Co-Founder Michaela Hart is an animation & multi-media producer, entrepreneur, artist, and activist who is focused on leading the animation industry into an exciting new realm. In 2019, Michaela and her partner Chris Jenkins, founded RAFT Animation, a unique studio model for eco-sustainable storytelling that leverages the power of positive narratives to inspire actions to better celebrate and care for our planet. https://raftanimation.com/iotter/
Michaela began her career in 1991 when she moved to France to pursue her art career. In Paris, she discovered her true passion: Animation. She began her venture as an artist, then moved into the creative direction, then as Head of Production overseeing all animated productions across French and European channels for Dargaud/Marina Studios (Mr. Men and Little Miss), one of the largest comics publishers and television animation producers in France in the late nineties.
Since returning to Los Angeles in 2000, she joined Nickelodeon to create their CG division, served as Head of Production for Universal Television Animation and the Emmy-Award Winning Curious George, ran Klasky Csupo’s award-winning commercial division, co-founded LA-based Roundhouse Animation Studios for MTV, continued her international collaborations by founding the Hollywood studio for France’s Los Angeles-based Gaumont Television’s animation division, and has served as an international production consultant for Film Roman, India’s Lyca Productions for Robot 2.0 (2018) – which carried the biggest budget in Indian history, Nickelodeon for projects with their Parisian partner studio, and was Executive Producer and Head of Animation Business Development for Sparx/Virtuos one of the world’s top games and digital content service providers.
Michaela is an Academy member, speaks fluent French with US/EU citizenship, and lives gratefully by the sea in Southern California with her family.
Co-Founder Chris Jenkins has contributed his talents to an impressive roster of projects during his 30-year career in animation, producing and writing. He joined Sony Pictures Animation in 2002 and played a critical role in launching the division’s inaugural film, Open Season. After establishing Open Season, Jenkins turned his attention to Surf’s Up, creating the storyline, characters and the innovative approach of an animated mockumentary. Surf’s Up rode the 2007 Awards Season wave culminating in an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Picture.
Prior to joining Sony Pictures Animation, Chris spent most of his professional life at Walt Disney Feature Animation. He was artistic coordinator on Atlantis: The Lost Empire, visual effects supervisor on The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and supervising effects animator/designer on Pocahontas, all positions that were central to the overall look and atmosphere of those popular movies. He also was an effects animator on Hercules, The Lion King, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and Touchstone Pictures’ Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
From 2000 to 2002, Chris took his production and story experience into the development department at Walt Disney Feature animation, where amongst other projects, he created characters and storylines for what would ultimately become Gnomeo and Juliet.
At Blue Sky animation from 2009 to 2010, Chris helped mold the story for RIO, and back at Sony 2010, Chris worked on Hotel Transylvania, inventing characters and scenes that would become integral to that successful franchise.
In 2011, Chris joined DreamWorks Animation, where he produced the short Almost Home starring Steve Martin, and Home released in 2015, starring Jim Parsons, Rihanna and Steve Martin.
Joining Original Force Animation in 2015, Chris wrote and directed Duck Duck Goose, starring Jim Gaffigan, Zendaya, Carl Reiner and Steven Fry. As of August 2018, the movie had become a runaway hit on Netflix, with over 10 million downloads in the first 30 days.
A native of Wales UK, Jenkins has a BA in scientific illustration from Middlesex University in England, and plays both trumpet and guitar – though not at the same time.
Arati Misro / Global Strategy and Community Outreach
Arati brings 20 years of experience in the Entertainment, Tech, Education & lifestyle business from a global perspective. Her expertise includes Feature films, TV, Culinary, Wine product sales & startups. She thrives on recognizing & prioritizing short and long-term goals to greenlight a show or scale a business from a holistic approach. She is passionate about developing a good story with writers and envisioning our characters who bring authenticity to voice.
Arati’s love of storytelling is to produce from story development, packaging, budgeting & scheduling productions, closing sales, and distribution strategies. Arati’s experience in foreign and domestic sales allows her to think like a businesswoman, along with having a creative mindset. Arati has attended all major film markets such as Cannes, Berlin, Toronto and the AFM as a sales executive and a Producer. She thrives on leadership and self-development to do and be better in order to empower others. Her experience chairing Women in Film International has allowed her to home in on her passion for mentoring and giving voice to countless women worldwide who strive to pursue their goals. Chairing is one of her most significant accomplishments. She has programmed and produced multiple events for the Los Angeles film community and was recognized by President Obama for her work. Currently she is on a board member track for UN Women. She thrives on being a part of building a vision via startups. Project Management, Operations, and business strategy are skills she learned that cross over from Producing Film & TV. She loves working in collaborative environments & connecting the dots between art, commerce, education & technology with leaders and is currently developing IP in animation, developing tv pilots & is founder of a podcast startup which has partners in India. Lastly Arati has spent extensive time in India and Europe. She has acted as a Liaison for East West Films, Prime Xchange Europe and Sony Pictures. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends, swimming in the ocean and hanging out in her father’s garden while tasting red wines from his collection.
Francois uses his extended knowledge of global entertainment production and distribution to thrive as a content development expert, creative, and business development executive. François is a serial entrepreneur with a wealth of creative experience in the West and in Asia, expert at collaborating with different cultures.
As a co-founder, contributed to grow a photo library company from scratch to 85 people. He implemented the international Reseller network of a Software Development company for VFX, managed the international Sales & Marketing and managed the lucrative buy-out exit. Francois has set-up numerous production companies in France and in Singapore for the creation, conceptualization, funding and management of a dozen international projects in movie and media industries (Animation, TV Series, Apps & Games, Smart Toys). He has end-to-end managed a EUR 2M fundraising round for a 3D Animation Film Development and designed the production roadmap with US movie majors. With extensive project & production management and sales experience and a trusted network of senior-level decision makers, Francois is highly entrepreneurial and comfortable working both independently and cross-functionally within multiple disciplines (Creative, finance, legal, marketing, product development) to execute trans-media content strategy.
Rachelle Lewis / Head of Talent / Executive Producer
Rachelle Lewis has been a talent scout and top recruiter in the animation and visual effects industry for the past 19 years. Before launching her own company, Rachelle Lewis Talent in 2006, she held the position of Director of Recruitment for Digital Domain, and was a Senior Recruiter at Sony Pictures Imageworks, and DreamWorks.
She began her career as Director of Artistic Recruitment for Klasky Csupo, best known for the TV series Rugrats. To compliment her expertise in sourcing and placement, Rachelle also brings a deep knowledge and understanding of all positions within the Animation and Visual Effects pipelines. Rachelle has a great eye for quality animation, VFX, and technical talent. This is an invaluable advantage when pursuing very senior and accomplished candidates. She speaks to both ends of the spectrum, from the production artist to the studio executives. Rachelle lectures at universities and industry events throughout North America and Europe. She acts in an advisory capacity developing the animation and visual effects curricula with universities and works directly with artists in the area of career development. She resides between Los Angeles and Seattle.
Ash Brannon is an Academy-Award-nominated director, writer, and visual artist with 30 years of experience in the animation industry. His credits include Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story (directing animator, story artist) and Toy Story 2 (co-director, story co-creator), which won a Golden Globe for Best Picture in the Comedy/Musical category. Ash also directed and co-wrote the Sony Pictures film Surf’s Up, which earned an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature.
Briana Ryan / Consulting Producer
Briana brings 20+ years of production and creative development experience to animated feature film & TV and video games, working with startups and major studios alike. She has overseen creative development and pre-production for Sony Animation, Riot Games, Reel FX, Revolution and Nickelodeon Studios.
Briana is also passionate about supporting people’s personal health + wellbeing and that of our beautiful planet. She is certified as a Holistic Health Coach, Kundalini Yoga + Meditation, Teacher, Breathwork Healer, Reiki Master and also in Permaculture Design.
Raúl was born in Madrid starting his animation career very early. He’s been an animator at international feature films ranging from Asterix and Caesar Surprise, The Chipmunks Great Adventure and Land Before Time until he worked on Who Framed Roger Rabbit, opening the doors as animator in the Walt Disney Studios for 10 years working in animated classics as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Lion King, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules and Pocahontas.
After Fantasia 2000, Raúl moved as sequence director for Paramount on films like The Rugrats in Paris, The Wild Thornberries Movie and Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius, nominated for an Oscar for best animated feature. In 2002, he joined Kandor Graphics as creative director, with the award-winning short film The Tell-Tale Heart, and soon afterwards as co-writer and director with his partner Manuel Sicilia on the feature film The Missing Lynx, winner of the Goya award to the best animated Feature in 2008. He produced with Antonio Banderas, the Academy Award Nominee short film The Lady and the Reaper. As director and producer, he was at the helm of the Animated Feature Extraordinary Tales based on Edgar Allan Poe stories. Extraordinary Tales won him a nomination as best director of an independent feature film at the 2016 ANNIE Awards as well as several International Awards. Raul Garcia is a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures of Arts and Sciences of Hollywood, The Writers Guild of America, The American Cartoonist Society, and ASIFA Hollywood. He has published two books in animation techniques and acts as artist in residence at the Lasalle college of the arts in Singapore and teaches animation around the world.
Dan’s talent is to create properties in the realm of animation; continue to be challenged; and to grow his artistic and professional skills. His love for animation stemmed from great story telling and character animation of his youth. His ambition was to become a traditional animator at Disney Feature and he landed his first animation job there working on three features, then one at Dreamworks.
However, that direction shifted as 2D animation began phasing out. He shifted toward character design work and spent 8 years on Go Diego Go! and Dora the Explorer for Nickelodeon. Following that, he moved into storyboarding on Wallykazam! for two and a half years He spent three years as Character Design Lead on Warner Bros’ Dorothy and the Wizard of OZ and the Scooby Doo feature. Currently, he is doing character design for Titmouse’s “Bless The Harts” and has developed Club Gaia with the good people at Raft Animation.
After graduating from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Pete went to work in independent film and was fortunate enough to be part of two Oscar-nominated pictures, Boys Don’t Cry and You Can Count On Me. Then it was off to L.A. where he got in on the ground floor of Sony Pictures Animation.
Rising through the ranks to Director of Development, Pete was instrumental in the Open Season franchise, as well as the Oscar-nominated Surf’s Up, Phil Lord & Chris Miller’s Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, and the development of Adam Sandler’s Hotel Transylvania. In 2009, Pete (against the advice of counsel) decided to follow his passion and left Sony to become a screenwriter. As a writer, Pete wrote for the hilarious (albeit short-lived) SYFY Network series, Outer Space Astronauts. He’s written three animated features that have all been in various stages of development at Prana Studios. He did a stint as a reality T.V. writer on the hit TRU TV show South Beach Tow (that was fun!), and then went on to Nickelodeon’s Alvinnn! and the Chipmunks for a season where he was credited with creating two episodes. Currently, Pete is writing an animated feature for SioFic Studios in South Korea and the pilot for an animated series for Raft Animation. Originally from Massachusetts, Pete kinda still has an accent and finds it difficult to write in the third person.
Stuart is one of the most sought after anatomy consultants to film animators, working on more than 60 feature-length films, including Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Lilo and Stitch, the first Harry Potter film and The Chronicles of Narnia. Several of the films have been nominated for the Academy Awards Best Animated Feature of the Year, including How to Train Your Dragon, Ratatouille, Surf’s Up, Bolt and Kung Fu Panda.
Stuart also served as a consultant to animators to video games, such as Horizon Zero Dawn. More recently he has lent his anatomical and paleontological expertise to Life of Pi, academy-award winning Zootopia, Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom and DreamWorks’ Abominable. He has also worked on television projects, including helping with the animal characters in the HBO/BBC series His Dark Materials. Stuart has also served as an anatomical and biomechanical consultant for a large, yeti-like audio-animatronics creature for the Expedition Everest thrill ride attraction at Walt Disney World in Florida.
Penney is a multi-faceted producer. With over a dozen credits, both live-action and animation, she draws upon her background in both creative and physical production as well as the executive ranks to develop and produce high profile projects. At DreamWorks Animation, which she started with partner Sandra Rabins, she ran the Animation’s development slate and supervised the formation of the studio’s music division for both live action and animated features.
Penney produced DreamWorks’ first animated movie, The Prince of Egypt and was Executive Producer on Antz and the award-winning Shrek; as well as serving as the creative executive on Aarman’s Chicken Run. Cox went on to start Sony Pictures Animation, where she oversaw Open Season, Surf’s Up, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Hotel Transylvania. She also brought the television series The Boondocks to Sony. Cox began her career in live action, producing a diverse slate of films that included: Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Terms of Endearment, Broadcast News and the notorious Snakes on a Plane.
Lorna Cook / Director, Animator
Lorna directed Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and winner of four Annie Awards. Her extensive credits as an animator include The Land Before Time and the Universal Picture’s An American Tail. Lorna was an animator on two Academy Award-winning films from Walt Disney Pictures Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King.