“Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that work is performed entirely by young men. […] The only work open to women consists of tracing the characters on clear celluloid sheets with Indian ink and filling in the tracings on the reverse side with paint according to directions.” – The Walt Disney Company
Of course times have changed and so have mentalities (generally speaking), and to highlight the fact that women are and have never been any less creative than men, here are 5 inspirational women who shook up the industry and contributed to change its mentality.
Lotte Reiniger (1899 – 1981)
Regarded as the foremost pioneer of silhouette animation, Lotte was a German film director that made over 40 films throughout her career, all based around her invention, and also towers in animation history as the first woman animator. One of her favourite techniques was the use of atmospheric perspective by using increasingly pale greys to provide background depth.
Her most famous one is The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926), which preceded the very popular Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) by over 10 years as a feature-length animated film!!
What a talented and creative person. Isn’t her animation above simply dreamy?
Laverne Harding (1905 – 1984)
Laverne basically animated our parents and grand-parents childhood. The American animator worked for the biggest part of her career at the Walter Lantz Studio, while working there, she was particularly noted for her work on Woody Woodpecker cartoons, later moving to DePatie-Freleng Entreprises where she worked on Pink Panther.
In 1980, she became one of the 9 women amongst a total of 161 awards given, to receive the Winsor McCay Lifetime Achievement Award, one of the most prestigious awards in animation.
9 out of 161… that’s pretty much 1 female for 17 males! What about that for gender equality stats?
Mary Blair (1911 – 1978)
Mary was an American artist prominent in producing art and animation for The Walt Disney Company (yup, you heard that right), drawing concept art for such films as Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and Cinderella, amongst others.
Her recognition within the company became such that in 1991, she was inducted into the prestigious group of Disney Legends; a hall of fame program that recognises individuals who have made an extraordinary and integral contribution to The Walt Disney Company.
Amazingly, several of her illustrated children’s books from the 1950s remain in print today!
Could that have been a sign of a change in Disney’s mentality?
Lillian Friedman Astor (1912 – 1989)
Following a rejection by Disney, the young Lillian would find a position at the Fleischer Studios in 1930.
Impressing animator James Culhane with her skills, she quickly evolved from an inker to an animator, making her the first American female studio animator. This evolution allowed her to work on various Betty Boop cartoons as well as one Popeye and several Hunky and Spunky cartoons.
Sadly, her promotion to the role of animator had been kept a secret, and despite all of her work, she would only receive screen credit on six cartoons in her lifetime, nevertheless making her the first female lead animator within the studio system with a screen credit.
So here we have a person with clearly impressive skills, yet forced into the shadow because of her gender… hard to understand right?
Joy Batchelor (1914 – 1991)
Joy was an English lady who was more than just an animator, she was also a director, a screenwriter and a producer. In 1940, she married John Halas and together, they subsequently co-established Halas and Batchelor cartoons, better known for the animated film Animal Farm (1954), which is no less than the very first British animated feature to be released.
Together with her husband, they created over 2000 short-films, and even produced about 70 propaganda pieces during World War II for the British government, as well as advertising shorts for brands such as Kellogg’s and Lux (soap).
Over 2000 short-films! To put it into perspective, that’s roughly equal to releasing a new film everyday for about five and a half years… how crazy is that?
And voila my friends, 5 wonderful and inspiring women that had more than their fair share of creativity to make us laugh, dream, and sometimes even become aware of the world around us.
Since the beginning of television, animations have always been a superb method to share a message, an idea, a creation with a wide and broad audience, but unfortunately women seemed to have been forced to dig that little bit (a lot in fact) deeper to get into and be recognised in the industry.
More than animators, these women and many others, were and remain inspirations for all of us to follow and remember.