Accolades For a Special Group of Animators

Marlene Sharp is the proud proprietor of Pink Poodle Productions. Previously, Marlene served as Director, Production at LEVEL-5 abby, home of YO-KAI WATCH and other hit video game-based franchises. Formerly, as Producer, TV Series, at Sega of America, Marlene worked on much more than the Teen Choice Award-nominated cartoon SONIC BOOM. For example, her Hedgehog duties took her to the heights of nerd-dom as an official San Diego Comic-Con 2017 panelist. She is the winner of 2019 LA Shorts International Film Fest Script Competition (an Oscar and BAFTA-qualifying fest), at which her backdoor sitcom pilot received a staged reading by The Groundlings. And as a human being, basically, she loves dogs. For proof of the aforementioned, please see her website

The CLU Career Training Program in Torrance, California, proudly tips its metaphorical hat to the third graduating class of its animation career training program for neurodiverse adults. Alongside commencement, CLU announces film festival (and other) honors, plus a robust project slate for its affiliated animation studio Brainstorm Productions, now in its second year of full-time operation. An original, animated, half-hour special – consisting of all original short films – is on track for a streaming debut in time for World Autism Month (April) 2024.

The Graduates and Their Accomplishments

CLU class of 2023 includes Christian Pech, Bryan Ramirez, Leo Romero, Brandon Williams, and Bobby Toresdahl. After graduation exercises, the emergent alums will be employees of CLU Transitions, DBA Brainstorm Productions, which supports brick-and-mortar facilities on Pacific Coast Highway in Torrance.

The Professional Animation Studio: Brainstorm Productions

In the last year, Brainstorm has completed a kid-lit inspired multimedia package – comprising two animated short films – for author and director Linda Malik. The resulting WILLOW’S TALE – the adventures of a little black cat with a big imagination – is on the international film festival circuit at present and screens in the 2023 Oscar- and BAFTA-qualifying Los Angeles Shorts International Film Festival on July 26.

WILLOW’S TALE also is one of only ten official selections in the 2023 New York Cat Film Festival, which NEW YORK TIMES praises in an October 2022 spread. Malik credits Brainstorm with superior animation skills and creativity.  “Our long and successful collaboration with Brainstorm Productions has resulted in two short animations and one book, with more exciting projects to come. On behalf of all little black cats, we are grateful,” smiles Malik. LA Shorts Fest director Robert Arentz says, “We are excited to welcome this talented crew into LA Shorts International Fest 2023. Their WILLOW work jumps off the screen. It will be a treat for audiences to share this joy in the theater.”

In addition, Brainstorm Productions has embarked on meaningful partnerships with top karaoke manufacturer The Singing Machine Company and its Social Impact Officer Genna Rosenberg of GennComm; musical non-profit Rock Autism; and children’s book authors Jane Kusch (THE SECRET LIFE OF SHEBA) and Lisa Jacovsky (RASCAL CAT BROTHERS, PURRRFECT AS I AM), respectively. In-production projects include an animated music video from composers/creators Tim and Vickie Myers, plus a graphic novel (TIERRA DE LIBERTAD or “LAND OF FREEDOM”) by Latina filmmaker, writer, producer and La Femme Film Fest Founder Leslie LaPage.

Distinguished Administrators and Strategic Advisors

“CLU and Brainstorm Productions continue to amaze!” says freshly instated Brainstorm senior staffer, animator, and Grilled Cheese Media co-founder Bob Harper. “I look forward to joining forces with these inventive artists.”  United in enthusiasm are advisory board members Walter Santucci and Kathleen Davison. CLU and Brainstorm founder/executive director Virginia Erxleben, animation program coordinator Sylvia Owens, and entertainment industry consultant Marlene Sharp of Pink Poodle Productions complete the cabinet.

Founder’s Message

CLU founder and executive director Virginia Erxleben, EdD, BCET is positive about prospects for the newest crop of animation professionals. She says, “Brainstorm is a catapult for these unconventional content creators. We hope to engage with the entertainment industry on many fronts to provide meaningful employment inside an underserved community. Our students are too talented not to contribute to their chosen field! Let’s change the narrative from 80% unemployment to 80% employment within the neurodiverse population. Brainstorm Productions is a big step in that direction. We are grateful for our cheerleaders, advocates, and supporters – especially Harbor Regional Center – who share our mission of entrepreneurial initiatives that promote collaborative, strength-based, competitive, integrated work.”  About the CLU Career Training Program CLU is home to a swiftly growing animation career training program for adults on the autism spectrum. As CLU’s sister creative and digital arts studio, Brainstorm Productions offers paid workplace experience for CLU animation alumni. Brainstorm has a distinct mission: To be that bridge between school enrollment and paid roles. Brainstorm Productions proudly presents compensated job opportunities for those with CLU animation diplomas. 

For more information about Brainstorm Productions, please visit                                                                                                                                                              See also the CLU/Brainstorm LinkedIn profile:
For press inquiries, please contact Marlene Sharp at

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