The Industry Giants conference: Imagination + animation

The Crowne Plaza Hotel in Addison was bustling with imagination and activity Sept. 10. Animators, artists and creators, both known and not-yet-known, lined the corridors on the second floor of the hotel. It was time for the annual Industry Giants conference. 

The Industry Giants conference was created 15 years ago by five short filmmakers, known as A Bunch of Short Guys. It’s a Dallas-based non-profit working to bring animators together to network and learn from one another. By 8:30 a.m., things were already in full swing. People were setting up tables to display their work and greeting one another like old friends. Even the guest speakers intermingled with the crowd as if they were not the experts. Vince Sidwell, one of the co-founders of Industry Giants, said the conference came out of the efforts of many. “I, like so many had an idea, but it took a team of people to make that idea come to life.  There were many years when I was not involved and members like Tom Ottinger, J. Marshal Pitman, J. Schuh, Julie Barrett and Amy Cass stepped up and made the event happen.”

Well, happening it is. After several months of planning, Skype phone calls and voting, the guest list and venue were set. It was evident that a lot of work went into planning the event.

“The bigger the name, the more complicated it is to schedule,” said Sidwell. Among the “big names” on the agenda were: Sylvia Pompei, an animator from “The Simpsons,” and many other familiar shows, Tony Bonilla from Disney and Scott McCleod, author of “Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art.”

Before the conference, Pompei was very friendly and seemed excited to be among others who openly shared her passion and interest. While talking with Brett Briley, a 3-D animator from the Society of Illustrators, she expressed her interest in the Z-Brush technique and complimented him on the detail of his work. Pompei’s favorite characters to work on are Lisa and Homer. “It’s a tie.” 

She considers herself a perfectionist in many ways, when it comes to difficulties in her animation endeavors. “The hardest thing for me is to let go of detail and keep the bigger picture for the tight schedule.”

This was her first year at the conference. Although she was invited previously, she wasn’t able to attend due to her tight schedule atwork. She said she was honored to finally be there. 

Tony Bonilla of Disney came by to share his “Hero Journey.”  He started as a poor Air Force kid from Texas in a single parent home. He progressed to working odd jobs through high school and then came to the realization that changed his life forever his senior year. His yearbook quote said it all.

“I want to be a special effects technician for some big movie company.” 

He admitted that when he gave the quote, he had no idea what a special effects technician did. Bonilla encouraged those in attendance to do what they love, even if bumps come up along the way. He said, “There are highs and lows but it ends happy.” David Doub, owner and creator of local comic company Dusk Comics, was very friendly and playfully hinted toward “Duking it out with Scott McCleod” if given the opportunity. He said, “Scott outranks me. I want to pick his brain.” 

All of the creators, animators and guest speakers were warm, welcoming and willing to share with each other the tricks of their trade. Each one seems to look forward to attending next year’s event. The fun was as abundant as the talent. 

When asked what they were working on, they were a tad bit tight-lipped, but keep your eyes open for: Animator Terry Parr’s new comic, “Aerobercise,” Season 28 of “The Simpsons” and there may even be plans for a “Wreck It Ralph 2.” 


Next year’s conference date is not yet scheduled, but here’s a heads up: Calling all artists, creators and animators, Industry Giants wants you.