Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 24th 2017 Contents life A21
Tuesday, January 24, 2017 guardian.co.tt
No more nerds, sex bombs: Female
animators draw away clichés
The California Institute of the
Arts was created partly by Walt
Disney's desire to bring more top-
flight animators into the profes-
sion. And it has during its 47 years,
though for a long time almost all
Now, nearly three-quarters of Ca-
lArts' more than 250 animation stu-
dents are women, and there's a new
goal: ensure that when they land jobs,
they get to draw female characters re-
flective of the real world and not just
the nerds, sex bombs, tomboys or ugly
villains who proliferate now.
"Male villains, for example, can be
any shape or size. But female villains
are usually in their menopausal or
postmenopausal phases. They're older,
they're single, they're angry," said Erica
Larsen-Dockray, who teaches a class
on The Animated Woman for CalArts'
experimental animation programme.
"Then you have the innocent prin-
cess," she added with a chuckle, "whose
waist is so small that if she was actually
alive, she wouldn't be able to walk."
To call attention to that cartoonish
reality, CalArts has played host the past
two years to The Animated Woman
Symposium on Gender Bias. This year
it focused on the roles of "Sidekicks,
Nerd Girls, Tomboys and More."
During a recent raucous two-hour
symposium, nearly a dozen student
researchers who spent months watch-
ing cartoons and reading comic books
questioned why almost all female
sidekicks look like nerds. Also why
female heroes like Kim Possible are
over-the-top beautiful. And why there
are so few gay, lesbian and transgender
There's a reason for such drawings
and scenarios, said Marge Dean, pres-
ident of the industry group Women in
Animation: Men still fill animation's
writing rooms and director's chairs.
CalArts, situated amid picturesque
rolling hills some 30 miles north of Los
Angeles, has produced many of the en-
tertainment industry's leading creative
figures, including director Tim Bur-
ton and Oscar-winning animator and
Disney-Pixar executive John Lasseter.
Other alumni, including Brad Bird,
Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter, have
directed nine of the 15 Oscar-winning
animated feature films since that cat-
egory was created in 2002. Only two
of those 15 films had female directors.
Both of them, Brenda Chapman and
Jennifer Lee, are CalArts graduates.
Dean believes the character land-
scape will change as the popularity of
animation continues to grow. Three of
last year's top 10 box office films were
animated --- Finding Dory, Zootopia
and The Secret Life of Pets.
None were directed by women, al-
though Lee, who wrote and co-directed
the 2013 Oscar-winning film Frozen,
had a writing credit on Zootopia.
To make real change, students en-
tering the animated world must de-
mand it, said Stacey Simmons of the
production company Stoopid Buddy
Ajani Russell poses with her artwork Female Figures prior to the recent Animated Women symposium at
California Institute of the Arts, in Valencia, California. For a long time, most US top-flight animators were
men. Now, nearly three-quarters of CalArts' students are women, and there's a new goal: Ensure that when
they land jobs, they get to draw female characters reflective of the real world and not just the nerds, sex
bombs, tomboys or ugly villains who proliferate now.
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