Welcome to the 1st. article in our five week series on Women in Hollywood.
By Comic Relief
As most children have had some exposure to animation in Saturday morning cartoons, this sequential art is both a ubiquitous and an incredibly craft intensive process. An animated sequence of action is built using the production of one cell (or one frame of illustration) after another and run at a speed that creates the appearance that actions are as fluid, predictable and reliable as feature film cinematography. The art is as old as feature film itself and has a surprisingly renewable audience. In fact recent profitable successes in computer animation have even promoted a kind of renaissance in the animation film world moving the field from sideshow to center ring. And as I said before where tremendous amounts or work or more negatively speaking sweatshop conditions are likely, one can always find women.
No one doubts that women have always been involved with animation. If we’re not talking about animators like Lotte Reiniger, who was the first woman to be known to work for the studio system many know of Lillian Friedman who played an unbelievably significant role in Popeye cartoon of the early 20th century.
Fortunately what is easily forgotten is recorded by those who are dedicated to the cause of remembering. Organizations like Women in Animation, an international organization dedicated to women in the field, support women in a wide range of capacities from providing scholarships, career counseling, and promoting dialogue about a wide range of animation topics. So to proceed, it may be more constructive to discuss what contemporary animators in this field want or whether there are any barriers that need to be surmounted.
Many have contributed to a regular evaluation of this professional arena. Writers like Linda Simensky is Cartoon Network’s Director of Programming, discuss the different roles that women naturally gravitate to;
“…The line into the women’s room would be comprised of a large number of network executives, studio management types ranging from producers to production assistants, color and background designers, and perhaps an occasional director. The line into the men’s room would include studio owners, business types, directors, artists, show creators, designers, and a significant number of other animation artists… .”
If you have been paying attention to the overall field, you may have noticed how few female animation directors there are? Why are there so few directors when we know they are a significant talent pool in this industry? We know how few there are few female directors in feature films, shockingly there are even fewer in animation. Many may have heard about animation director Brenda Chapman. Due to creative differences she was removed from Brave, a film influenced by her relationship with her daughter. Like her female colleagues, she was stunned by the experience with Pixar.
The Los Angeles Times tells us what happened to her colleagues; referring to directorial dismissals
“It happened to Jan Pinkava, who was directing 2007’s “Ratatouille” before Brad Bird took over the Oscar-winning Pixar film. And it happened to Chris Sanders (“How to Train Your Dragon”), who was removed from Disney’s “American Dog” in 2006, before it was reimagined as “Bolt .”
Though the number is small, there have been a few successes for female directors. When you take into account the unfortunate Brenda Chapman incident, World’s Finest online conversely records one of the unlikely successes:
“After her successful co-directorial debut on “Superman Doomsday,” Lauren Montgomery takes full command of the helm for “Wonder Woman,” the next entry in the popular series of DC Universe animated original PG-13 films . “
And almost oddly, there is one more. Acting as the director of Kung Fu Panda 2, Jennifer Yuh Nelson  has recently become Hollywood’s most successful director. Describing her sizable directorial accomplishment, the Hollywood reporter claims:
“But not every movie sees the same scale of success as Kung Fu Panda 2: With worldwide box office of about $650 million, the animated 3D sequel to the 2008 original has become the highest-grossing film directed by a woman.”
With so few female directorial successes, clearly the world of animation isn’t the peaceful playground for women we all might have expected. We can only hope we will hear of more successes in the near future.
Please join our discussion Thursday 12/15/2011@7pmE/12UTC