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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Creating Characters for Animation Across TV, Games & Branded Content: A Virtual Panel


Virtual Panel: May 30th, 2024
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A small bouncy random shape

Characters are the foundation of all great stories –  whether for television, branded content, or games. Join our virtual panel of experts from across film/television, games and branded content and hear about the complexities, differences, and commonalities involved in creating compelling characters to engage different audiences. RSVP today!


Stephen P Neary – Writer, Director, and storyboard artist

Stephen P. Neary is a Hoosier-born writer, director, and storyboard artist living in Los Angeles. Stephen created The Fungies! for Cartoon Network, serving as Executive Producer for the show’s three seasons, which premiered on HBO Max in 2020. Prior, Stephen served as Supervising Producer for seasons two and three of Cartoon Network’s Annie nominated show, Clarence.
Stephen was also a feature story artist at Blue Sky Studios for five years on franchises such as Ice Age, Rio, and The Peanuts Movie, before moving to LA to work at Cartoon Network in 2013. In 2012, his independent short, Dr Breakfast, animated on his daily commute from Brooklyn to Connecticut, was an official selection at The Sundance Film Festival.
Stephen currently works as a feature story artist for clients including Netflix, Illumination, Annapurna, and Sony. He likes to run and paint goofy little autobio comics about his family, which you can read on his Instagram.

Michael Highland- Creative Director, Games at BUCK

Michael Highland is BUCK’s Creative Director for games and has been pivotal in expanding the games offering at BUCK since 2020. His leadership culminated in the release of BUCK’s first original game, Let’s! Revolution! in 2023. The game received universal praise from critics (88 on Metacritic), was nominated for an Annie Award and received an Excellence in Audio Honorable Mention from the Independent Game Festival.
Highland began his career at thatgamecompany, where he initially served as a Feel Engineer before becoming Lead Designer on Sky: Children of the Light. The game, celebrated for its pro-social multiplayer gameplay, became a global hit with over 250 million downloads. Michael then joined Bad Robot Games as an early employee in the role of Design Director. He led the prototyping of an experimental narrative game and gained valuable insights into the challenges that established creative companies face when transitioning into the gaming sector.

Linda Simensky, Head of Animation & Scripted Content, Duolingo

Linda Simensky oversees the characters, storytelling, and scripted content for Duolingo. She is leading the company’s efforts to create scripted and character-driven stories featuring Duolingo’s original cast of characters. Before Duolingo, Simensky was Head of Content for PBS KIDS. She began her career at Nickelodeon, where she helped build the animation department, and then oversaw original animation at Cartoon Network. In addition, Simensky teaches animation history courses at the University of Pennsylvania.

Collision Awards General Manager, Randeep Katari

Randeep Katari is a Creative Exec, Story Person, and Artist living in New York City. Originally hailing from the Canadian suburb of Richmond Hill, Ontario, he grew up with a deep love of storytelling that led him to work as a story artist for studios such as Walt Disney Animation Studios, Blue Sky (Epic, Rio 2, The Peanuts Movie), Nickelodeon, NBC/Universal, Rough Draft, Passion Pictures, and more. As a writer/artist, he’s worked for Google, Facebook and Activision-King. He served as Head of Story for Axis Animation/Timeless Pictures first feature for Netflix, then made the transition to an executive role as a Creative Manager overseeing Animated Film and Series at Netflix. Currently he’s a Creative Producer and Story Consultant for various companies with the mission of “helping people tell stories better”. He’s usually supervised at meetings by his dog Milo.


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