Toronto Animation Film Festival

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Matthew Celestial - TAAFI PR | Jul 15, 2020

Toronto, ON (July 14, 2020) – Today, the Toronto Animation Arts Festival International (TAAFI) announced the addition of three new board members and new leadership. Animation industry leaders Janice Walker, Karen Jackson, and Claudia Barrios will join the board. In addition, studio veteran John Rooney has been appointed to Executive Director and will assume the role effective immediately. With these changes, TAAFI revealed their 2020 programming strategy in response to COVID-19 global pandemic that has affected the film and television industry. The festival will continue to host its annual industry conference and animation festival with the inclusion of new monthly events. 

Janice Walker is an industry veteran with over 25 years of experience in the animation film and television industry. Currently, she is the Studio Producer at Yowza! Animation where she is working on several animated series including GREEN EGGS AND HAM and ANGRY BIRDS. Prior to Yowza! Animation, Janice was the Head of Animation & Producer for Brain Power Studios where she worked on overlapping productions. She was the acting Producer for the Netflix Original animated series JULIUS JR and LUNA PETUNIA. Prior to Brain Power Studios, she worked at DHX Media in Toronto. 

Karen Jackson has been a veteran of the TAAFI core team. Jackson oversaw the ambassador program for five years, working behind the scenes to bring TAAFI events to life. She currently works for Tangent Animation as a Production Coordinator after eight years of being an artist at various companies such as Nelvana, Guru Studio, and Jam Filled Entertainment. Jackson coordinates the VFX for a ground-breaking new show. She brings with her an immense knowledge of the 3D studio pipeline experience and an understanding of both production and artist needs that help cater to all sides of the industry. 

Claudia Barrios is currently the Marketing Manager for Secret Location where she oversees the marketing strategy for the studio’s VR games and immersive experiences. With over 6 years in the entertainment industry, she has deep experience in developing marketing strategies for film, television, and games. Prior to Secret Location, she worked on the global launch of various shows including the Netflix Original animated series, TRUE AND THE RAINBOW KINGDOM for Guru Studio. Before joining Guru Studio, she held various roles at 9 Story Media Group across acquisitions, distribution, and digital media. Claudia graduated from the Kids Media program at Centennial College. 

John Rooney is an industry veteran with a vast history within Canadian animation and kids television. He served as Director of Programming at YTV and was instrumental in shaping the Corus Kids & Family brands. He successfully created strategies for such brands as Bionix, Nickelodeon Canada, and ABC Spark Canada. Additionally, he served as Director of Programming for TELETOON where he was responsible for content strategy for TELETOON, TELETOON Retro, and launching Cartoon Network and Adult Swim in Canada. Currently, he serves as a consultant advising various clients on content strategy, programming, development, curation, research, and trending. His client list includes Mattel, Epic Story Media, WildBrain, Zodiak Media, Shaftesbury, Apartment 11, and marblemedia.  

Additionally, the board announced departures this year, including Co-Founder and Executive Director, Ben McEvoy. Kathleen Bartlett and Barry Sanders will also be departing the board this year. 

In a statement, Barnabas Wornoff, Chair of TAAFI said: 

To my colleagues and creative friends: 

Despite the COVID-19 global pandemic, we remain dedicated to celebrating and showcasing some of the best animation content. In a rapidly changing industry with increasing demand for high-quality content, we would like to announce the following changes: 

  • I would like to welcome Janice, Karen, and Claudia to the board of directors. We are looking forward to working with these industry leaders, benefiting from their deep experience within the animation industry. 
  • John Rooney has been appointed to Executive Director. He has been an instrumental part of the organization’s success the past few years. John is an extraordinary leader with strong industry-wide relationships. Please join me in congratulating him. 
  • With this change, I would like to thank Ben McEvoy, one of TAAFI’s co-founders, for his leadership and passion for the industry as TAAFI’s Executive Director over the years. 
  • Lastly, I am extending many thanks to Kathleen Bartlett and Barry Sanders for their commitment to the board — leading our marketing and programming teams. 

As we move through 2020, I am thrilled to share TAAFI’s program and strategy in the weeks to come. 



Additionally, Ben McEvoy provided the following memo to the entire team: 


I am incredibly proud of what we've accomplished with TAAFI within these first 10 years. And we did it all thanks to our generous community who wanted to see everyone lift up and grow together here in Toronto as well as across Canada. 

We've been fortunate to be partners with such a passionate audience, along with the support of so many engaged studios, businesses and the government, including the ability for all of us to work together to grow the industry, and more importantly, create fantastic animation. 

There's so much that I've wanted to keep doing with the festival as we journey down that path together, but the time has come to make way for a new group of enthusiastic leaders and volunteers that can carry the TAAFI torch forward—and continue to help grow this organization, and our industry, into a dynamic, world-class animation hub. 

All my best,


With these changes to the Board of Directors, TAAFI announced its 2020/2021 plans in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic:  

  • The TAAFI Animation Industry Conference will take place virtually on November 6-8, 2020
  • The TAAFI Festival is confirmed for February 2021
  • TAAFI Monthly Events 

In addition to the two annual programs that TAAFI regularly hosts, the animation organization will be running monthly events which will include panels, presentations, workshops, discussions with studios and artists/creators. To kick off their 2020 program, TAAFI will be organizing a special live-streaming of a new animated Netflix Original followed by a panel discussion with key creatives behind the feature film. Details will be announced this month. 

For more information on TAAFI’s 2020 Board of Directors, please visit: taafi.com/#/board

For more information on TAAFI’s 2020 program, please visit: taafi.com 


About the Toronto Animation Arts Festival International (TAAFI): 

Founded in 2012, the Toronto Animation Arts Festival International (TAAFI) is a not-for-profit arts organization whose mission is to make Toronto the premiere international destination for animated arts and entertainment. TAAFI hosts a film festival and a variety of recurring industry and public events throughout the year to create unique opportunities that connect animation artists and enthusiasts, and transform the way people create and view animation of all forms. Past TAAFI guests have included Domee Shi (Disney•Pixar’s Bao), Dean DeBlois(DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon), Elizabeth Ito (Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time), Eric Goldberg (Disney’s Aladdin), Natasha Allegri (Frederator’s Bee and PuppyCat) and Josh Cooley (Disney•Pixar’s Inside Out). 

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For more information, please contact: 

Matthew Celestial 


+1 (289) 387-0917



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