Annecy’s Women in Animation World Summit: ‘Draw Us A Better Universe,’ Warner Bros. Diversity Lead Urges

A key creative from the team advising Warner Bros. Television on how it can bolster diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in its content creation has reached out to urge animators to “draw a better universe into existence”.

Kicking off the keynote speech at Women in Animation’s (WIA) World Summit, which takes place annually at the Annecy Animation Festival, Dr. Amma Y. Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin asked animators to use their courage, imagination and “the power of animation” to create “their ideal reality of diversity”.

Addressing a virtual audience in her pre-recorded speech entitled “Stories Matter” – which dropped on Monday morning local time – the writer, scholar, producer and TED fellow added: “Imagine a world of diversity, a world of full inclusivity, a world in which everyone from every walk of life can show up as their full selves, with their full gifts and talents.

“Imagine your conference room, creative space, rehearsal studio in which everyone has a full appreciation of their uniqueness and can see how they are connected as storytellers, producer, animators and decisions makers – what would that world feel like, what would it smell like..?

“The process of getting to that world is in the power of animation,” Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin added, arguing that “All of you are in the literal business of drawing entire universes into existence – can’t you draw this world for us? Pencil to paper, pixel to pixel, it takes courage and imagination to draw something into existence that hasn’t been seen before,” she urged.

Dr Amma is the creative lead on JusticeRX, a team that is partnering with Warner Bros. Television to develop original programming and to consult with studio and show creators to promote DEI across its program brands.

Addressing the business case for diversity, the WIA Summit’s key theme this year, Dr Amma also said that for the industry to feel the economic benefit of its diverse hires, it needed to award those hires a greater creative stake in IP co-creation.

“We think inclusion is simply about adding something or inviting someone who has previously been excluded from our preexisting environment. But what if our usual way of doing things was not the ideal way of doing things? How can we shift from ‘I want to see what you bring to my preexisting table’ to asking ‘I want to see what you and I can create together’?”

She concluded: “The business case for diversity understands that the whole world wants to find the truest parts of their own story – and someone else’s story. And just by sheer numbers alone it would be good financial business to reach more people in the world with their stories.” To do so means acknowledging: “I don’t know the whole world by myself” and I need people from all around the world to tell their own stories.”

Dr Amma also revealed that she was a keen proponent of introducing “immediate concrete changes” that she believed could “help pave the way for creatives to collaborate with each other” – citing the social contract created by a coalition of theater workers ‘We See You, White American Theater” as a way forward.

The U.S. theater industry coalition’s 29-page document, issued last July, suggested renaming half of all Broadway theaters after artists of color, imposing limits for theatre industry leaders and a requirement that at least half the members of casts and creative teams be made up of people of color.

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