoon Network, where she oversaw series development and production, working on shows including The Powerpuff Girls. She began her career at Nickelodeon, where she helped build the animation department and launch the popular series Rugrats, Doug and The Ren & Stimpy Show.

Simensky is a frequent speaker and writer on the topic of children’s programming; she has presented at numerous national and international animation and television conferences and her work has appeared in several books on animation and children’s media. She also teaches college courses on the topic of animation at her alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania.

Animation Magazine

Disney Appoints Andrew Millstein Blue Sky Co-Prez, Clark Spencer Upped to Disney Animation Prez

With the recent addition of Blue Sky Studios to Disney’s portfolio of film studios, The Walt Disney Studios’ Chief Creative Officer and Co-Chairman Alan Horn and Co-Chairman Alan Bergman announced today that Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS) President Andrew Millstein and Zootopia producer and longtime creative executive Clark Spencer are stepping into new leadership roles at Disney’s animation studios.

As Blue Sky prepares to build out its upcoming film slate, Millstein will join the studio as Co-President alongside Co-President Robert Baird. Baird will continue to drive the creative direction of the studio reporting to Horn and Bergman, and Millstein will oversee day-to-day operations. Millstein will report to Jim Morris, who will expand his duties with a supervisory role at Blue Sky outside of his role as President, Pixar Animation Studios.

Spencer has been named President, Walt Disney Animation Studios, reporting to Bergman and working alongside WDAS Chief Creative Officer Jennifer Lee, who continues to report to Horn and Bergman.

“We are incredibly proud of the strength and depth of leadership in our animation studios, and Andrew, Clark, and Jim are all exemplars of that. The remarkable success of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios over the past decade is due in large part to the respective leadership of Andrew and Jim and their ability to foster creativity, technology, and culture in equal parts, and we are thrilled that they will be lending their experience to the Blue Sky team along with Robert Baird’s creative guidance,” said Horn and Bergman. “Clark has been an invaluable leader and contributor at Disney Animation, combining exceptional creative and business instincts, and we’re so pleased he will be leading this historic studio in a key role alongside Jennifer Lee.”

A 22-year Disney veteran, Andrew Millstein has served as President of Walt Disney Animation Studios since 2014 and General Manager of WDAS since 2008. Under his leadership, the studio has produced such creative and commercial successes as the Academy Award-winning billion-dollar hits Frozen and Zootopia, as well as Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Big Hero 6 and Moana.

Clark Spencer has been with Disney for nearly 30 years, during which he has produced five Oscar-nominated feature films for Walt Disney Animation Studios. He received both an Academy Award and a Producers Guild Award for Zootopia, as well as a PGA Award for Wreck-It Ralph, and is also the producer of hit films Lilo & Stitch, Bolt and Ralph Breaks the Internet. Spencer began his career at Disney in strategic planning and finance, later overseeing all production and operations at Florida-based Disney Feature Animation as Senior Vice President and General Manager. He earned his MBA in 1990 at Harvard Business School.

Jim Morris has been with Pixar since 2005. As General Manager since 2008 and President since 2014, Morris has overseen a hugely successful and critically acclaimed slate of films that include Wall-E, which he produced, Up, Toy Story 3, Inside Out, Coco and, most recently, Toy Story 4. Prior to joining Pixar, he spent nearly 20 years in executive roles at Lucasfilm.

Animation Magazine

Peilin Chou Upped to CCO of Oriental DreamWorks; 5 Films Announced

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Oriental DreamWorks has promoted Peilin Chou to the post of Chief Creative Officer and revealed five new feature film projects in the works. Chou had previously been Head of Creative for Feature Animation since 2015, and will tackle shaping the studio’s overall creative direction on top of overseeing all big-screen projects, based out of Shanghai […]

The post Peilin Chou Upped to CCO of Oriental DreamWorks; 5 Films Announced appeared first on Animation Magazine.

Animation Magazine

Pierre Bronco Upped to SVP Northern Europe at Turner EMEA

Pierre Branco

Pierre Branco

Turner EMEA has promoted Pierre Bronco to the role of Senior Vice President, Northern Europe, effective immediately. Moving up from his post as GM for France, Portugal, Africa and Israel, Bronco will lead Turner’s business across the UK, Nordics and Baltics. In the coming months, he will relocate from London to Paris, and will report directly to EMEA President Giorgio Stock, joining his executive team.

“At a time when we are developing ambitious new initiatives in the Northern Europe region alongside a relentless focus on our core channels business, this is a particularly important appointment and amongst a high calibre of candidates Pierre stood out for his exceptional track record in building our brands and driving growth,” said Stock. “His combination of industry knowledge, a deep commitment to leveraging the digital trends shaping our business and a passion for putting our fans at the centre of everything we do, will bring vision and momentum to the Northern Europe business to take it to the next level.”

Overseeing a senior management team with a wealth of experience in the Northern European markets, 10-year Turner vet Bronco will be responsible for leading the growth and development of the company’s operations in the region. This includes kids’ and general entertainment brands Cartoon Network, Boomerang, Cartoonito, TCM and TNT, as well as the distribution of CNNI. Bronco is charged with identifying new avenues for revenues and profits, overseeing P&L and ensuring consistency and strategy for the region — all with an eye to delivering branded experiences that drive fan engagement across linear and non-linear ecosystems.

Bronco’s transition follows a transformative approach to his current role, where he has introduced new brands to the marketplace and reinvigorated businesses in highly differentiated markets such as France and Africa — both of which have enjoyed their best commercial and ratings performances under his leadership. In his prior role as VP and GM across these territories, Bronco oversaw a 12-channel portfolio in three different languages, including editorial and creative strategy, programming and acquisitions, marketing, production and digital. The new SVP joined Turner in 2006.

Turner’s Northern European strengths include Cartoon Network maintaining a No. 1 position for boys in the UK and Denmark, established platform partnerships and significant growth in digital engagement across the region.

Pierre Branco

Pierre Branco

Animation Magazine

Luca Milano Upped to Director of Rai Kids Division


Italian public broadcaster RAI has promoted Luca Milano to the post of Director or Rai Ragazzi — the new children’s division formed by the merger of RAI’s kid-targeted channels (Yoyo and Gulp) and the Unit for Animation and Kids’ Drama Produciton.

Milano was previously Executive Deputy Director of Rai Fiction, a position he took on in 2013, overseeing marketing, planning and animation activities for the department. He had served as Head of Animation since 2006, after first joining RAI as a manager in Business Affairs for Rai Cinemafiction and then repositiong as Head of Marketing & Development of Rai Fiction.

Prior to joining the pubcaster, Milano worked as a foreign affairs journalist and as a UNICEF information officer in Geneva and Abidjan, and as a manager at an Italian consulting and engineering company.

Luca Milano

Luca Milano

Animation Magazine

Pam Marsden Upped to Head of Production at Sony Animation


Longtime producer and executive Pam Marsden has been promoted to the role of Head of Production at Sony Pictures Animation, where she had previously held the post of Executive VP Production for the last six years. Marsden will report to Kristine Belson, President of SPA.

“I am very fortunate to have Pam as my partner,” Belson said in a statement. “Not only has she masterfully led the dramatic growth of our operations and creative community, she’s done it all with positivity and humor which I am thankful for every day.”

As EVP of the department, Marsden supervised all projects for Sony Pictures Animation and has recently been overseeing the studio’s growth as it dramatically ramps up its output across platforms. 2017 will see the release of three theatrical features (Smurfs: The Lost Village, The Emoji Movie and holiday release The Star) as well as two series, a short film and a home video feature.

Prior to her executive position, Marsden produced for the studio Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and the sequel. She also got an early introduction to CG animation before joining SPA, having worked on Disney’s Dinosaur and home video movie Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas, as well as Barnyard.

Sony Pictures Animation

Sony Pictures Animation

Animation Magazine

Whit Richardson Upped to President of Turner LatAm

Whit Richardson

Whit Richardson

Joel Whitten “Whit” Richardson III has been promoted to President of Turner Latin America, as announced by Turner International President Gerhard Zeiler, to whom Richardson will report. A 23-year veteran of the company, Richardson was most recently EVP of Distribution for Turner Latin America.

Richardson will now assume executive oversight of Turner’s regional portfolio of general entertainment, kids (including Boomerang and Cartoon Network), sports and free-to-air brands; distribution and ad sales of those brands; the distribution of CNN’s services; and licensing and merchandising activity in Latin America. The largest of Turner’s international divisions, Turner Latin America’s portfolio was once again the highest-rated pay TV offering in the region in 2016 (per Kantar Media).

“I am excited for the opportunity to lead Turner Latin America, and grateful for the confidence of Gerhard and Turner’s executive management,” said Richardson. “The industry is in a time of rapid change, and Turner is uniquely qualified to lead the transformation of the media business in Latin America. We will prioritize collaboration, innovation and change as we move aggressively to position for continued growth and success.”

As EVP of Distribution, Richardson oversaw the company’s pan-regional affiliate sales team. He relocated to Atlanta in 2014 from Buenos Aires, where he was GM of Turner Argentina in addition to his distribution duties. As GM, Richardson was at the forefront of the company’s local expansion from 15 employees in 1998 to approximately 750 today. He played a key role in the acquisition and integration of Imagen Satelital (where he serves on the board) and the acquisitions of Chilevision, Esporte Interativo and CNN Chile.

Richardson joined Turner in 1994 as an Account Executive and was promoted to Sales Manager for the Caribbean and Venezuela in 1995. He went on to serve as Director and Senior Director of Distribution for the Andean and Caribbean countries and cruise ships before moving to Buenos Aires in 1998.

Prior to Turner, Richardson worked in the capital markets division of Société Générale in Madrid. He holds a master’s degree in international business studies from the University of South Carolina, Columbia and a bachelor’s in history from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He currently sits on the boards of the Fulbright Commission in Argentina and Village Cinemas Argentina. Richardson was recently named “one of 2016?s 15 most influential media figures in Latin America” by Prensario magazine.

“Whit is a highly respected executive inside and outside Turner. I am delighted that he accepted the offer to become the next President of Turner Latin America. The company will benefit from his leadership skills and wealth of experience, especially as we navigate through a dramatically evolving media- business future demanding dynamic change,” said Zeiler.

“His enduring successes in affiliate sales and marketing, in establishing our Argentina hub as a nationally-respected employer, his sharp mind, strategic approach and process-orientated management, make him the ideal choice to lead our business in Latin America; he has a clear vision of how we adapt the organization to truly become a next generation media provider.”



Animation Magazine

Obstetric Complications Tied to Slightly Upped Risk for Autism

FRIDAY, Feb. 3, 2017 — Complications that occur late in pregnancy or during delivery may slightly raise a child’s risk for autism, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that infants who were exposed to maternal high blood pressure during pregnancy — a condition called pre-eclampsia — were at higher odds for developing an autism disorder. So were children who experienced oxygen deprivation at birth (asphyxia), or those who faced other problems around the time of delivery.

However, the study wasn’t able to prove cause-and-effect, and one autism expert stressed that the findings shouldn’t unduly worry most women.

In absolute terms, “the risk of an autism spectrum disorder was still exceedingly low among women who had one or more pregnancy complications,” said Dr. Andrew Adesman. He’s chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

He noted that “one-third of the women in this study had at least one pregnancy complication and yet 98 percent of these complicated pregnancies did not result in a child with an autism spectrum disorder.”

The new study was led by Dr. Darios Getahun of the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation in Pasadena, Calif.

His team tracked the electronic health records of almost 600,000 children born in Southern California between 1991 and 2009. Of the 6,255 who were diagnosed with autism, 37 percent had experienced complications right before or during birth.

The study’s authors calculated that children who faced complications while in the womb later in pregnancy — before labor started — have a 22 percent greater risk for autism. And children who experienced a complication during delivery have a 10 percent higher risk for autism, Getahun’s group said.

Experiencing complications both before birth and during delivery upped the risk even more, the study showed. Children in that category had a 44 percent greater risk for being diagnosed with autism than children who do not face these problems, the study found.

The findings held “even after adjusting for factors such as gestational age at birth and a mother’s age, race and education,” Getahun said in a Kaiser news release.

Other complications that increased children’s risk for autism included premature separation of the placenta from the uterus, being in a breech or sideways (transverse) fetal presentation and having a prolapsed or exposed umbilical cord.

But Adesman stressed that even though a complication in pregnancy or delivery raised the risk of an autism spectrum disorder slightly, the absolute risk to any one baby is still low.

“Although pregnancy complications should be minimized as much as possible, we don’t need to worry pregnant women or young mothers about the risk of having a child with an autism spectrum disorder just because they had one or more complications during their pregnancy,” he said.

Alycia Halladay is chief science officer at the Autism Science Foundation. She believes the study “adds to a growing literature” linking obstetrical complications to autism.

Since early detection and treatment are crucial to improved outcomes, “all children, but especially those at elevated risk, should be screened for autism at 18 and 24 months and followed closely throughout development to ensure they receive the services and interventions they need as soon as possible,” Halladay said.

The findings were published Jan. 31 in the American Journal of Perinatology.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides more information on autism.

Posted: February 2017

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CN’s Curtis Lelash & Tramm Wigzell Upped to Original Series SVPs


Longtime Cartoon Network development executives Curtis Lelash and Tramm Wigzell have been promoted to Senior Vice President, Original Series, as announced by Chief Content Officer Rob Sorcher. Lelash and Wigzell will co-lead the original series group with the aim of expanding the network’s original video and multiplatform programming portfolio. Both will continue to report to Sorcher; all are based at Cartoon Network Studios in Burbank, Calif.

“Curtis and Tramm are both well respected in the animation industry for their approach to talent and development, and their creative and executive acumen have resulted in some of our biggest hits and franchises,” said Sorcher. “This newly connected structure leverages diverse viewpoints, and reflects overall dynamics in the kids’ media landscape.”

Curtis Lelash joined Cartoon Network in 2005, and quickly rose to the rank of vice president, in which role he was responsible for the development and ongoing supervision of the network’s animated comedy series. These include the Emmy-winning Adventure Time and Regular Show, and the popular and iconic Steven Universe. Lelash and his team also supervise the studio’s shorts development program as a pipeline to discover new content and cultivate fresh talent, like Pat McHale and his Emmy winning miniseries Over the Garden Wall.

Tramm Wigzell previously held the post of Vice President, Multiplatform, and began his Cartoon Network tenure in 2002. He played a key role in the development of the global hit franchise Ben 10, as well as supervising all five Ben 10 series. Most recently, Wigzell developed and supervised the network’s newest multiplatform comedy Mighty Magiswords, and in conjunction with Warner Bros. Animation, serves as Executive in Charge of Production for Cartoon Network on hit shows including Teen Titans Go!

Curtis Lelash & Tramm Wigzell

Curtis Lelash & Tramm Wigzell

Animation Magazine

Joe D’Ambrosia Upped to SVP Original Programming at Disney Junior

Joe D'Ambrosia

Joe D’Ambrosia

Joe D’Ambrosia has been promoted to Senior Vice President – Original Programming at Disney Junior. The announcement was made by Nancy Kanter, EVP of Original Programming and General Manager for Disney Junior Worldwide, to whom D’Ambrosia reports.

“Joe is an incredibly talented executive who brings his A-game to the table each and every day,” said Kanter. “In his new role he will continue to manage our creative output leading us in new, exciting directions and will work with me on ways to deliver the best in kids TV to the broadest audience possible.”

D’Ambrosia will continue to oversee production and creative development for acclaimed Disney Junior series like Peabody Award-winning Doc McStuffins, Emmy winner Sofia the First, Annie winner Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Goldie & Bear, Sheriff Callie’s Wild West and Minnie’s Bow-Toons short-form series. He will also be responsible for upcoming series, like Disney Channel’s Elena of Avalor — Disney’s first princess brand inspired by Latin cultures; Mickey and the Roadster Racers, and Vampirina, based on the popular Disney Publishing book series.

Before joining Disney Channel in 2011, D’Ambrosia produced and developed kids TV programming and family films at Murray Hill 5 Productions, which he co-founded. His projects included Astro Boy and Golden Bridges, based on Golden Books. Prior to this he helped launch Sony Pictures Family Entertainment, overseeing numerous films and series. D’Ambrosia began his career at Nickelodeon, where he launched their family film division, overseeing live-action hit Harriet the Spy and first animated feature, Rugrats The Movie.

D’Ambrosia is a graduate of Catholic University of America, from which he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater.

Disney Junior

Disney Junior

Animation Magazine

Blanca Lista Upped to VP of Features at Henson


Blanca Lista has been promoted to Vice President of Feature Film Production for The Jim Henson Company. The announcement was made by CEO Lisa Henson, to whom Lista will report. “[Blanca’s] unique eye for innovative projects balanced with her deep respect for our legacy titles makes her an invaluable member of our team,” Henson said.

In the her new role, Lista will oversee the company’s expanding feature film development slate, which comprises live-action, animation and puppet titles. She is currently leading the development for the highly anticipated franchise updates Fraggle Rock and Power of the Dark Crystal, as well as new projects such as The Portable Door and animated films Frog and Toad, Pinocchio (with Guillermo Del Toro) and Which Witch (starring, produced and written by Billy Crystal).

Lista joined Jim Henson Co. in 2009 as a story editor, and served as a production executive on its adaptation of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day for Disney. Before this she served as a Creative Assistant at both Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures Entertainment. Lista graduated from Bard College with a degree in Film and Asian Studies before earning an MFA with Honors Distinction from Sint-Lukas Brussels in Film. During her time in Brussels, she was an artist-in-residence at gallery Les Bains.

Blanca Lista

Blanca Lista

Animation Magazine