Toronto Animation Film Festival

Toronto Animation Industry Conference

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Where: Toronto Reference Library & Online

When: November 2-4, 2023

Previous Events:

Toronto Animation / VFX Job Fair

Presented by:


Exploring Strange World: An Animator Q&A

Thu, Nov 10th

7:30PM - 8:30PM

Online: Crowdcast

Join Strange World Heads of Animation Amy Smeed and Justin Sklar for a behind-the-scenes look at the inspiration and animation style of Walt Disney Animation Studios' upcoming action-packed adventure film.

Strange World introduces a legendary family of explorers, the Clades, as they attempt to navigate an uncharted, treacherous land alongside a motley crew that includes a mischievous blob, a three-legged dog and a slew of ravenous creatures. The film opens in theatres November 23.


Amy Smeed, Head of Animation, Walt Disney Animation Studios

AMY SMEED (Head of Animation) began her professional career at Walt Disney Animation Studios in 1998, working as an assistant (in the scene set-up department) on the production of “Dinosaur,” and went on to become an animator in 2004 on “Chicken Little” (2005). Since then, she has served as head of animation on the Oscar®-nominated films “Moana” and “Raya and the Last Dragon.” She also animated on such Disney Animation features as “Meet the Robinsons,” “Bolt,” “Tangled,” “Wreck-It Ralph,” the Oscar® winner “Frozen,” and “Ralph Breaks the Internet.”

Smeed’s animation of the character Rapunzel for “Tangled” earned her a VES Award nomination for outstanding animated character in an animated motion picture. Her other Disney Animation credits include work on the theme park attraction, “Mickey’s Philharmagic,” and on both of the award-winning “Prep & Landing” TV specials.

Born and raised in Royal Oak, Michigan, Smeed attended Western Michigan University for three years, before going on to receive her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1997. Her dreams of becoming a painter and animator led her to seek work in the animation industry and to her current job leading a team of animators for Disney Animation.

Working at the Disney has provided her with several opportunities to collaborate with her husband, Tony Smeed, who served as animation supervisor for “Zootopia” and head of animation on “Frozen 2.” The couple met during the production of “Dinosaur,” and have a daughter.


Justin Sklar, Head of Animation, Walt Disney Animation Studios

JUSTIN SKLAR (Head of Animation) joined Walt Disney Animation Studios in 2011 after graduating from Ringling College of Art and Design with a degree in animation.

During his junior year at Ringling, he came to Burbank, California, to work as a summer animation trainee at Disney Animation, where he and his fellow trainees completed a short film called “Chalk.” Born in Baltimore, Maryland, and raised in nearby Owings Mills, Sklar went to George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology, a magnet school for gifted and talented students, where he took an intensive art program. Around that time, several of his friends were experimenting with a 3D computer graphics software toolkit called Blender. Driven by an intense desire to understand how the program worked, he became obsessed with it and mastered it. During that time, he also honed his artistic side by drawing massive super realistic charcoal drawings. His love of challenges and puzzle solving led him to pursue a career in animation because he found it hard and interesting.

Hired by Disney Animation as a trainee in 2011, he got his first feature film experience animating crowds for “Wreck-It Ralph.” He was promoted to an animator on “Frozen” and went on to other assignments on “Big Hero 6,” “Zootopia” and “Moana.” In his role as supervising animator on “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” Sklar helped to guide the character of Ralph, and played a key role in creating the “Ralphzilla” character (who was nominated for a VES Award). For “Frozen 2” he worked with the team on the characters of Kristoff and Matthias and on “Raya and the Last Dragon” he supervised the character of Namaari. He observes, “the cool thing about animation is that each movie is like a new puzzle to figure out. It’s changing all the time, and no matter what you’ve done, there’s always something new to learn.”


Karen Jackson, Chair, TAAFI

Karen Jackson is the newest Chair for TAAFI. As TAAFI's first female chair, Karen is excited to bring with her new ideas and efforts in increasing inclusion and diversity into TAAFI's events. Karen has worked tirelessly for TAAFI for many years and is proud to have the opportunity to continue building TAAFI towards further success. Karen currently works at Mainframe Studios and has over ten years experience in the Animation Industry bringing with her a strong background in managing teams, organizing events, building event and organizational pipelines and running the business.


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