Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer
Topic: "The Challenges & Opportunities in the New Economy"
Date: March 14, 2002
Karen Johnson is founder and CEO of Karen Johnson Productions, Inc. (KJP), an animation studio specializing in character animation for games and multimedia, scoreboards and broadcast. Formed in 1989 with a staff of five, KJP currently employs a staff of 20 animation and production artists and offer all phases of 2D and 3D animation design and productions.
Karen's interest in art began at an early age. She attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1972 to peruse a Fine Arts degree. It was there that she and a fellow animator decided to start their own animation studio. At 19 years of age, and $600 between them, they set up shop in an old factory in Racine and built most of their own animation equipment. Their company which specializes in animated commercials for local and regional advertising agencies as well as scoreboard animation for professional teams across the United States.
In 1989, Karen and her partner decided to pursue separate business paths and Karen left to form Karen Johnson Productions, Inc. She continued to expand production in the scoreboard animation field and soon became one of the largest suppliers of scoreboard animation in North America. The sports business, while lucrative, was seasonal so Karen began to pursue other areas of new business. Karen opened up a studio in Toronto to work on the animated film, "Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest," a feature-length animation film under the director of Kroyer Films and released by 20th Century Fox. They also produced a Christmas special, "The Wish That Changed Christmas," for Children's Television Workshop.
Over the last six years KJP has become a leading computer game developer, specializing in designing and producing software for children. Their clients include industry mainstays such as Disney, Mattel and Hasbro. A game they produced for Disney, "Disney's Villian's Revenge" won the 1999 Best Children's Entertainment Title of the Year.
Karen is currently raising money for her own children's property. When fully funded, OINK (The Online Interactive Network for Kids) will likely revolutionize the way preschool children learn in the 21st century. OINK's wholesome blend of fun innovative educational products will guide even the most at risk children on a path to success.
Ms. Johnson gives free of her time, speaking on animation to a variety of professional and volunteer groups and associations. She was named "1996 Small Business Person of the Year/Racine" and received the "1997 YWCA Woman of Distinction" award. In November 1997, Karen received a historical tribute from Women in Animation, honoring her for her contribution to the art of animation. She was presented with the award at the Warner Brother's Studio in Los Angeles. In 1999, Ms. Johnson received the Ernst & Young Service "Entrepreneur of the Year Award" for the State of Wisconsin.
Married for 23 years to John Johnson, she lives in Racine with their daughter, Becca 15. Their other daughter, Krista, 21, attends the University of Wisconsin-Madison.