Has Feminism failed the British Animation Industry?

Kennedy, Sarah Ann orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-9770-1799 (2010) Has Feminism failed the British Animation Industry? In: 2010 Joint Conference of the National Popular Culture and American Culture Associations, March 31 – April 3, 2010, Renaissance Grand Hotel St. Louis, MO, USA. (Unpublished)



The paper was written to present at a conference which was run by the PCA/ACA, a group of scholars and enthusiasts, who study the popular culture--writing, sharing, and publishing in the field. Every year the PCA/ACA offers a venue to come together and share ideas and interests about the field or about a particular subject within the field. This year it takes place in St Louis, USA. The four-day schedule includes special topics presentations, area-specific invited speakers, social receptions, tours, film presentations, and area get-togethers. The presentation of the paper takes twenty minutes and is offered to the press and publishers that are present for publishing. My paper will analyse past, and present roles women have within the British animation industry and elucidate significant differences between these past and present roles.

I have worked as a women in the animation industry for over twenty years in a variety of positions including writer, animation director, executive producer, voice artist, script advisor and judge for the British Animation Awards. I have also won various awards including Best Newcomer, Best Animation and the Golden Gate Award in San Francisco so the fact that there has been a recent demise of women in these jobs is significant.

In the early to mid eighties, women mainly worked as trace and painters or production assistants rather than producers. Occasionally they worked as animation assistants. During the late eighties and nineties commissioning of animation changed in the UK and became dominated by two main sources, the BBC and Channel 4. Both were keen to commission new talent and many women were commissioned during this time including myself. Suddenly there was a glut of new women animation directors and creators, many of them making autobiographical or observational work that explored socialization and identity developing new discourses and models for women. The commissions were low budget and these directors were given a lot of creative freedom enabling them to explore and comment on social and sexual hegemony. During this time the UK was generally seen as a leader in the world of animation and many of the films including Silence, Death and The Mother, Bob’s Birthday, Crapston Villas, Pond Life, and Black Dog went on to win a variety of awards including Oscars, Baftas, various British Animation and international awards.

After the millennium, changes to the heads of broadcasters at both Channel 4 and BBC, as well as the loss of financial support from ITV for Channel 4 meant the decline of the animation department. Channel 4’s original remit had been to commission innovation and with the aid of ITV’s funding they could take more risks than most broadcasters. This all changed and the animation departments at both channels have now degenerated to nothing. At the same time animated films which explore the voices of women have diminished, as well as women working in the key roles of producer or director in the commercial industry. This paper investigates the roles of women in the UK animation industry in the past and looks at the expectations women have when entering the industry in today. My practical research usually takes the form of scripts and films but an examination of the roles of women today is something I feel is relevant to not just my own practice but my teaching.

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