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J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series
With her unforgettable Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling gave me a vast fantasy world to escape to while the author simultaneously built a massive media empire for herself.
The series of books and movies spanned nearly my entire childhood, age 5 to 19, and a good portion of that time was spent waiting for Rowling's next installment. It seems I was always counting down to something, be it the next book release or the next midnight movie premiere.
And as I grew up, so did Harry and his friends. What started as a story about wizards, spells and dragons ended with lessons about friendship, mortality and love. It is hard to deny the impact those books had as both an emotional journey and a cultural phenomenon.
Rowling's generation-defining series impacted not only literature but movies, theme parks and soon theater. Harry Potter changed the boundaries for what young adult literature could be and set a bar for books and movies that has yet to be surpassed.
—By Ross LeClair, associate producer. Follow him on Twitter @rossLeClair
John Lasseter, chief creative officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios
When I left the movie theater on Nov. 22, 1995, I declared that "Toy Story" was the best movie I would ever see in my lifetime.
"Toy Story" was also the first movie I had ever seen in a movie theater, but to this day it remains among my 10 favorite films.
John Lasseter continues to set the bar for animated films, directing "A Bug's Life" and "Toy Story 2" and overseeing other excellent Pixar films, such as "Monsters, Inc.," "Finding Nemo" and "Up."
While Lasseter will always be primarily remembered for his work to introduce 3-D animated films, his excellent storytelling has taught important lessons—from the value of friendship to the importance of humility to millions of children.
—By Matthew Goldwater, news associate. Follow him on Twitter @MattJGoldwater