The animation industry is booming, and these days, it’s open to anyone who desires to work in it. But that wasn’t always the case. It’s common knowledge that many industries were male-dominated in the past, and the animation industry was no different.
Luckily, there were some brave women who refused to let the very obvious gender discrimination get them down - and they paved the way for the female animators of today.
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at women in animation freelance animators can learn from. Get ready to be inspired.
Women in Animation Who Paved the Way
If you’re one of the women in the animation industry today, you have Retta Scott to thank for that. Born in 1916, the odds were not in her favor when she fell in love with animation. Back in the 1910s, female animators were nonexistent.
Image via Wikipedia
Scott was incredibly talented at drawing animals. She would pay regular visits to the zoo to study them. Then she’d draw vivid images of what she’d seen.
No one probably thought anything would come of it, but Scott had perseverance and grit. She wanted to work on films, so when she was presented with the opportunity to work on the Walt Disney film, “Bambi,” she jumped at the chance.
The famous scene in the film where Faline tries to ward off a pack of hunting dogs was Scott’s brilliant work.
Image via waltdisney.org
She became the first female animator to ever get credit for her work in a Disney film. This was a great victory and paved the way for more women to work in the animation industry.
She worked on more films but didn’t get the credit she deserved. These include “Dumbo” and “Fantasia.” For the latter, she didn’t receive credit as an animator at all. This didn’t deter her, though, and she continued her work even after she got married in 1946.
She still worked for Walt Disney Animation Studios but did so as a freelancer.
Scott passed away in 1990, but her legacy lives on - she posthumously received a Disney Legend Award in 2000 to honor her contribution to the early Disney films.
The history of women in animation is vast, and the path Scott paved for the female animators that came after she has helped many gather the courage to enter the industry. One of those women is Brenda Chapman, who has also worked as an animator for Disney.
Image via Elle
Chapman is one of the women in the animation industry that has left her mark and continues to do so while also encouraging young girls in animation to go after their dreams.
Chapman has worked as an animator on some classic movies. She started her career working on Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” and things only got better from there.
She won the Annie Award for her work on “The Lion King,” and can boast with the Oscar-nominated film “Beauty and the Beast.”
Then she won an Oscar, BAFTA, and Golden Globe for her work on Pixar’s film “Brave.” She was the first woman who ever won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
She also had a hand in launching DreamWorks Animation Studios.
Image via Animation World Network
No doubt Chapman serves as an inspiration to many women in animation who have big dreams, and she has some sound advice to those who want to take a shot at making it in the animation industry:
“Just do it. Believe in yourself and try to have confidence. Draw. Practice your craft and your art. Be passionate and open to collaboration, not bullying or condescension. [...] But most importantly, embrace what is unique about your work, which is advice I give to anyone.”
Female Animators Taking Big Strides in the Animation Industry
Niki Yang might be one of the most successful women in animation today, but her love for the craft started in her hometown of Seoul, Korea. She took a leap of faith and came to the United States to study at CalArts.
From there, her career in animation blossomed. Fast-forward to the present day, she is Hollywood's most sought-after storyboard artist and an inspiration to female animators everywhere.
Image via Elle
Beloved TV series like “Adventure Time,” “Family Guy,” “Fanboy and Chum Chum,” “Fish Hooks,” and “Gravity Falls” all had Yang as the storyboard artist. But TV series isn’t where Yang’s talents stop - she pursues a wide array of projects, one of which has been a pilot she worked on for Amazon titled “Yoyotoki Happy Ears!”
Image via Cartoon Brew
Her advice to women and girls who want to work in the animation industry is simple, “Anyone who loves animation, I would encourage [you] to just dive into your dream. Don't let your gender or ethnicity stop you. We've grown and will grow even taller and stronger.”
Women in the animation industry continue to set new records, and there have been many “firsts” in recent years.
One of them is Daron Nefcy, who works on the animated show “Star vs. Forces of Evil” for Disney. This might be a shock to some, but Nefcy is only the second woman that has created an animated series for the company.
Image via @daronnefcy
Clearly, there are plenty of opportunities in the animation industry for women to make history. Nefcy is actively working to ensure more jobs for women in animation. For the third season of “Star vs. Forces of Evil,” she had 12 storyboard artists working on the show. Nine of them were women.
The main character of the show is also female. It’s safe to say that Nefcy is on a mission to empower women in every way possible.
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing, though. Nefcy told Bright Lite that she was without work for about a year after she finished art school, but she kept applying for jobs, and eventually, there were people who recognized her talent.
Image via @daronnefcy
Her advice to female animators who want to work in the animation industry is simple, “Make stuff. Just make stuff. Keep making stuff. Draw, write your own things, and [create] your own ideas.”
She added that the secret to becoming good at what you do is to work through the frustrations you’ll eventually face as an animator. One of those is getting good at drawing, and her advice is to simply keep practicing until you get it right.
There’s nothing more inspiring than hearing about women in animation that started their filmmaking journey at an incredibly young age. Asian-American filmmaker and animator, Emily Dean, is one of them.
At just 12 years old, she was already trying her hand at animation and filmmaking. It’s this fearless pursuit of what she loved that catapulted her into a successful animation career working for big companies like Warner Bros./Warner Animation Group.
Image via Elle
She worked on some big films: She was the story artist for the “Scooby-Doo” movie that was released in 2018, and went on to lend her skills to “The Lego Batman Movie” and “The Lego Movie Sequel.”
She had some success before that - she was nominated for an Australian Academy Award in 2011 for her first animated short titled “Forget Me Not.” She was also included as one of Variety’s “Animators to Watch” in 2019 and was selected as one of Piaget’s Extraordinary Women in 2021.
Image via emilydean.net
Her advice to other women in the animation industry is to “follow their dreams.” She also echoes Nefcy’s advice to work hard at honing your skills, saying,
“Anything you practice you will get good at. Connect with people in the industry who synergize with you creatively and empathize with you personally. Develop your connections in a meaningful way. Be patient. Be persistent. A career in animation takes a long time, so when the opportunity comes, make sure you are ready.”
Women in Animation Who Are Rising Stars In the Industry
Women in the animation industry of today are more outspoken than ever before. Many of them use their animation skills to empower other female animators who aspire to enter the industry.
Aphton Corbin is one of those women. She’s young, resourceful, outspoken, and was featured as one of Variety’s “10 Animators to Watch in 2021.”
Image via Animation Magazine
Way back in 2016, some news stories featured the iconic cartoons that she drew in honor of Black History Month.
One of the messages that Corbin wanted to bring home with the comic was the lack of black characters in animation, and that if she wanted to see more black representation in animation, she was going to have to do it herself.
This probably served as a call to many other black animators out there to let their voices be heard and pave the way for more diverse characters in animation.
She’s done some pretty impressive work - Pixar’s SparkShorts Program invited her to direct her very first short through them. She did them one better and wrote and directed a 2D short titled “Twenty Something,” which explores the fears and insecurities that come along with entering into adulthood.
“Twenty Something” seems to very much be a reflection of Corbin’s own life experiences. She admitted that, when she was offered the SparkShorts opportunity, she felt “very insecure” about it.
Image via @artsandcraphton
She explained that she had a 16-year old version of herself in her head that would constantly tell her that she was not good enough. She didn’t let that voice get her down, though, and her short premiered on Disney+ in September 2021.
Using your own life experience as inspiration for your animation work as Corbin did might just be that extra special something you need to make your work stand out to potential animation clients.
If there’s one thing Corbin has taught us so far, it is that animators should not let self-doubt get the best of them.
She started work on her first feature with Pixar at the end of 2021, and we can’t wait to see what this amazing woman in animation gets up to next.
Also featured as one of Variety’s “10 Animators to Watch in 2021,” Lindsey Olivares took big strides early in her animation career. She’s one of those women in the animation industry who are moving and shaking things, and she’s just getting started.
Image via Sony Pictures Animation
She kicked off her career by working on a massive project: “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted.” At the time, the film was still in a very early stage of development, and Olivares says,
“It was a great training course for me. It was in its early development stage. I really got to stay with it all the way through to the end and got to understand animation production more intimately.”
She didn’t let herself be tied down by the animation studio after working on such a big project, though. She worked on a few other projects with DreamWorks Animation and then dove straight into the business of freelancing.
She didn’t leave big studios behind entirely, though. When presented with the opportunity to work with Sony Pictures Animation, she jumped at the chance and ended up working on a big film that would later become a hit, titled “The Mitchells vs. the Machines.”
She really proved herself - so much so that she ended up as the production and lead character designer on the film.
Image via @lindseyolivares
Her advice to aspiring animators is this: “Post your work, find a community online, even if it’s among peers. It’s important to find your voice, find why you like doing things, and your work will be more genuine for it.”
Female animators were plenty in Variety’s “10 Animators to Watch in 2021,” and Victoria Vincent was surely a worthy candidate. Netflix recruited her to work on an episode of its series titled “We, the People.”
This was a big leap for Vincent, who up to that point had posted most of her work on YouTube to an audience of almost a million subscribers.
Image via Mindall
At the end of 2021, Vincent was hard at work on a show titled “Dirt Girls,” which she wrote and produced. It will premiere on Fox sometime in 2022. Vincent drew most of the inspiration for the story from her childhood.
She grew up in Riverside, Calif, and “Dirt Girls” feature two sisters navigating life in a suburban neighborhood, where they find questionable ways to entertain themselves, all while trying to navigate the unwelcome intrusions of adulthood.
Image via @vewn_
If you’d like to use some of Vincent’s work as inspiration, head over to her YouTube channel and check out some of her latest animation videos.
Women in Animation Bring A Unique Perspective to the Industry
It is amazing to see more women in animation in the present day. It is all thanks to those who paved the way when it was almost impossible to work as a female animator.
In the present day, many female animators are trying to encourage their peers to enter the animation industry.
Using their own experiences of hardship and self-doubt to create animation projects that matter to them, these women encourage others to step out of their comfort zones and tell their stories to the world.
If there is anything freelance animators can learn from these women, it is that the hardships, self-doubt, and rejections are the things that will make your animation work unique.
Women who animate do not need to feel like there isn’t a place for them in the animation industry - there are many more historic moments just waiting to be made. So if you’re a woman working in animation, keep at it. You might just be the next female animator to end up in the history books.
If you’re ready to take the next step in building your animation career, you will find our free masterclass and marketing handbook of incredible value. Ready to start your own animation business? Check out our blog on How to Start an Animation Studio.