In the popular fairytale, Cinderella, the heroine, “Cinders”, is rescued by the handsome prince – not from certain danger but from a life of unkindness and unskilled labour for her step-sisters. A parallel which can be drawn with female creatives within the animation industry who work within the considerable shadows of their male counterparts.

From glass slipper to glass ceiling

Although, to an extent, inequality in women’s pay, status and opportunities exist in many industries, it is particularly the case for women working in the animation industry, an area which many still see as a male dominated domain, with the assumption that it is simply a male-oriented skill. Nothing could be further from the truth and the industry doesn’t lack talented female animation artists and entrepreneurs.

Canadian Janet Perlman, whose credits include “The Tender Tale Of Cinderella Penguin”, “Dinner For Two” and “I Want To Go Home”, is an animator who has worked extensively with The Arts Council Of Canada.  Artist, illustrator and Academy Award nominee, Janet also taught animation at Harvard and holds workshops around the world in order to motivate and inspire fledgling animators.

In 2016, The Hollywood Reporter published its ‘Annual Animators Roundtable’ – which consisted of seven white men, further proliferating the idea that animation is a man’s man’s world. Adding to this is the fact that 91 out of 92 major U.S. animated releases in the past ten years were directed by men. Although statistics show that 60% of animation students are women, only 20% of employed animators are – a disparity completely out of proportion in the modern world.

Bonnie Arnold, formerly of Dreamworks, Disney and Pixar claims that, alarmingly, the number of women in the animation industry is actually in decline, despite the high percentage of women gaining qualifications. British Academy Award winning animator, Suzy Templeton, creator of “Peter And The Wolf” known for its beautiful concept art, has become a leading light in the industry despite being discouraged by her family and peers. Suzy explains, “”People said to me: ‘Oh, you shouldn’t do that, it’s a dying art, you should get into CGI!”. Ignoring the advice of others, Suzy stuck to her guns and plans to begin work on a full length feature film and she uses her Pinterest and social media forums to encourage and inspire others by telling her story.

The ultimate goal is, of course, for women to make up at least 50% of the animation workforce. The empowerment organisation, Women In Animation, says, “We need to ensure that animation content represents the world as it should be – a world where women are equally represented, both behind the scenes and on the screen, to move culture forward. Women’s influence in animation is one that rounds out the industry, grows revenues, and contributes to that forward cultural momentum.”

Women In Animation’s goal is that, by the year 2020, the animation industry will not only accept but celebrate the creative and innovative talents of it’s female animators.  A vision which may be ambitious but not impossible. Animator Brenda Chapman believes that the key to success in the industry is for female animators to be each other’s fairy godmothers in the form of mentorship. She explains: “If young girls and women see other women working successfully in the industry, it will encourage them to follow and work for their own dream job in film and entertainment. If they see it, they can do it, too.”

Adult Swim Creative Director Mike Lazzo says that he doesn’t hire female creatives because “when you put women in the writers room, you get conflict, not comedy,” a statement which is startling not just in its sweeping generalisation but also in its inaccuracy.

To be seen as equal in skill, qualifications and employability should be something that the talent pool of female animators can take for granted and it’s up to every woman in the industry to take up the fight.

Groups like Women In Animation have begun to lead the way toward a more fair and balanced industry and encourage female animators to shout about their skills and to never take no for an answer. Whether or not they reach their goal of 50/50 by 2020 or not, there’s one thing to keep in mind – not only did Cinderella go to the ball but she took the big prize too!

Frankie Caplan is an animator interested in applying animation to business projects. She’s also a careful observer of the development of animation industry and women’s entrepreneurship in the creative fields. You can find her writing at Pigeon Studio.