Friday, November 30, 2012


For the last decade the “changing” role of women in animation has often been mentioned but not much has changed for women in the industry. There are many female producers in film and animation, but it’s among artists that the situation is still in the Dark Ages. 
     Obviously, a stronger word than sexism is called for when discussing the way women are treated in the animation industry. Female animation artists who are single mothers or just plain single are too often  ignored, dismissed, groped, harassed and paid .77c per male dollar. Wives and girlfriends of animators are an exception, since women attached in some way to a powerful male are paid more and considered for promotion to head of departments or to direct a feature film.
    This all started with Walt Disney himself who was notorious for his dismissive attitudes toward women. Listen to his description of SNOW WHITE’s “Grumpy” in this clip. He refused to hire female artists as animators, relegating them to “pretty girl” inkers and painters. This is a famous rejection  letter from Walt Disney to a female artist and the website comments are revealing. Even though misogyny was prevalent at the time, the same attitudes still exist at Hollywood animation studios in 2012, when such prejudice is not only unacceptable but illegal. Again, the comments by professional animators (some female) are telling.
    There’s a common culture of disrespect, even contempt, for women in the medium. Often veiled, sometimes hidden but always present. It’s this additional burden that women have to deal with when fighting for and assuming the responsibility of directing a feature film and heading a department. Artistic leadership is hard enough without having to deal with sabotage, disrespect and hostility from both women and men.
     Protest about harassment, inequity in promotion and pay is not tolerated in animation studios unless backed up by a law suit and suing your employer is not conducive to getting promoted or to even being able to do your job in a hostile work place. “If you don’t like it here you can leave” is what protesters are usually told and not only by men. Women don’t speak up about inequities for fear of being called shrill, harsh, PC harpies then fired or frozen out. What is politically correct or harsh about being paid properly for one’s work and not having to dread being belittled or undermined? 
          The fact that there are only five women directors in Hollywood animation is certainly not due to a lack of ability, talent or experience among female animators. It’s a reflection of animation management’s shameful reluctance to hire women for leadership positions. Why should audiences be deprived of half the animation directing talent in Hollywood just because of ignorance and bigotry? Why should female animators not be allowed to realise their ambitions?
     Watch this interview with soft-spoken, bamboo-strong Jennifer Yuh-Nelson, director of KUNG FU PANDA 2. She’s not only talented but  also smart, a clear-thinking, serene and natural leader who plays violent video games and directs fights and explosions with flair and panache, probably causing animation industry management types to fall off their chairs in amazement.
     Another pioneer animation director is Brenda Chapman who, after she was fired as sole director of BRAVE, left Pixar and went to work as a consultant for Lucasfilm Animation (ironically, now owned by Disney/Pixar). Her firing garnered so much adverse publicity for Disney/Pixar and for discrimination in the animation industry that it would be a shame not to follow her example and stand up to industry bigotry and bullying.
     Here’s what monkeys do when they’re treated unequally. Why would women in animation not do the same with equal anger and justification? Studios count on our fear of being fired for simply standing up for our rights. When women in animation refuse to be intimidated and stand up to the studios with precedent-setting lawsuits, they will put a stop to these unnecessary and unpleasant issues in an art and an age when they shouldn’t exist.

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