It is no secret the there is a huge gender imbalance within the animation industry. Only 20% of animation creatives are women*. This is only a 4% increase on 2006’s figures. Even more worryingly, 60% of animation students are women which means there is a huge drop-off between those women training as animators and those who go on to hold jobs in the industry. This suggests that the issue lies not in inspiring women to become animators, but in encouraging them to overcome the struggles they face in forging a career in the male-dominated world of animation. There can be no denying the difficulties women face in the industry. These difficulties are evident in the fact that only 10% of producers/directors are women and in the last 15 years there have only been two solo women directors of US produced animated features. These figures irrefutably suggest that women want to become animators, but are prevented from rising up the ranks.
However, there are signs that things are changing. The theme of this year’s Annecy Festival was ‘honouring women’. As part of this, the daily screening intros celebrated the work of female animation creatives who led the way in the industry but are often glossed over by history. Indeed, Carrie Tupper recently attempted to compile a thorough history of women in animation but found her search thwarted by a lack of information. However, she did reveal significant snippets about the women who have shaped the industry and their under-recognition. For instance, she observed that Lillian Friedman was only credited for six of the eleven titles she worked on at Fleischler Studios. She also noted how women such as Sylvia Moberly-Holland, who was responsible for Fantasia‘s fairy sequence, were made redundant at the end of WW2 when the men returned. By bringing these inspirational women to the fore Annecy has effectively honoured them whilst also reminding people of the inherent sexism that has been present in the animation industry for the past century and so implicitly encouraging aspiring female animators to stand up and be counted.
Annecy also placed the newly rejuvenated Women in Animation group at the forefront of proceedings. This decision, along with the growth of the group itself indicates the industry’s awareness of its own sexism and shows that there is an increasing desire for change brewing. Women in Animation was relaunched in October 2013 by Margaret Dean, director of production for Mattel’s Playground Productions, and Kirsty Scanlan, Vice President, Business Development for Technicolor Digital Productions’ Animation. In this time, the group has grown from 120 members in 2013 to 1020 members at the last count with chapters all over the world. This rise in membership clearly demonstrates how women themselves are ready to step up and battle sexism. To help the next generation of female animation creatives, WIA launched a successful mentoring scheme which aims to ’empower, educate and support’ women in animation which will be expanded this Autumn as it enters its second year.
The work of WIA and the increasing support for the movement suggests that things are changing in the industry. Margaret Dean observed that ‘there has been very little work done to intentionally change the status quo’ but it seems that now she is taking action herself, alongside 1000 other women and with the support of the animation community. Encouraging facts such as that winners of the 2012 and 2013 Oscar for Best Animated Feature, Brave and Frozen respectively, were both co-directed by women, are further signs that the industry is changing. There is still a long way to go but hopefully the WIA’s aim of a 50:50 gender split in animation by 2025 will become a reality.
*Figures are based on Studios in California but are believed to be indicative of the International situation