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Why the CTN eXpo Matters

While it’s often easier to lure studio executives to Annecy than to Burbank, there’s no excuse not to participate in such an important event right in your own backyard.

Another CTN Animation Expo has come and gone from Burbank’s Marriott Hotel and convention center. Three furiously paced days packed with activities far too numerous for any five people to attend.  Though the event’s sheer size guarantees a bit of “everything for everyone,” when you strip away the layers of booths, speakers and demos, you get to the heart of the event, the most important part: community. Up close and personal community. In the flesh community. Not virtual. Not digital. Not streamed or ‘casted. People, from every corner of the world, talking, sharing and learning about animation.

There is no substitute.

Happy to say I saw more sketch pads than iPads, more people conversing than texting. Maybe there is hope for humanity after all.

Arriving at the expo, you can sense the abundant, almost overpowering energy even before you attempt to wade through the crowd. Lots of people with a purpose, barely finishing one thing as they jet off to the next. Lots of smiles, lots of happy faces. Lots of veterans mixing with lots of youngsters. The selfless transfer of hard-earned knowledge is wonderful to witness.

The studios are there; the schools are there. Tech vendors are there. Small artists selling self-published art books are there. People in-the-know know it’s a must. The display of sheer talent at every level, at every corner of the proceedings, is overwhelming. The festivities envelop you; it’s impossible not to be impressed.

But to really understand the event’s evolution and growing importance, you must look at its humble beginnings with the Creative Talent Network - CTN. CTN was and is, first and foremost, all about artists – bringing sorely needed and wholly deserved attention to wonderfully talented creative professionals in the animation community.  Through sheer tenacity, perseverance and hard work, Tina Price has put the CTN eXpo on the industry map.

While seemingly simple and solid in concept, the expo, and its success, were never a sure thing. For a number of years, Tina dug where the ground was quite hard; there is very little public or private money to support a fledgling event despite being located in the heart of the largest, wealthiest and most established professional animation community in the world. It’s often easier to lure a studio executive to the Annecy Festival in France than to a local event a mere 10 miles from their office. Years ago, Tina spoke to me about her vision for a new event, one focused on the network of talented artists she’d spent years working to promote. I never doubted she’d succeed because she always kept her focus on the talent at the center of the community. Bring in the talent and everyone else will take notice. But we both knew it would be tough sledding. As it has been.

CTN eXpo matters because to be considered a community, we must act as a community – the definitive word being “act.” With our feet, not just our thumbs, our index fingers or our joysticks. There are no viable excuses for inaction, though a myriad of viable excuses abound. I get it. Everyone is busy. Everyone is focused on their studies, their careers, the important tasks at hand. But that’s no excuse.

Listen, I live and die by the digital sword – I’ve built my entire career on bits and bytes jammed into computers lining darkened rooms littered with empty Diet Coke cans and piles of worthless press kits. I have done business for close to 20 years with many close associates I’ve never met face to face. I fully understand this is the New Order of things – Facebook and Google and Sony Hacks and virtual Armageddon. Entire films can be directed while sitting on your couch in your jammies. The world is truly our digital oyster. So?

Whenever there is a chance to reaffirm your inherent need to be part of something greater than your own singular world, to enjoy, if just for a short time, being with others who share your passion and dreams, you have to join in. You have to show your support. It’s more important than you realize. True it takes time, energy and a bit of money. But it’s one of the best investments you’ll ever make, not just for your career, but for your spirit as well. CTN eXpo will be back next November. Put it on your calendar today.


Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.

Dan Sarto's picture

Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.