Five Disney On-line producers, programmers and Flash engineers, and four veterans from Disney Feature Animation and Walt Disney Imagineering, have jumped ship to join Stan Lee Media (SLM). The team includes Jamie Wilkinson and Gary Manfredi, who will lead the company's new in-house research and development studio, focusing on new digital productions and technologies. The new division Squnkwurx was named as a tribute to the once-secret Lockheed division (the Skunk Works) which developed the first experimental production jet aircraft during World War II. The new digital studio is sponsored by IBM, which has provided its high-end Intellistations, the top-of-the-line NT workstation for the graphics and on-line industry, to create one of the biggest studios for original branded Internet animation in the world. As executive vice president, Internet strategy, Wilkinson will head SLM's on-line business development. In his three-year tenure with Disney On-line, he helped publish some of the first on-line storybooks and formerly managed the Disney Blast story group. Prior to Disney, he served as a graphic designer for NBC Interactive in New York, where he oversaw the development and launch of such Web sites as NBC.com, MSNBC.com, TNBC.com, Superbowl.com, Olympics.com and NBA.com. "When you're dealing with decades of rules and regulations on a character and have to fight with film and TV divisions, there's little freedom to create content that works," said Wilkinson. "SLM is the first company to harness a character creator in order to deploy franchises with a greater degree of creativity and freedom by all involved." Manfredi, as executive producer, on-line, will supervise the Squnkwurx team. While at Disney Online, he designed Disney Blast applications, specializing in creativity and learning tools, and helped pioneer designs for the Squeak/Smalltalk authoring environment. Previously, Manfredi served as co-founder of Big Top Productions and, before that, senior product designer and lead engineer at Image Smith. "Even though I was working with a great group of people at Disney, the benefits of going to Stan Lee Media were plentiful," said Manfredi. "By aiming at a wider demographic, the company opens the door to more complex technologies, activities and characters. Stan and Peter have also engendered a team approach that allows a high level of flexibility and synergy." Also joining the launch team at Squnkwurx are Disney On-line veterans Michael Drudzinski (producer, on-line), Vince Golveo (lead Flash engineer) and Andrey Pavlovskiy (director of Flash animation); Disney Feature Animation team members Grant Anderson (producer, on-line), Iyan Michael Bruce (producer, on-line) and Brooks Campbell (digital artist); and Walt Disney Imagineering's Jerry Bingham (production illustrator). SLM co-founder Peter F. Paul said, "The hiring of Jamie, Gary and their new Squnkwurx team affords SLM the best Internet animators in the world while enabling them to further their talents under the brand aegis of one of America's greatest pop and entertainment icons. In forming the nucleus of this new division around some of the most experienced Internet content providers and community builders for a youth audience, we are ensuring a dominant position for our Internet content and community for the foreseeable future."