Movies and gaming

Animation event Saturday and Sunday in Miami, Miami Beach


Organizers of the second MIA Animation Conference & Festival say South Florida can become a cartoon capital.

If you go

The MIA Animation Conference & Festival is Saturday and Sunday at Miami International University of Art & Design, 1501 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Registration fees vary;

Public screenings 7 p.m. Saturday, 5:15 p.m. Sunday; Miami Beach Cinematheque, 1130 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; $10, $9 students and seniors;

Once upon a time, film animation was done the old-fashioned way — with pencil and paper.

“That’s the way they did it from the very beginning, from Steamboat Willie [1928, the first Mickey Mouse] and even earlier than that,” says Matthew O’Callaghan, supervising animator for Disney’s The Little Mermaid (1989).

Disney/Pixar’s 1995 box-office blockbuster Toy Story launched the era of computer-generated animation.

“Technology has advanced so much. People, when they go to the theater, they’re accustomed to seeing it now. It’s become the industry standard,” says O’Callaghan, the California-based keynote speaker at this weekend’s MIA Animation Conference & Festival in Miami and Miami Beach.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for the arts and production to happen right here,” says David Sexton, a Miami Beach artist and writer for Marvel comics (Marvel Tarot, Mystic Arcana).

“I’ve been doing artwork forever. It puts the drama there in front of you. When you’re doing a drawing it’s there on the page. When you actually make it come alive, there’s a real thrill to that. It’s exciting. It brings another level to the artwork you’re doing.”

Sexton, Univision animator Mauricio Ferrazza and Debra Pierce, a former advisor at Miami International University of Art & Design, are presenting MIA Animation, a technical conference aimed at making South Florida an animation capital.

“We went from cocaine days to model days to party town. Art Basel, thankfully, came to Miami and we became capital of the art world,” says Ferrazza, who founded the festival and is working with Miami’s Downtown Development Agency and Community Redevelopment Agency “to make Miami a place where animation and gaming can be developed.

“The bottom line is we want to bring business to Miami to create jobs for our students,” he says. “The creative technology industry. Geographically speaking, we’re right there for South America. I’m from Brazil and it’s booming for gaming and animation.”

This is the second MIA Animation festival. The first one, in 2010, drew 200 participants. More than 400 have registered this year.

In addition to O’Callaghan, speakers include representatives from Cartoon Network, Walt Disney Television Animation, Universal and Microsoft Studios. Topics for workshops, which take place at the art school, include “Innovation in Animation,” “Animation for Games in Mobile App Development” and “Crossing Over: From Student to Professional.”

“If the public is interested in animation, gaming, visual effects, broadcasting, Web design, film, we have lectures for all these topics,” Ferrazza says.

A conference highlight: “Pitch to the Industry,” in which student animators will compete for a trip to meet agents and studio execs in Los Angeles.

Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, 15 animated short subjects by students and young directors will be publicly screened at the Miami Beach Cinematheque.

Sexton, a former South Beach gym owner, says he became interested in animation as a youngster, watching Saturday morning cartoons.

“My brother and I would get up at the crack of dawn and watch for four hours. Scooby Doo, Super Friends,” he says. “As an adult, I came back to it again when Disney had the resurgence. Little Mermaid is a fantastic film. It was me reintroducing myself to animation and falling in love with it again.

“When I was a kid, cartoons were kid stuff. Now it’s South Park and Simpsons on TV, it’s Toy Story and The Avengers. A lot of the big blockbuster movies are 50 percent animation. There’s video games and apps. It’s become a part of everyone’s lives.”

In the late 1930s, South Florida was briefly a capital of U.S. film animation. Fleischer Studios, which competed with Disney and produced Popeye and Superman cartoons, was based in Miami until World War II.

MIA Animation producers hope to bring the business back to South Florida. More than 15 employers will participate in a conference jobs fair, says Pierce, the festival’s development director.

“We started finding companies that do animation, do gaming, do mobile gaming applications. We started realizing the market in Miami, there are other opportunities in Miami,” Pierce says. “We have more than enough talent, but a lot of these employers don’t know it.”

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