Computer Graphics and Animation was once considered to be dominated by men, especially when you didn’t know much about the contribution of women of this space.
International Women’s Day: Women in Computer Graphics and Animation
In this article, celebrating International Women’s Day, I’ll recall some of the women who’ve contributed a lot and influenced the animation world since its very beginning.
Charlotte Reiniger (1899-1981)
Charlotte Reiniger, also known as Lotte Reiniger, was born in Germany and is regarded as
the first woman in the world animation history. She is known for her distinct
and innovative animation art style using cut-paper silhouette.
invented her own technique which involved cardboard paper cutouts for making
the characters and the props and a system of hinge pins to move the joints of
the characters and other objects.
Reiniger directed more than 40 films in her
career including The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) which
is considered as the very first and the oldest surviving animated feature film.
Marry Blair, born in America, was an animator who worked
for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Walt Disney.
She is known for introducing modern
art style to Walt Disney studio. She produced concept art, character design and
animation for the films like Dumbo (1941), Song of the South
(1946), Cinderella (1950), Alice in Wonderland (1951), Peter
Pan (1953), Lady and the Tramp (1955) and the Disney theme park It’s
a Small World (1966).
Mary didn’t only work for the animated films, but she
created murals for the Disney parks and hotels also. In 1991, Mary Blair was regarded
as one of the Disney Legends for her extraordinary and integral contribution to
the Walt Disney Company.
Lillian Friedman, born in America, is regarded as
the first American woman animator working for an animation studio. After being
rejected by Disney, she was hired as in-betweener by Max Fleischer of Fleischer
Studios in 1930.
Her primary role was an inker for Betty Boop, Popeye
and Hunky and Spunky cartoons. Later after being promoted as an
animator, she animated cartoons like Making Stars (1935), Judge for a
Day (1935), Be Human (1936), The New Deal Show (1936) and Popeye
the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor (1936).
Lillian worked in the
animation industry for less than ten years and got credit for just six of the 42 films on which she worked on as an animator.
Retta Scott (1916-1990)
Retta Scott, born in America, is regarded as the
first woman to receive screen credit as an animator in Walt Disney Animation
With a great desire and ambition to get a career in fine arts, she
joined Walt Disney Animation Studios in 1938 in the story development
department where one of the Disney’s finest animated movies Bambi was in
production process phase. Retta worked as the story drawing and character
Due to her artistic skills, she was assigned to animate the
characters of the cartoons. This played a pivotal role in the career of Retta
as that time women in animation industry were considered only for the routine
tasks like ink and painting.
In her career span of 40 years Retta worked on the
movies like Fantasia, Dumbo, and The Reluctant Dragon.
Retta Davidson was another American animator who
worked for Walt Disney Animation Studios. She is often confused with another
Disney legend Retta Scott. Yet, like Retta Scott, Davidson is also known
as one of the few women animators for Walt Disney Animation Studios during the
Golden Era of American animation.
During the production phase of Sleeping
Beauty animated film, Davidson got a job of inker and painter in Disney
due to her high level of drawing ability and meticulous attention to detail.
She continued working in ink and paint on other animated movies Bambi, Fantasia
and Pinocchio. After the death of
Walt Disney, Davidson left Disney Studios in 1966 and started working as a freelance
animator for advertising agencies.
returned to Walt Disney Studios in 1980 as an animation trainer to train young
animators working on The Black Cauldron.
Sheila Graber, born in Britain, was a 2D animator and
animation trainer at Sunderland University, England. After getting a degree in
Fine Art, Sheila started her career as the teacher of animation.
After 20 years
of teaching career, she started working for animated films. During the period
of 1970 to 1975 she worked on animated films like Mondrianand Blue
In 1975, a major breakthrough came in Sheila’s career when she was
hired by Filmfair to animate a children’s TV series Paddington, based on
the Paddington Bear book series by Michael Bond. Sheila used stop-motion animated puppets to
interact with 2D animated drawings of the human characters and objects for this
In 1996, Sheila along with her fellow director Jen Miller, founded the
company Graber Miller. After creating 60 animated shorts and 3 animated
series, Sheila is still active on her YouTube channel and educating the world
with her tutorials, tips and tricks.
Chapman, born in America, is an animation film director best known for
directing Pixar’s Brave. She is regarded as the first ever woman to
direct a full length animated feature film, DreamWorks Animation’s The
Prince of Egypt.
Chapman first joined Disney as the in-between artist where she worked on Who
Framed Roger Rabbit, The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.
She also worked as the head of story for The Lion King.
eight years in Disney, Brenda joined a newly launched animation studio,
DreamWorks animation Studios. There she directedThe Prince of
Egypt. In 2003, she joined Pixar and worked on Cars and Brave.
She is the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, which she won for Pixar’sBrave.
Sara Bennett, born in England, started her career
as the digital compositor and visual effects artist working on films like Babe:
Pig in the City, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Black Hawk Down, The
Martian, Ex Machina and Harry Potter movie series.
After working as
the Head of 2D at The Mill Film and TV for seven years, Sara
joined Milk VFX as one of the co-founders in 2013.
In 2016, Bennett won the Academy
Award for best visual effects in Alex Garland’s featureEx-Machina. The winning made her the second ever woman VFX Oscar winner.
Bennett is one of the members of The Academy of Motion Picture
Arts and Sciencesand BAFTA.
In this article I have listed just some of the leading women computer graphics artists and mentors starting
from the very beginning to the current time.
There many women working in the industry and contributing their heart and soul to their passion
towards CG and VFX. The contribution of those women in the CG world is commendable.