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:


Trailblazing Women in Animation presented by Pipeline Studios

Fri, Nov 3rd

2:15PM - 3:15PM

Epic Hall

Since the dawn of the animation industry, women have always played an integral role in helping to shape the creative vision and execution of various projects– and even more recently, many have become leaders in their field, paving the way for even more talented women! 

Join trailblazing female leads Deborah A. Anderson (BlkWmnAnimator), Marge Dean (Head of Studio at Skybound Animation, Women in Animation), Mindy Johnson (Animation Historian & Author), Sumira Dhawan (Head of CG, Redefine) and Shaleen Sangha (Vice President of Kids and Family Content at Boat Rocker Media) on Friday November 3rd for a roundtable discussion about the challenges women have historically faced throughout the industry, the successes of women rising to positions of leadership within animation, and the work still yet to be done to help create opportunities for women entering the workforce (and become trailblazers themselves!)

We’re ecstatic to have such a wide and wonderful array of talented and awe-inspiring panelists and can’t wait to learn more!


Deborah A. Anderson, Animation Journalist/3d Modeler, Skybound Entertainment

Deborah Anderson has extensive experience in the animation industry as a 3D modeler. She started her career in Seoul, South Korea at Digital eMation modeling props, vehicles, and backgrounds on television shows such as Family Guy, The Cleveland Show, Batman: The Brave and The Bold, Scooby-Doo, and The LeBrons. She's currently working as an Assistant Editor on Amazon Prime's Invincible. Deborah also is an animation journalist and has a YouTube channel, BlkWmnAnimator where she interviews animation professionals about their careers.


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.


Marge Dean, Head of Studio, Skybound President, Women in Animation

Marge Dean is an Emmy®-winning producer/executive and as Head of Studio at Skybound Entertainment, she is responsible for the development and production of original animated content and is establishing a new production facility for the production of Skybound properties including Invincible for Amazon Prime.

Known for building studios and animation pipelines, Dean was responsible for the design or re-design of several studios including Columbia-TriStar TV, Warner Brothers Animation, Mattel’s Playground Production, Omation (Steve Oedekerk), Technicolor Animation and Wildbrain Entertainment. Prior to joining Skybound, Dean was the Head of Crunchyroll Studios —the largest anime streaming platform in the world— where she supervised production and development of Crunchyroll Original series premiering in 2020.

In 2014, a group of women led by Dean took over the non-profit advocacy group, Women in Animation (WIA), revitalizing it. Membership grew from 120 people to over 4500 in five years as well as a reach of over 18,000 animation professionals and students. Primarily powered by volunteers, WIA has grown to a world-class advocacy organization impacting the lives of creative women, transgender and non-binary people around the world.


Mindy Johnson, Author/Scholar/Filmmaker

Award-winning author, historian, filmmaker, educator, musician and more, Mindy Johnson’s creative accomplishments reflect the diversity of her talents and experience. A leading expert on women’s roles in animation and film history, Mindy writes and speaks on early cinema, animation, women’s history, and creativity.

A recipient of the prestigious ASIFA-Hollywood June Foray "Annie" Award, given to individuals who've made a significant and benevolent or charitable impact on the art and industry of animation. Mindy's honors also include the Academy Film Scholar Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences/Oscars.org, and the ASIFA–Hollywood AEF Grant, for continued research and writing on the contributions of the earliest women within our collective animated past. With several forthcoming volumes underway, Mindy's groundbreaking discoveries continue to cast light on the invisible narrative of women’s presence within the first century of the motion picture industry. Her latest landmark breakthrough is the discovery of Bessie Mae Kelley and her surviving films believed to be the earliest surviving hand-drawn animation, animated and directed by a woman, forever busting the myth of women no longer present at the dawn of the animation industry.


Marissa Collyer, Director of Production, Pipeline Studios

An established production executive, Marissa Collyer has over twenty years of experience within the entertainment industry. Marissa plays a key role in defining procedures and maximizing production workflow. She has overseen aspects of studio staffing, operation requirements and resource management.

Marissa began her career at Nelvana Limited where she produced several popular series including Rescue Heroes, Franklin the Turtle and Cyberchase. She later joined DKP Studios / IDTE Toronto / Starz Animation as Senior Producer, working on both full length features and episodic television series. She recently left 9 Story Media Group after 7 years, during her time there she was their Head of Studio Operations and Supervising Producer, contributing to several of the company’s successful series including the prime time comedy Fugget About It and the evergreen favourite Max & Ruby.

Marissa is now at Pipeline Studios the Director of Production.


Sumira Dhawan, Head of CG, Redefine - Dneg

Sumira Dhawan is Head of CG, Animation for North America at ReDefine. In her current role, she brings her love of combining art and tech to develop and implement workflows for teams working in creative, technology, management and R&D. Based in Toronto, she joined ReDefine from Industrial Brothers where she also worked as Head of CG.

Sumira has spent her entire career in animation. She started as an animator and has worked in various departments in creative and technical roles for more than 15 years. Her resume includes roles at Awesometown Entertainment, Arc Productions, Nelvana, and DQ Entertainment, where she animated, supervised and led the development of impactful animated movies such as ‘Barbie: Star Light Adventure’ and ‘Elliot the Littlest Reindeer’, and animated television shows such as ‘Remy & Boo’, ‘Daniel Spellbound’, ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ and ‘Mickey Mouse Clubhouse’.


Shaleen Sangha, Vice President - Kids and Family Content, Boat Rocker Media

Shaleen Sangha has been a part of the Boat Rocker team since 2017. As a Vice President of Boat Rocker Studios, Kids and Family, Shaleen oversees the day-to-day operations of its Toronto division with a focus on creative development and production. Shaleen has a passion for content and focuses on building meaningful heartfelt stories that resonate with today’s youth. Shaleen was Executive Producer of The Next Step, Season 7, and a CSA nominee as Supervising Producer of the The Next Step, Season 6. Shaleen has served as Creative Executive on series such as A Tale Dark and Grimm, The Strange Chores, Polly Pocket, Chip and Potato, Chuck’s Choice, Doozers, Looped and many more. Shaleen was instrumental in building online content for many of the series on her slate including the Chuck’s Choice: Choose Your Own Pet Adventure and the Addison: The Invention Detective app.  In addition to her roles in development and production, Shaleen has been a writer, director and producer of award-winning short films, including Nayan and the Evil Eye which garnered 15 awards worldwide. Shaleen also has experience in sales and contracts administration in her prior roles at Cinemavault Releasing and Microsoft Canada.


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