Maija Burnett scanned her California Institute of the Arts classroom as nearly 60 new students filtered in, empty notebooks in hand. It was the start of the 2014-15 school year, and Burnett, director of CalArts' character animation program, was meeting this crop of freshmen for the first time in her largest classroom, nicknamed "the palace."
Surrounded by walls painted entirely black — more conducive to drawing — the students stood up, one by one, to introduce themselves. That's when it hit Burnett that almost all of them were women.
"Where are all the guys?" she recalls thinking. ...
UCLA's master's program in animation is estimated to be 68% women, and Florida's Ringling College of Art and Design's computer animation program is nearly 70% women.
That swell of young women studying the craft is generally not mirrored in the workforce. Women make up 21% of the artists, writers and technicians employed under an Animation Guild contract this year, according to the organization, which tracks hiring records for guild animation studios in Los Angeles County. ...
Animation Guild representative Steve Hulett believes that it's just a matter of time — and gumption — before things even out in the industry among men and women.
"With so many women coming out of these schools, a lot of these graduates, if they've got the skill sets, will find their way into the business," he says. "More of those women need to pitch shows and get them on the air, which is slowly happening. That will create an appetite among audiences, which affects ratings, and more of an atmosphere internally for more women to pitch their own shows. It's cyclical."
When I started in the animation biz (during the Ulysses S. Grant Administration), most of the women working inside it occupied ink-and-paint and checking positions. There were a few assistant animators, a few animators starting to climb the profession's slippery ladder, a handful of designers and background artists. But for the most part, the cartoon industry was testosterone driven.
Thirty-five years on, the man/woman numbers, along with animation's subject matter, are shifting. I see more female board artists; there are more women creating shows. Jeffrey Katzenberg at DreamWorks Animation has been hiring female directors for years, and now Disney is starting to do it. Females aren't just working as production coordinators or executives, they are in artistic positions as never before.
And I think over the next decade, you will see at least half the animated features and television shows that we watch created or steered by women.