Animation has traditionally been the realm of nerdy white men, but that may soon be changing.
A recent Los Angeles Times article has found anecdotal evidence suggesting that female students are becoming the majority, if they’re not already, in prominent animation programs. At the California Institution of the Arts, for example, where admissions are gender-blind, 71% of its animation students are women. CalArts’ numbers are comparable to animation programs at other universities: 65% at USC, 68% at UCLA, 70% at Florida’s Ringling College of Art and Design and 55% at Loyola Marymount University.
CalArts professor Brooke Keesling theorized that the Internet, where aspiring animators can hide beyond a gender-neutral handle or persona, is fostering young talent. “People can share their artwork on Tumblr and Vimeo and YouTube and DeviantArt,” she said, “and see that it’s actually a thing that a lot of people are interested in, not just men.”
Unfortunately, burgeoning female interest in animation is not reflected at the studios, where women comprise only “21% of artists, writers and technicians employed under an Animation Guild contract this year,” according to the Times.
“[Female grads] come out of art school and aren’t hired for the creative jobs,” commented Marge Dean, co-president of Women in Animation. “They end up being PAs [production assistants] or on the production management track, the housekeepers and the organizers as opposed to the creators.”
Though Dreamworks recently promoted Bonnie Arnold and Mireille Soria to co-presidents of DreamWorks’ animation studio earlier this year, there remains a striking dearth of women directors and creators in the field. Cartoon Network, for example, only had its first sole-female-created series, Rebecca Sugar’s “Steven Universe,” debut in November 2013.
Predictably, Animation Guild spokesman Steve Hulett blamed women’s purported lack of ambition on the gender disparities in the field, instead of questioning and challenging the institutional bias currently in place: “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.”
By this account, progress will be steady but painfully slow. He may be fine with that, but hopefully future grads won’t be.