Annastacia Henry-Ramos: ‘If You Shoot for the Stars, You’ll Reach the Moon’

Posted by on May 3, 2024 in Uncategorized | No Comments

A conversation with Robby Gilbert

President’s Note:
I’ve had the pleasure to teach animation to hundreds of students at some world class art schools for over 20 years. Many have gone on to have long and successful careers, pretty sure there’s an Oscar winner and a feature film director in that group. But none of them have the combination of enthusiasm, talent and drive as Staci. I hope you enjoy learning about her as much as I have.

I recently sat down on Zoom with animator and entrepreneur, Annastacia Henry-Ramos. I have to say, I came away feeling exponentially more hopeful about the future. Annastacia (Staci) does not shy away from the injustices and horrors of our world and yet somehow maintains an effortless positivity that inspires. Staci has embarked on business venture that combines animation production with promotional services for artists. The company is called Missink Toons, LLC. The work is highly imaginative, proactive, and I would say brave and necessary, addressing identity, inclusivity, gender, sexuality, and violence against women in a way that doesn’t aim to preach but rather, provides a place of positive representation for marginalized communities.
Annastacia represents a new generation of animators who are grappling the cultural maelstroms of our current condition. Wise beyond their years, Staci is a remarkable force. I have no doubt the future is bright for this infectiously positive artist, and with people like Staci in the mix, the future for animation seems bright as well.

Great to meet you, Annastacia. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Well, I am Puerto Rican and Honduran, and I am based in upstate New York in a small town called Oneonta. I do all of my animation from home. I recently just finished the proof of concept for my animated short film Lunar Power, which got featured in the Poppy Jasper Film Festival. I also do a lot of volunteer work for Poppy Jasper since they’re nonprofit. They are based over in California.

And so the proof of concept is for my short film, Lunar Power, which is to help my animation studio. Since last year, I just made my official LLC. —Missink Toons.


Thank you so much. I couldn’t have made it without the Creatives Rebuild New York program that provided me the Guaranteed Income for Artists Grant that allowed me to start my own business, Missink Toons LLC. They were amazing.

Cool. So, you got a grant, and now you’ve started your LLC, and your work is lovely.
Why don’t you talk to me a little bit about how you decided you wanted to be an animator and your pathway to this grant.

Sure! So, I have always been into art. My dad grew up in New York City as a graffiti artist during the graffiti boom in the eighties. And once he found out one out of his four kids had an interest in art, he was like, ‘Finally I got one!’

So he really just supported me to pursue my interests and keep making art. And once I realized that animation was a pathway I wanted to go in—because before I wasn’t really sure why or how to become an artist as a career from illustrator to animator—I actually ended up doing a bit of a mini-interview with a story board artist called GiAnna Ligammari—an alumnus from Fredonia University who informed me about the animation industry.

She told me just how the animation industry works in not only New York, but in the U.S. as a whole. And she basically told me it’ll be a lot easier if you start as a storyboard artist.

So from there, I ended up going over to Fredonia and just continued studying more and more.
I had to do a lot of my own research when it came to the animation industry, since I’m the only person in my whole family who actually specifically went for ‘artist’ as a career.

What influenced you to become an animator besides Gianna?

So for animation, I actually just ended up going to SUNY Broome Community College and I took an animation class. Before, I was more interested in doing illustrative work or just doing character design work. A lot of artists like Steven Silver I had followed because he did the character designs for all of my favorite cartoons at the time. But when I took the animation class and I just did a couple of animations, I was like, ‘Oh, I like this a lot!’

Did Fredonia have an animation major?

Yes. Fredonia does have an animation-illustration major. Unfortunately, even though Fredonia is a state school and one of the first state schools come to come out with an animation-illustration major they actually don’t have a lot of funding put towards the program. And at times they have been slowly just taking money out of the program, despite so many students going in specifically for that major.

But fortunately, I was lucky enough to meet Doug Vitarelli, and he kept encouraging me.

I also was able to meet the head of the animation department at the time, Jill, right before she left. And she also told me ‘You should submit to festivals and start working on short films.’

And so you did!

Yes! Currently, Poppy Jasper is the only festival I submitted to because I just got the LLC.
And I’m now gathering funds to get more artists and animators. I really want to make sure I pay my artists and animators enough money. My voice actors are amazing, and I am gathering more funds to pay them as well.

I also learned the very important lesson of animation is a lot of work and 10 min of animation isn’t as easy as I originally thought. It’s a very humbling experience.

Absolutely. So, the film is currently still in progress?

We have 3 minutes of the film complete, and that was what was shown at the Poppy Jasper Film Festival.

Nice. Is there somewhere that people can look at the progress, or you just holding off on that?

I’m holding up a little bit. I will start posting it soon on my Instagram account and also doing some live streams on it on my TikTok account.

Well, we’ll see what happens with that. You have a year at least.

We have a year at least. So, and that’s why I’m gathering as many people on my Instagram as possible through that as well.

So how many people do you have working for you currently right now?

I have one to two artists off and on working with me for projects. And then my current voice acting cast for Lunar Power. They got everything finished. They’re fantastic. Voice actors are Manuel Lewis @manuellewis_voiceactor, Tori Brawner @definetlynottorubrawner. @sir_flamigator, Sarah Friedman. All accounts can be found on Instagram.
Music provided by @offbeatdegradations @Bardledoohiphop

So, tell us a little bit about Lunar Power. The story—how you got the idea—what are the characters like?

Sure. So Lunar Power is a story about a Trans Latino superhero who is taking her younger cousin, who is also trans, to school. Unfortunately, her younger cousin isn’t all that interested in her as a person. He’s like, ‘I just wanna play my video game and focus on my favorite superhero,’ which is Lunar Power.

So, this is a story about a Trans Latino superhero and the superhero’s name is Lunar Power?

Yes. Her alter-ego name is Lunar Power and her real name is Amaya.

It’s a beautiful name. So, what happens?

So, as they’re going to school, and as they’re trying to head over to the school, a monster have attacked the city. So now she has to transform into her alter-ego, Lunar Power, save the city, and also protect her younger cousin Miguel. And, also protect her secret identity from him. And during the turn of events, they end up getting along more. They finally find a common interest and learn they can rely on each other a little bit.

Whole purpose for Lunar Power was originally just a portfolio piece. It was a one-off story, but I actually started learning more about the trans rights activism in Honduras that’s been going on for years. And I also learned that there’s a whole school dedicated for trans students to go so they can freely and safely learn. And I thought, ‘Oh, that’s interesting,’ because just in my head my character is also Honduran and also trans. So, the inspiration to actually turn this into a film was more for those students to have their own super hero. More or less.

This Trans School is in Honduras?

No. Mocha Celis is the first trans school in the world, located in Argentina. It also inspired the creation of similar programs in more than 15 Argentine provinces and Latin American and Caribbean countries, Classes started in 2012.

I do have plans of asking the staff if I could somehow get Lunar Power translated into Spanish for them, and maybe see if anyone would be interested in voice acting in Spanish cause… it is a little bit of love letter to Honduras. I’m not super connected with the culture on that side, but I do love hearing about it. And I love hearing about the activism, stories about all the both women and LGBTQ rights going on there at the moment as well.

Talk to me about that because, you know, of course, here in the United States, we don’t hear a lot about that scene in Honduras or Argentina specifically.

Yes. Well, on my dad’s side, I am Honduran. And he always told me a lot about the culture. He was like, ‘We come from the Mayan people.” And he used to try to inspire as much interest in the culture for me as possible. And then later in later years, I started learning more about the not so fun stuff in Honduras. Unfortunately, it has been the murder capital of the world. There’s a lot of poverty going on, and despite that, and a lot of immigrants that you hear on the news, there’s a good amount that actually come from Honduras through Mexico to go over the border. So, unfortunately, it is very impoverished, but still very beautiful and loving culture.

So, in Honduras, the LGBTQ community, and the trans community is much more supported?

Actually, quite the opposite. But I just find, like, what’s the word for it? The indominable human spirit of the trans community is so strong because there’s so much violence against them, but they have a very strong activism group.

And despite that, part of the reason that really pushed me to turn Lunar Power into a film is, I remember, at the time, one of the more famous trans rights activists, Escarleth Caceres, a trans rights activist and part of The LGBT Rainbow Association was murdered in July 2020. Peace Brigades International-Honduras Project also provided me with more drive to turn Lunar Power into an animated story.

I also forgot to mention part of the importance of my creating Lunar Power is also the high rates of femicide (murder of women) that has gone on in Honduras especially since, in 2023 Honduras held the highest rates of femicide in Latin America. Having Lunar Power be a Honduran Heroine was partially motivated by the Femicide of Maria Jose Alvarado Munoz also known as Miss Honduras in 2014.

And around the time, I also learned about the trans school in Argentina.

And despite the backlash they get, they still keep giving a lot of support for the community and speak out very openly in their community as well.

That’s amazing. Here in the United States, as you know, the there’s been a lot of— not just violence—but also political, non-acceptance of the trans community. I don’t know what my question is. I’m just really impressed with you going there.

This film isn’t really meant to try and tell the story of a trans person, but to just show a happy story of them being people, and them being able to see themselves as characters, where they just have almost like a Superman story. They can see themselves as something where it’s not always just doom and gloom.

That’s wonderful. I’m a teacher, and I think that more and more trans animators are coming into the classrooms. And I’m just thinking about one of them. We were having a conversation. And, I made the comment right along the lines of what you’re talking about…that it’s really important to do some trans animation. And she said, ‘Well, I don’t wanna be identified as the trans animator. I just want to be an animator who happens to be trans.’

Oh, you’re totally right. I also think about that sometimes I don’t only wanna just be seen as, like the LGBTQ animator or the Latino animator.

Sometimes, it’s very important for other people to be able to see themselves and see other people part of their community, being able to do the things that they feel like they might not be able to do just due to their identity, race, religion.

And other times I think it might just be a little bit of stemming from Latino pride of like, always be proud of who you are. Always let everybody in the room know, like, ‘Hey! I’m a Puerto Rican. Hey, I’m there.’

Because, when you share a room with someone and they don’t know who you are or what group you are, sometimes they’ll say certain things of how they really think.

So it’s very important to be able to also be just as open of what you think as well.

Right on.

I thank my mom for that.

So, you’re going into a mode of animation that is just about trying to have people see themselves represented—is this a theme you wanna continue with? Or, do you wanna look at other groups?

Yes, I do.

I want to look at other groups. I am currently working on a web toon that also features gay thruple as well and one of them is non-binary. The main part of all storytelling is to always just be able to bring people together through entertainment.

And then you introduce your themes—certain themes a little bit more. I’m personally always a little bit careful when I go into certain political topics. I wanna do as much research as possible.
And I sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s not so great because it’s stopping you from being in the moment and talking about important things that are trending. However, I will always believe like it’s more important to be very knowledgeable about what you say before you say it.

So, is this webtoon something that’s out now, or are you working on it?

The first season is out now. It is called My Monster Lovers on Webtoon Canvas. And currently it’s on hiatus as while I get more seasons finished.

I really wish I didn’t have to ask this question. But do you ever get people who are just not happy with the areas you’re exploring?

Of course. I think sometimes it comes from high school. I used to draw a lot of diverse characters in my sketchbook. I still do, of course. But even for my own classmates, they’d always be like, ‘Why do you draw so many Black people?’ And that is a question I never expected. You could have given me a million dollars, and I never thought they’d say that.

Why didn’t you expect that question?

Well, for me, I grew up in a very diverse family. I was just drawing what I see on my mom’s side, she has a lot of Black and Puerto Rican uncles, and they all had their own kids.

And also, on my dad’s side— our whole family—is very colorful, almost like every other race, and we’re still learning more about each side of the family. Also, I grew up in New York City, and moving around a lot has always just been something normal. Like, I see these people. So, it’s not too out of the blue for me to draw them.

And I got those questions when I was in Florida. And even though our school was actually really diverse, I would still get that question from my white classmates. And I’m like, ‘Just look around in our classroom!’

Ha, ha, ha, wow. How long were you in Florida?

I was actually in Florida for around, I think eight years. My family moved from New York City. My mom wanted to make sure that me and my brother were in a safe area. Not to say that Queens, New York wasn’t safe, but she also didn’t like the cold weather.
We actually just moved back up to upstate New York.

She frustrates me because for the longest time, I was like, ‘Well, I wanna either be able to go to a private school like SVA for animation, or I don’t have to go to college at all. Because why would I need a degree for animation?’

How do you feel about it now? Do you feel like you don’t need a degree?

I went through the college experience. I wouldn’t recommend the college I went to for animation. But the just having the college experience overall is very important.

Are you going to do a master’s? Are you going do the SVA program or something?

No— mostly because it’s a lot of money. But also, there’s so many other avenues when it comes to actually learning the art of animation and learning just how to get better through drawing anatomy and perspective.

I found that doing online classes and taking online courses was a lot better for me, because I could go at my own pace, and I was learning from industry professionals. But going to a college and being in person with students and working and collaborating is a whole other experience that I think should also be acknowledged.

And if I never did that, I would have never have been able to meet the president of the Poppy Jasper Association. And this year, I worked as their social media manager because, through promoting myself on social media, I learned a lot.

And I told them I love this festival. I love what you guys represent, but I don’t see you guys on social media at all. And she was like, ‘Well I do the majority of this by myself! I just need extra help.’ And I offered to volunteer.

That’s great.

It still feels unreal.

What is there a theme to Poppy Jasper? Is there a mission?

So, their main mission is to promote diverse filmmakers and smaller filmmakers. Mattie, who is the head—(I love her so much) —her mission is to really promote diversity amongst filmmakers and they also just promoted the hashtag poppy jasper pledge which is for female filmmakers because ever since covid a lot of industries kind of took big steps backwards when it came to diversity. Unfortunately, especially for female creators.

So they are working as a team of women directors across the globe, from the UK to the U.S. to, I think, India as well, to help promote more female filmmakers and non-binary filmmakers and also POC filmmakers as well.

Wow! That’s amazing. Why do you think that after COVID so many female creators got left behind?

I think, unfortunately, when it comes to the mental health of covid hitting a lot of people—a lot of people ran out of steam. 2020 was the year for a lot of people, including myself, of like, ‘Oh, this is our year! We’re gonna do our big projects and do this and that.’

And unfortunately, after covid, both their mental health and steam got hit. But at the same time, because so many people were trapped inside — we actually ended up talking about this during the women’s panel at Poppy Jasper.

Domestic violence rates rose exponentially across the world, and also a lot of women’s rights ended up getting pushed back —Roe vs. Wade. It also got overturned. A lot of laws protecting minorities when it comes to the workplace are also being pushed back because when covid hit, those groups got hit. So, it’s very hard to still keep fighting for your rights after you’re mentally and physically exhausted.

So, when do you think you’re going to finish up with Lunar Power?

So the goal for Lunar Power is to finish up in five months. It’s a big goal, but if you reach for the stars, you’ll at least hit the moon is what I say, ha, ha, ha!

That’s great, especially when you’re going for Lunar Power.


That’s amazing. I definitely want to stay in touch with you and help broaden your network because I really love what you’re doing.

Thank you.

Going back real quick— if you have any students who want to work —who are interested in working on this project—I don’t have enough for paid work right now, but it’s just like any interest at all. And especially if they know ToonBoom Harmony— please feel free to send them my way and give me their social medias as well, ‘cause I can also promote them on my pages.

You’re awesome. That’s wonderful. You just relatively recently got out of college. Is that right? When did you graduate?

I graduated in 2021. So, you’re online, pretty much. I was one of the few people who were like, ‘Oh, lock down kind of saves me.’

My hat’s off to you. We’re in a really weird time, because you have all of this progress being made in the trans and LGBTQ community, and at the same time, all this push back. What are your thoughts on that?

Oh, it’s a very silly saying, but my dad used to say this to me all the time, where he’s like, ‘Staci, if you don’t have any haters, you’re doing something wrong.’ And I think when you have something very popular come out—not popular, but very well known, come out—and especially because people are also learning more and more about what it means to be trans and how it’s different for each person. I think, hopefully over time, as long as we keep pushing knowledge and keep ensuring that younger people stay knowledgeable, and also older people as well stay knowledgeable, and really try and create a safer space to have these types of uncomfortable conversations. I believe things will get better over time, but it has to be a continuous push.

Wow. You’re wise beyond your years, my friend. What does animation bring to the table as far as having these conversations? Like you said before, making media that is accessible—that people can see themselves in— that type of thing?

Wow. Animation—I think it provides —at least for me provides—a physical outlet of being able to create things in a space that you wouldn’t be able to replicate in real life um and be able to tell and show stories in a certain way that for some filmmakers. You just wouldn’t be able to when it comes to doing live action, even with some CGI. And, I think for me personally, I just always love stories when it comes to having certain characters be portrayed as maybe animals like in Zootopia. For me, it just did a really good job of showing allegories when it comes to certain political issues and can show it in a different way to help people better understand it.

Because I think, just personally, everybody learns differently. And that’s no different when it comes to social issues as well, huh? So, being able to have more diverse ways of being able to see things from storytelling for entertainment purposes or for teaching someone—it’s always just a good thing to have.

Are your Lunar Power characters animals?

They’re actually not. They’re all human. The only animal creature in it is the physical monster.

Would you feel comfortable just putting pictures of your characters up with this article?

Of course! I can send you pictures of the characters.

Great! What else do you want people to know about your company, Missink Toons, and your mission?

So the company’s main mission is for entertainment and marketing to help both other businesses, but also other creators as well, to be able to tell their stories or be able to pro promote their work.

My goal for Missink Toons is to be able to expand it into an actual working studio. Right now, it’s more of a one woman show at the moment. But I definitely would like to start bringing on a lot more diverse team members and pay them livable wage, but also be able to tell their stories as well.

I think being able to tell different stories is what my family’s always been about—like embracing both your own culture— but being able to enjoy other people’s cultures as well, and just being able to share and appreciate one another.

Well, it sounds like you want to grow the company and explore very diverse themes and so forth. How do you feel that the trans community, or the POC community is being portrayed currently in animation?

So, I think when it comes to mainstream animation, I do have a lot of sympathy because they are trying to sell to a global audience, and that’s a very hard thing to do. And I think the very sensitive steps they’re taking right now is a really good sign in the right direction.

And despite all a lot of push back they’ve gotten, I do know, like a few Pixar movies have been banned in certain countries just for having a character —and not even showing anything— but having a character say that they’re part of a community.

And for them to still continue promoting these characters and promoting just general themes of accepting each other for their differences is a very good step in the right direction.

And, of course, everything can be improved over time, but as long as again—you just keep going.

You’re so positive.

I definitely wanna say— it’s just the mentality both my parents like— and still didn’t ask—because they came from immigrant parents who barely spoke like English. And they had to deal with a lot of discrimination and sexism when they were growing up.

But they always made sure to keep a positive mindset.
And in that time, I hated it—when they would be like, ‘Stop trying to be so negative! You need to say that you’re good. It changes your brain waves or whatever.’ But now, growing up, I’m like, this actually does help me a lot.


Both my parents are actually first-born Americans
And they both kind of had to learn both English and Spanish to help provide for their families at from a young age. So, they always tried to install a very strong work ethic in both me and my siblings, and also a positive mindset, because they saw how it could go if you stay in a very negative mentality and just stay stuck in one place.

And they definitely did not want that for their kids. And I’m very happy that, even though at the time I would hate their lectures, sometimes looking back, I’m really glad they did that for me.

And they’re supportive of your animation focus, aren’t they?

Yes, they’re really supportive. When I was younger, I actually wanted to be a veterinarian. And so, when I switched to animation, my mom was a little bit worried.

But for her, it actually wasn’t until she saw the movie from Illumination, “Sing” with my brother.
They just sat down and watched it one day, and she called me and she was like, ‘Staci. I saw what you can create in animation. I think it’s beautiful. You have my full 100 percent support —you always had it. But I’m not worried anymore.’—were her exact words. And that actually helps a lot.

Honestly, this is more for parents of artists—always be supportive of your artistic children. If they’re showing you that they’re doing this and they are taking this seriously, I feel like helping them and showing them that same amount of support that they’re putting into it is only gonna help them keep going.

If my parents didn’t show me the same support, I probably would be in veterinary school. And now I’m running a business, and I’m actually starting to make money in it, and I’m able to take care of my two dogs.

Can I ask how old you are?

Sure? I am 24, turning 25, actually, tomorrow.

Happy birthday!

Thank you!

Wow. You’re amazing. I mean, I keep thinking— the reason you’d want to get a master’s degree is because you should be teaching. But you are— through your animation. I’m just so impressed with your outlook.

Hopefully, one day, once I get work experience, I wanna be able to start teaching. I do live streams, and they ask me questions, and I help them as much as that I can.

But I’m always, make sure you pick up an anatomy!

Do you have any other questions for me or anything else you want to include?

I do wanna say MissInk Toons believes in supporting other artists. This company is made by artists for artists, and also to help other people who also just have an interest in arts or really love it for entertainment purposes.

That’s great. Well, I could talk with you all day.

Oh, wait, I have the one thing, which you just reminded me. So, I do have a Discord channel set up. I do put in a lot of resources, and it is a lot of artists in the Discord Channel as well.

And I put in both grant resources, and as much animation resources as I can help growing smaller businesses and artists at the same time. And it’s also a place where you can put your art up and create, have a critique, or just look at other people’s art and get inspired. So, it’s just like a small community I’m starting to build.

How do people find that?

Sure, you can find the on my link tree. I also will send you the exact Linktree where you can find all my social media platforms and community discord server!

You’ve been great. I mean, you’re doing some amazing stuff. It’s really important. I can see why Doug really wanted to have us do an interview.

Thank you so much, Robby. And of course, I’ll definitely keep in touch with you!