After completing an interview with Signe Baumane for 2013's series of blog posts, she asked me the following question:
"why are you so interested in the subject of women in animation?"
Although the reasons why I started this project have been built upon with every year that goes by, the core reason remains the same. And although it ended up being a little long winded, Signe's question helped solidify my motivations for moving from a yearly series of interviews to a full-fledged blog on women who work in the field of animation. My response to Signe's question was as follows.
"A valid question.
I have a sister who has a sister-in-law and a niece. I'm told by Tricia (my sister) and Rose (my sister's sister-in-law) that Gabrielle (Tricia’s niece) considers me to be one of the 'coolest old dudes that she knows' partially because I work on cartoons and partially because Gabrielle and I watch a lot of the same Anime. Visiting Trish in Boston is usually pretty fun for me because, even though I don't go to as many Anime cons as Gabrielle does we do speak the same language that comes from the shared experience of Japanese animated film. Anyways, as I started working on these blog posts, I thought it might be something interesting for Gabrielle to read and I was hoping that she might be encouraged by the stories and advice from those who have gone before her.
After undertaking this project, I realized very quickly that I don't have much experience with girls, be they toddler, tween, teenage, or anything in-between. Whenever girls see my animation studio’s name on my badge at conventions/festivals, I usually get a couple that say they want to get into animation, however I never know what to say other than to speak in generic advice that might work for both girls and boys.
In my not-so-humble opinion, women have a unique perspective that we, as men, don’t. I’m a firm believer that the whole ‘men having a feminine side’ thing is nothing more than a myth. Let men be men and let women be women. We don’t need to live in a homogenized culture where everyone is alike or striving to be what we are not. Rather, we should enjoy our own unique perspectives—and by extension, as filmmakers, we should put that perspective into our films. When I first watched the 'Joy Luck Club' I was so floored [by the richness of the story and the passion in the acting] that once it was over, I rewound the tape and watched it a second time (novel written by a woman, screenplay written by a woman and a man, and film directed by a man). Yes, I admit, I enjoy watching 'Step Up', another film written by a woman and this time directed by a woman. The point is, women have stories to tell. They have perspectives that men don’t. And those stories need to be told. Personally, I question whether women can truly tell their stories within the established studio structure, but that’s a much larger discussion.
Suffice it to say, by working on this series, it is my hope that not only will people have the opportunity to get to know animated films that they might not have discovered otherwise, but also that girls will be encouraged to consider the field of animation for their career. Animation has traditionally been a male-dominated field since its inception, with women playing supporting roles (like the ink and paint girls of Walt Disney Studios). However, with the cost of tools decreasing, the proliferation of schools teaching animation skills and software, and the opportunity to reach a world-wide audience for pennies via the Internet, there's never been a better
time for women to create animated films and share with the world their unique voice, stories, and perspectives. Simply put, the animation community needs more women animators, scriptwriters, and [especially] directors in order for it to progress forward and fulfill its potential—otherwise we risk stagnation with only one
perspective being told over and over, ad infinitum.
As I branched out further and started to research the role that women have had in the field of animation (partially for my own edification and partially to make these blog posts more interesting), the dearth of information has been alarming. I can find tons of information about men who work in animation, but women are notable by the absence of information--even though there is anecdotal data scattered around about women who have been working in animation since the early 1900’s. So, since I don’t know of anyone else who is working on compiling a lot of this information and disseminating it (just individuals and groups with small pieces of information here and there), I thought why not do it myself?
The response over the past several years has been very promising. Page hits from my blog have increased and the Women in Animation posts routinely outrank my other posts. Consider the following numbers:
388 page views Lynn Dana Wilton Interview
121 page views Review of Lynn's Silhouette Animation
116 page views Angie Hauch Interview
53 page views Women in Animation: 2012 Introduction
112 page views Jessica Borutski Interview
65 page views Review of Jessica Borutski’s animation:
"The Good Little Bunny..."
60 page views Ellen Besen Interview
49 page views Thoughts on Eiko Tanaka’s career
45 page views Jessica Bayliss Interview
208 page views Thoughts on Lynn Smith ...
138 page views Thoughts on Madi Piller ...
100 page views Thoughts on Stephanie Maxwell ...
77 page views Thoughts on Martine Chartrand ...
Now compare this to the top ranking posts by page views on my other, non-women in animation posts:
183 page views Movie review of "How to Train Your Dragon"
118 page views Review of Crispin Freeman's
"Anime Mythology" Lecture
116 page views Eulogy for Japanese animation director
99 page views Review of Ottawa 2011 and my trip to
91 page views Memories of Erik Timmerman
60 page views Movie review of "Despicable Me"
60 page views Attitude of Gratitude, update:
Thoughts on my lecture at R.I.T.
Nothing that I write on my blog consistently out performs the Women in Animation posts since I shut down my website and switched to a blog back in 2008—a point that I raised in 2012 first with Lynn Dana Wilton and then with Ellen Besen. Lynn confided in me that she had received a very positive response from the community regarding her interview and had even received job inquiries from visitors to my blog. Ellen simply stated that if I wanted to, I could do more with this concept.
So, that is where I am now. Looking for ways to continue pushing the boundaries of this concept. While I am only starting to scratch the surface with this idea, responses have been overwhelmingly positive. I can only hope that it means I’m scratching where everyone is itching.
A bit long winded, but hopefully all that makes sense."