Why are there so few women in animation?

Posted Tuesday 09 Aug 2022

Why are there so few women in animation?

It took until Frozen in 2013 for a woman to direct (even)a Disney princess movie. Jennifer Lee, who is now the chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios, helmed the hugely successful franchise and Frozen won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. 

Well, that's one woman. In this enlightening article on Slashfilm.com, Kayleigh Donaldson writes that even though more than 60% of animation and art school students in the US are women, only 20% of the creative industry jobs are held by women. Women make up a mere 10% of director and producer roles in animation, and less than a quarter of animation workers overall.

By comparison, according to a 2021 study* women comprised 17% of directors of the top 250 highest-grossing movies of that year (and that's down from 18% in 2020.) 

The gender disparities in film are especially painful because women were at the forefront of the artform's development, writes Donaldson, and this is true for animation as well. The very first feature-length animated film was directed by Lotte Reiniger. In 1926 The Adventures of Prince Achmed was entirely animated by hand by Reiniger, who manipulated intricate paper cut-outs to tell a lush story inspired by The 1001 Arabian Nights. Reiniger's influence can be felt throughout the ensuing decades, from Disney's Aladdin to Steven Universe.

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*by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University

Image: Disney Animation Studios