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Published 13th Jan 2012

Caption one: At the Opera by Juan Pablo Zaramella.

They have worked on classics such as The Lion King and Toy Story 2 – now some of the biggest names in animation and computer games will be welcomed to Teesside University for the 13th annual Animex festival.

The international festival of animation and computer games originally began as a two day conference and now spans five days of award ceremonies, film screenings, master classes, workshops and inspirational talks.

Guest speakers for the 13th Animex, which takes place from Monday 6 February to Friday 10 February, include:

Max Howard, former President of the Exodus Film Group and Teesside University honorary graduate. Previously President of the Exodus Film Group, whose first production, Igor was released in the 2009, Max is currently producing a series of animated feature films for Exodus. He created and ran studios for Disney in London, Paris, Orlando and Los Angeles, working on some of Disney's most memorable films including Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King. As President of Warner Bros Feature Animation Max oversaw such hit movies as The Iron Giant and Space Jam. Max provides lectures and seminars on the art of storytelling, design and production for the feature animation industry. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Arts by the University in November 2011.

Karen Prell, animator and puppeteer. Valve animator Karen Prell comes from a background in live action puppetry. She performed popular film and television puppet characters for 16 years with The Jim Henson Company, most notably Red Fraggle in Fraggle Rock and the Worm in Labyrinth.

In 1997 Karen learned computer animation at Pixar Studios and worked on the award-winning Pixar films Geri's Game, For the Birds, A Bug's Life, and Toy Story 2. She later animated on several productions at Tippett Studio including Disney's Enchanted and at DNA Productions on the feature film The Ant Bully. Karen joined Valve in 2007 and has contributed to character animation on several of Team Fortress 2's Meet the Team shorts, zombies and survivors in Left 4 Dead 2 and the mechanical cast of Portal 2: Atlas, P-Body, GLaDOS and Wheatley, the exuberantly delusional sphere.

Karen Traviss, author and comics writer. New York Times bestselling author and comics writer Karen Traviss has written four novels in the Gears of War series: Aspho Fields, Jacinto’s Remnant, Anvil Gate and Coalition's End and is the writer of Epic Games’ 2011 blockbuster video game sequel, Gears of War 3. Her fifth Gears novel, The Slab, is out in May 2012.

Rachelle Lewis, talent scout. Rachelle has been a talent scout in the animation and visual effects industry for many years. She runs her own company which specialises in placing animation and effects artists for film studios worldwide. Her client list includes MPC London, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Cafe FX, CIS Hollywood, Method, Laika, Brainstorm Digital, The Mill, and many others. Before going independent, she worked as the director of recruitment for Digital Domain, and senior recruiter for Dreamworks and Sony Imageworks.

Chris Williams, Animex Director, said: “We we are delighted that some of the world’s brightest talent from the animation and computer games industries will yet again be coming to Teesside.

“Animex really does have something for everyone. Not only will our guests be talking and working with our main audience, but will be meeting schoolchildren from the Tees Valley in special workshops and film screenings.”

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