Allison Abbate is an executive vice president at Warner Animation Group (WAG), a division of Warner Bros. Entertainment. Prior to assuming her post at WAG, Abbate was an executive producer on the global blockbuster The LEGO® Movie, written and directed by Christopher Miller and Phil Lord; and a producer on Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie and Corpse Bride, Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Brad Bird’s directorial debut, Iron Giant.
The many honors earned by The LEGO Movie include a BAFTA Award, New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC) Award for Best Animated Feature, a Golden Globe nomination, and placing second in the balloting from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA). Corpse Bride was nominated for an Oscar and BAFTA Award; Fantastic Mr. Fox earned Oscar, BAFTA Award and Golden Globe nominations, and won the NYFCC’s and LAFCA’s Awards for Best Animated Feature; and Abbate earned a BAFTA Award for The Iron Giant.
Her additional credits include producing the animation for Looney Tunes: Back in Action, co-producing the Academy Award-nominated Mickey Mouse short Runaway Brain, and co-producing Space Jam, which broke new ground by combining classic animated Warner Bros. characters with live action sequences.
Abbate began her career working on several of Disney’s most beloved animated films, including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, The Rescuers Down Under and Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Melissa Cobb is Vice President, Kids and Family at Netflix, the world’s leading internet entertainment service. Cobb leads the content team responsible for bringing kids and family titles, both live-action and animated, to Netflix members in 190 countries around the world. Prior to Netflix, Cobb was Chief Creative Officer for Oriental DreamWorks, where she oversaw development and production, business strategy, production strategy and more for a slate of high-quality animated feature films targeted to a global audience. She also served as a producer at DreamWorks Animation, responsible for animated feature films, including the Academy Award-nominated Kung Fu Panda trilogy. Before joining DreamWorks, Cobb was at 20th Century Fox Feature Animation (Titan A.E. and Ever After) and Walt Disney Pictures, where she was responsible for discovering and developing live-action titles. Cobb earned an M.B.A. from the Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA and a Bachelor of Science from Stanford University.
Golden Globe® winner and two-time Academy Award® nominee Dean DeBlois is best known for writing, directing, and executive producing 2010’s How To Train Your Dragon and its 2014 sequel. He is currently reprising those roles on How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019), the final installment of the trilogy and culmination of one of the most popular animated franchises in film history. Prior to collaborating on the original How to Train Your Dragon with Chris Sanders, the pair wrote and directed Walt Disney Animation Studios’ beloved Lilo & Stitch (2002), after first serving as co-heads of story on Mulan (1998).
In addition to his animation work, Dean has also written and sold various live action feature film projects to Disney and Universal Studios. He has also directed several music films and documentaries, most notably 2007’s indie critical darling Sigur Rós: Heima. Dean’s continued collaboration with Sigur Rós frontman Jónsi has lead to the singer-songwriter’s contributions to the How to Train Your Dragon soundtracks.
Born and raised in Canada, Dean’s career began at Hinton Animation Studios in his hometown of Ottawa. In 1990, he joined the Don Bluth Studios in Ireland before heading to the US to begin work for Walt Disney Feature Animation in 1994. He joined DreamWorks Animation in 2008. He is a graduate of Sheridan College’s animation program and was awarded an honorary degree in 2016. Dean is a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, The Writers Guild, and ASIFA.
Peter Debruge is Variety’s Chief International Film Critic. He first joined the Variety team in 2005 as a features editor, compiling the magazine’s annual 10 Actors, Directors and Screenwriters to Watch lists as well as overseeing a range of special editorial sections, including those tied to the magazine’s philanthropy-driven Power of Youth and Power of Comedy events. In 2014, Peter relocated to Paris to head up Variety’s team of international critics, both on the ground in France and on the road at more than a dozen film festivals worldwide.
A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin’s film studies program, Peter wrote his honors thesis on the history and aesthetics of movie trailers (previews, not Airstreams) and taught the graduate-level “Evolution of Film Language” course at Chapman University. Prior to Variety, he spent four years working as an editor for AOL Moviefone, first in New York and then L.A. In addition to hundreds of reviews for the Austin Chronicle, Miami Herald and Premiere, his writing on film has appeared in Entertainment Weekly, Life, Creative Screenwriting, Backstory and IndieWire. Peter also contributed to the book Variety’s The Movie That Changed My Life.
Carolyn Giardina is Tech Editor at The Hollywood Reporter and writes its Behind the Screen blog. Her work as an editor, reporter or columnist has also appeared in titles such as CinemaEditor, SHOOT, British Cinematographer and SMPTE Motion Imaging Journal . She’s co-author of Exploring 3D: The New Grammar of Stereoscopic Filmmaking (Focal Press, 2012). In 2015, Carolyn was presented American Cinema Editors’ Robert Wise Award, which recognizes a journalist for contributions to film editing. She was the 2011 recipient of the International Cinematographers Guild’s Technicolor William A. Fraker Award for journalistic contributions to cinematography.
Jorge R. Gutiérrez
Jorge R. Gutiérrez is a painter, writer and director born in Mexico City and raised in Tijuana. Gutierrez has completed various films, cartoons, and paintings exploring his love of Mexican pop and folk culture. He and his wife Sandra Equihua created the multiple Emmy Award-winning animated television series, “El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera” for Nickelodeon, and he most recently co-wrote and directed “The Book of Life” for Reel FX and 20th Century Fox, which was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film
Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Jennifer Yuh Nelson made her feature film directorial debut with Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011), which earned more than $665 million at the worldwide box-office. She continued on to direct the franchise’s successful follow-up Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016). Nelson has lent her talents to a variety of DreamWorks Animation pictures, including as head of story for Kung Fu Panda (2008), and story artist on Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002) and Madagascar (2005). Prior to joining DreamWorks Animation, Nelson worked at HBO Animation and served as director, story artist and character designer for HBO’s animated series Spawn, which won an Emmy Award in 1999 for Outstanding Animated Program. She also worked as an illustrator and story artist for the live action film Dark City (1998) for Mystery Clock Productions. She made her live action directing debut with The Darkest Minds (2018), for Twentieth Century Fox. She is currently developing properties both in animation and live action.
Henry Selick is best known as the writer/director of the Oscar-nominated stop-motion animated feature Coraline, as well as the director of James and the Giant Peach and The Nightmare Before Christmas. While he has made films using hand-drawn, cut-out and C.G. animation and live-action, his favorite medium is stop-motion where he has collaborated with some of the best animators, designers, story artists, fabricators, lighters and musicians in the world. Selick was the first to shoot a stop-motion feature in 3D, the first to use rapid prototype/3D printers to create facial expressions, and, with Tim Burton, the first to make stop-motion feature filmmaking a viable enterprise. He is currently writing and directing a new stop-motion feature with acclaimed filmmaker Jordan Peele called Wendell & Wild. Many have begged Selick to retire from showbiz but Selick continues to press on.
An internationally respected critic and historian of animation, Charles Solomon has written on the subject for the New York Times, Newsweek (Japan), Rolling Stone, the Los Angeles Times, The International Herald Tribune, Variety, the Manchester Guardian, and National Public Radio. His books include “The Art of Frozen,” “The Art of the Disney Golden Books,” “The Toy Story Films: An Animated Journey,” “Tale as Old as Time: The Art and Making of Disney’s Animated Classic Beauty and the Beast,” “The Art of Toy Story 3,” “Enchanted Drawings: The History of Animation,” which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and the first film book to be nominated for a National Book Critics’Circle Award. In 2008, he received the LA Press Club Award for radio feature reporting. In 2015, AISFA/Hollywood’s June Foray for service to the art of animation.
Mabel Tam is VP/Head Film Buyer of LANDMARK THEATRES. Landmark Theatres is the nation’s largest theatre chain dedicated to exhibiting and marketing independent film. A 16 year veteran of the entertainment industry, she is a graduate of UCLA and resides in LA with her family.
Born and raised in New York, IndieWire Editor at Large Anne Thompson has been a contributor to the New York Times, Washington Post, The Observer, and Wired. She has served as film columnist at Variety, and deputy editor of Variety.com, where her daily blog, “Thompson on Hollywood,” launched in March 2007. Anne was the Deputy Film Editor at The Hollywood Reporter, the West Coast Editor of Premiere, a Senior Writer at Entertainment Weekly, and West Coast Editor for Film Comment. She wrote the film industry column “Risky Business” for L.A. Weekly and the Los Angeles Times syndicate. A graduate of the Department of Cinema Studies at New York University, she has taught film criticism at USC and hosts the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.