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Animex to Spotlight Independent Game Development

Teesside University’s annual Animex Festival to include a full day dedicated to Britain’s independent games studios and developers.

A star-filled lineup of some of the biggest names in animation and computer games will visit Teesside University in February for the annual Animex Festival.

This year’s international festival of animation and computer games has some exciting new additions, including a full day dedicated to Britain’s independent games studios and developers.

It will also give a voice to industry insiders striving to create more inclusive games -- including developer Nicole Stark who is working on a game based on her daughter -- a kung-fu practicing pizza delivery girl who has to deal with the taunts of other teenagers, as well as the creator of Kitty Power’s Matchmaker, a tongue in cheek dating game which incorporates same sex relationships and a diverse range of ethnicities.

Independent developer Leanne Bayley will also be at Animex discussing how her struggle to find work when pregnant led her to developing the game Glyph Quest.

There will also be speakers from the likes of Disney, Weta Digital, Epic, Valve and Laika, as well as talks from Teesside University graduates who have gone on to huge success in the animation and games industry. Manga Shakespeare artist Hamuro Sanazaki is also coming over from Tokyo to talk about her feminist approach to Shakespeare Manga and how to tell these stories from a female perspective.

Animex, which takes place over five days from February 9-13, attracts hundreds of people from across the globe and is the largest festival of its kind in the U.K. Last year the event expanded with Animex Southeast Asia. The two-day event in Malaysia was the University’s first Animex festival to be held outside the U.K.

Gabrielle Kent, Festival Organizer and Senior Lecturer in Computer Games Development at Teesside University, has again been listed as one of MVC’s 100 most influential women in the games industry.

“Animex continues to grow and once again we have attracted some of the biggest names in the industry to the University and the Tees Valley,” Kent said. “To reflect the major shift in the games industry from traditionally published titles to independent development, we are launching Animex Indie -- a single day that focuses purely on innovative independent games studios and developers.

“We are also pleased to welcome the makers of games such as Ninja Pizza Girl and Kitty Power’s Matchmaker who are addressing issues around diversity in games. On average, only nine percent of gender specified lead characters in games are female and some of those are offensive representations. Animex has always supported diversity and aims to give a platform to those who are striving to make a difference to the industry and expand the definition of Gamers.

“Animex is a truly fantastic event and an opportunity for us to celebrate our love of gaming and animation with colleagues and friends from across the globe.”

Speakers at this year’s Animex include:

Zach Parrish, Walt Disney Animation Studios: Zach was Head of Animation on Disney’s upcoming release Big Hero Six. Before joining Disney in 2010, he worked as a character animator on many big films such as Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Incredible Hulk, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Since Joining Disney he has worked on Alice in Wonderland, Tangled and Wreck it Ralph.

Ken Wong, Ustwo: Ken has worked in games for 12 years as game designer, art director and concept artist. He served as game designer and lead artist on Ustwo's recent Apple award winning mobile hit Monument Valley, which challenges expectations of gamers and what makes a game. An Australian living in London, his previous work also includes the art direction of Alice: Madness Returns at Spicy Horse and his solo indie project, Hackycat.

Richard Franke, Founder/Creative Director of Magic Notion: Richard is an 18 year industry veteran with titles such as the Burnout series, BLACK, Need for Speed and Tearaway under his belt from his years at Criterion Games and more recently Media Molecule. He founded his own independent studio, Magic Notion, in 2013 and they have just released their first title, Kitty Power’s Matchmaker, starring his alter ego, drag queen Kitty Powers.

Matthew Tateishi, Layout Technical Director, Weta Digital: Matthew is currently a Layout Technical Director at Weta Digital in Wellington, New Zealand. He has just finished work on the final Hobbit film, The Battle of Five Armies. Previous to this he has also worked on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Before working in visual effects, Matthew worked in games for 19 years as a level designer. Most recently he was lead level designer on Star Wars: 1313 at LucasArts and had designed levels for other Star Wars titles such as Jedi Knight and Dark Forces.

Greg Fisher, Global Head of Animation at MPC: Since graduating from Teesside University with a master’s degree in Computer Animation, Greg has worked on many films including Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Cats and Dogs, Black Hawk Down and Lara Croft Tomb Raider. He is now MPC’s Global Head of Animation and has overseen a number of high profile feature films including Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Maleficent and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Nicole Stark, Independent Game Developer: Nicole Stark started in the games industry as a junior animator on Sunny Garcia Surfing, a Playstation launch title. She was one of the first female developers employed in Australia and is passionate about encouraging more girls to make and play games. Recently Nicole and her husband have created Ninja Pizza Girl, a game based on their daughter. The enemies she encounters in the game are based on one of the things teenage girls are most frightened of, the insults and jibes of other teenagers.

To find out more about Animex, view the festival program and book tickets, visit

Source: Animex Festival

Jennifer Wolfe's picture

Formerly Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network, Jennifer Wolfe has worked in the Media & Entertainment industry as a writer and PR professional since 2003.