Burbank residents joined Warner Bros. Studios employees at Animation Plaza last week to honor the company’s 80 years of classic cartoon production and be the first to see the studio’s new animation billboard.

Beginning with the studio’s 1930 release of “Sinkin’ in the Bathtub,” Warner Bros. Animation has set the standard for quality animation and has given the world more than 3,000 classic cartoon characters that range from Looney Tunes such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester and Tweety to Batman of DC Comics fame and George Jetson, Scooby Doo and Top Cat of Hanna-Barbera.

Today, producing for network and cable television, online, home entertainment and feature films, the studio’s animation division is highly respected for its creative and technical excellence, as well as for maintaining Warner’s rich cartoon heritage. One of the most-honored animation studios in history, Warner Bros. Animation has garnered numerous prestigious honors including six Academy Awards, 35 Emmy Awards and the George Foster Peabody Award.

Last week’s event, hosted by actor and television personality Mario Lopez, included remarks from Warner Bros. Television President Peter Roth, who oversees the animation division, and a performance by the Beat Freaks, a phenomenal all-girl dance team from Warner Horizon Television’s “Randy Jackson Presents America’s Best Dance Crew” that airs on MTV.

The party, which drew close to 500 guests including many who dressed as their favorite animated characters, gave participants the opportunity to win prizes, mingle with the creative talents who produce the legendary toons, learn how to draw cartoons and to see the unveiling of the studio’s new animation billboard on the northern side of Stage 3. The billboard, an icon to those passing the studio on Olive Avenue, includes special black-light villains that show up only at night.

Among those in attendance were Jon Gilbert, who serves as the president of Studio Facilities; Executive Vice President of Creative Affairs for Warner Bros. Animation Sam Register, who was on hand with his wife, Meaghan, and their sons, Charlie and Leo; and Senior Vice President Studio and Production Affairs Lisa Rawlins.

Other special guests included actress Julie Newmar, who played Catwoman in the original “Batman” television series, actor Diedrich Bader, who gives voice to the Caped Crusader in “Batman: The Brave and The Bold,” Warner Bros. Animation Creative Producers Bruce Timm, James Tucker and Glen Murakami, Warner Bros. Animation Production Manager Michael Macasero, comedienne Judy Tenuta, and Dave Shelton, who is the senior writer and head of cartoons at National Lampoon.

Other local residents and Warner employees who enjoyed the event included Perry Husman, Stacey Hoppe, Andrea Romano, Laura and Riley Williams, Susie Bray, Dan White, Michelle Garcia, Tamiko, Taleia, Tamya and Brendan Escovdo, Shelley Hollihan, Lara Scheunemann, Jeremy “Basil” Bennington, Daniel Guttierrez, Marci Lopez, Freddy Rosas, and Valerie Perez, who made for the best Wonder Woman since Lynda Carter.

 DAVID LAURELL can be contacted at dlaurell@aol.com or (818) 563-1007.

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