Irene Kotlarz is founder/director of the Platform International Animation Festival. Our interview took place at their Development offices, just prior to the premier of the first Platform Festival, in Portland, Oregon. Kotlarz explores with us, her earlier career, as well as the amazing three-year development and innovative programming about to intensify the US animation scene. Irene Kotarz was interested in fine arts and art history long before animation entered her mind. Then, while teaching art history at Surrey Institute of Art & Design, University College, which offers one of the oldest, most respected animation courses in England, her world suddenly expanded.
Kotlarz used her Art background to develop a new animation history program for the Institute. This led to a series of lectures at the Royal College of Art and the National Film School, followed by film and lecture tours in Australia, Canada, Japan, and other European countries. During this period she also began a prolific animation writing career that continues to this day. Her first stint as a festival director came when she was selected to head the Cambridge Animation Festival in England, one of the first international animation festivals in the world. Kotlarz direction produced stunning results. The Festival rapidly expanded and outgrew the city of Cambridge, requiring first a move to Bristol, and then eventually to Cardiff, in Wales. But, it wasn’t just a larger size festival, it also became more innovative, and introduced new talent that often went on to worldwide recognition, names such Nick Park, whose Creature Comforts and Wallace and Gromit, got their start at her festival. Kotlarz left the festival world briefly to become an animation producer at London’s Speedy Films, producing award-winning shorts and commercials for Britain and the US. Eventually she relocated to Los Angeles, and continues her involvement in the animation industry.
From her LA base, she has served as a festival judge, curated animation programs at the Disney Concert Hall, as well as a variety of television consulting and producing positions. And, of course, she continues to write articles and give lectures on the Art and Origins of Animation. All this rich experience was all leading up to her present passion, the Platform International Animation Festival, and it’s launching became the most ambitious animation festival in U.S. history. Kotlarz, under the hands-off sponsorship of Cartoon Network, established an environment for innovative animators and filmmakers to showcase their artistry and creativity through a dynamic art form that has experienced exponential growth in the global market. More details of this adventure are in our interview.
This episode is sponsored by The UPA Legacy Project.