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Faith Hubley |  Women in Animation

The Adventures of Prince Achmed
The Adventures of Prince Achmed, by Lotte Reiniger (1925)

Color Rhapsody
Color Rhapsody, by Mary Ellen Bute (1951)

Women in Animation

Even though little is written about the history of women in animation, women have always worked in the industry - many as tracers and painters, colorists, designers or as the voices of children's cartoon characters.

Some of the best known pioneering female animators include Lotte Reiniger, who created silhouette animation in Germany in the 1920s and worked on The Adventures of Prince Achmed, one of the world's first feature-length animated films. She honed her talent for silhouette animation until the 1970s. In the 1930s, Mary Ellen Bute was the first American to make abstract films and the first in the world to use electronically generated images in film. In the 1940s through the '60s, many other pioneering women like Faith Hubley worked in tandem with their husbands or significant others.

The number of females working as animated filmmakers has dramatically increased in the past quarter century, particularly in the United States and Britain. Animation scholar Jayne Pilling attributes this development to both an attempt to redress gender imbalance in funding policies in arts and television and to the rise of independent and alternative filmmaking in the United States. Many animation classes are now offered in art colleges and universities, providing opportunities for emerging artists who wouldn't otherwise have access to the male-dominated profession.

Why are so many of today's female animators independent filmmakers? "Women pursuing careers in the field seem more interested than men in animation as an art form," writes Linda Simensky, the Cartoon Network's vice president of original animation. "Thus, it is not surprising that the area of independent filmmaking seems to have more women than men; after all, it is an area of animation which has more room for self-expression and no real traditional hierarchy in which to fit."

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