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Disney Imagineer from North County to be featured at entertainment expo 

Karen Armitage

North County resident Karen Armitage brought her background in theater performance and design to Imagineering in 1977; her first assignment was with Disney Legend Dorothea Redmond.

Goal of the expo is to, ‘educate and inspire the next generation of film industry professionals’

– The public is invited to meet some of the women of Walt Disney Imagineering at the upcoming Central Coast Entertainment Expo (CCEE) from Nov. 4 – 5 at the Clark Center for the Performing Arts. Hear their stories and celebrate their legacy, as featured in the new book, “Women of Walt Disney Imagineering: 12 Women Reflect on their Trailblazing Theme Park Careers.”

These women shaped the world of Disney from concept architecture designed by Eli Minceff Erlandson, theme park concepts designed by North County’s Karen Connolly Armitage, shows produced by Kathy Rogers, and stories authored and edited by Mel Malmberg.

“We are thrilled to shine a spotlight on the legacy of the Women of Walt Disney Imagineering, especially our dear friend, Karen Armitage, who was vital to building Disney parks around the world,” said Sarah Risley, president of the film society.

“Karen’s story is quite fascinating how she got into the industry, dominated by men at the time, and spearheaded so many projects at Disney that people continue to love and cherish to this day,” Risley continued.

Armitage spent 26 years (1977-2003) as a Senior Concept Designer for Walt Disney Imagineering in Glendale, Calif. Some of her assignment highlights include conceptual art direction for Hong Kong Disneyland Main Street; overall interior art direction for Frontierland, Disneyland Paris as well as designing, conceptualizing, and producing many shops, restaurants, theatrical show spaces for all Disney theme parks including MGM Studio tour, Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Florida, Disneyland, CA, Tokyo Disneyland and future projects including Westcot and Disney Seas.

The EXPO kicks off on Friday, Nov. 4, with a welcome reception and the Central Coast Showcase, sponsored by Allan Hancock College, which will feature films by local filmmakers and student film programs, including regional high schools, such as: Righetti High School, Central Coast New Tech High School, San Luis, and Morro Bay, as well as colleges, such as: Allan Hancock and Cal Poly.

Hollywood Backlot

Armitage spent 26 years working in the Imagineering department of Walt Disney. This is her early concept Hollywood Backlot at Disney’s California Adventure.

Then on Saturday, Nov. 5, the day will begin with a screenwriting workshop co-facilitated by Randi Barros (Cal Poly) and Sally Demarast (Cuesta College – Central Coast Writers Conference) and practical effects workshops with MJ Johnson.

People can come to the auditions and improv workshop facilitated by Sabrina Pratt, owner and director of the Central Coast Comedy Theater as well as Camera and Lighting 101 with Chachi Ramirez, board member of Los Amigos De Guadalupe, the non-profit leading the renovation efforts for the Royal Theater. The Royal Theater and the city of Guadalupe just secured a $4.9 million dollar grant to restore the theater, built in 1939.

The visual effects panel features talent spanning almost 50 years with Dave Hardberger (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, Lord of the Rings, Spaceballs, Blade Runner), Allen Maris, (Ad Astra, Godzilla, Prometheus), and Jeff Barnes (Pan’s Labyrinth, Iron Man, The Mist).

Additional panels will feature the resources and insights one would need to kick start and distribute films production on the Central Coast, including film commissioners from San Luis Obispo and Ventura, Eric Parker and Bill Bartels, as well as film festival directors from San Luis Obispo International Film Festival, Skye McLennan, Cambria Film Festival, Dennis Frehmann, and the Catalina Film Insitute and Festival, Ron Truppa.

Attendees will celebrate the fandom communities that bring people together with Arroyo Grande native Ken Napzok talking about building fandoms and followers as he discusses his experience as a broadcaster, comedian, and podcaster. Also featured is KC Grims who will be talking about the 501st Legion (Star Wars) and the Obi-Wan Series on Disney+.

“This isn’t a typical film festival, we really want to educate and inspire the next generation of filmmakers, writers, and actors to make the next big thing. We want this to be more of a hands-on experience and we are using the entirety of the Clark Center to give the whole ‘Behind the Scenes’ feel,” said Daniel Lahr, executive director of CCFS.

The two feature film, anniversary screenings at the Expo will be Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn at 11:30 a.m. and Lord of the Rings at 5:30 p.m.

For the full schedule of events and to purchase tickets to the Expo visit The ticket link will take you to the Clark Center’s website.

– By Raiza Giorgi, for Central Coast Film Society


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