Woman Power

The title of this post is the headline from a 1943 newspaper article that Hans Perk recently posted on his blog. It’s about Bee Selck, whom the article claims was the first woman assistant director in the animation industry while working on Disney’s VICTORY THROUGH AIR POWER. This reminds me of a few months back when I was at a random non-animation event and was introduced to a woman who had been an assistant animator at Warner Bros. during the mid-40s, until she left to raise a family. As a matter of convenience, animation histories routinely tell us that during the Golden Age, with few exceptions, the men held all the creative artistic positions and women were ink-and-paint artists. But if one digs a little, they’ll discover that there were far more women working in creative positions at that time than traditional animation histories let on. For example, while researching my book CARTOON MODERN, I discovered that at UPA alone, women in creative positions included background painters Michi Kataoka and Rosemary O’Connor, assistant animators Joyce Weir and Tissa David, character designer/layout artist Sterling Sturtevant, and various other designers including Shirley Silvey, Dolores Cannata and Charleen Peterson.

On a related note, Ben Ettinger at AniPages Daily recently wrote a fascinating profile of two pioneering woman animators in Japan during the late-1950s – Kazuko Nakamura and Reiko Okuyama.

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