A new report into the state of inclusion in the animation industry has found gains have been made, but much work remains, particularly for women of color. The study, entitled “Inclusion in Animation,” is billed as the most comprehensive and in-depth analysis of entertainment with a focus on animation from Dr. Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative in partnership with Women in Animation.
Unveiled today at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, the investigation examined animation across film and popular TV series, evaluating the prevalence of women above and below the line in key roles, and in the executive ranks across major companies and studios.
The results reveal a few positive trends. Firstly, that women comprise roughly half of the executives in animation and fully half of the most powerful positions in major film animation companies and studios. Secondly, data from animation programs and film festivals shows that a robust pipeline exists from animation classrooms into early career.
“Another area in which we see some progress is with female producers of animated films,” said Smith. “In the last 12 years, 37% of producers of animated movies were women, while for live-action films, the figure was 15%. The proportion of women in this leadership role in animation, and the progress made in the last decade indicates that there are spaces where the industry is taking inclusion seriously and affecting change. However, only 5% of producers of animated films and 1% of live-action producers were women of color. The movie industry is completely out of step with the audience in this regard.”
Data on film directors and unit heads in animated movies and TV series suggest that once women enter the animation field, they opt out or are pushed to other work as they navigate career paths. Only 3% of animated film directors over the last 12 years were women, while 13% of episodes evaluated across popular animated TV programs from 2018 had female directors. Only one female film director and three female TV directors were women from underrepresented racial/ethnic backgrounds.
“Women from a variety of racial/ethnic backgrounds were not working as directors across film or TV,” continued Smith. The lack of diversity, the study found, demonstrates that the voices and stories of animated films and programs reflect a very narrow demographic of storytellers.
In contrast to film, 20% of executive producers, 17% of co-executive producers, and 34% of producers in TV were women. Only six women of color were executive producers, while 8% of producers were women from underrepresented racial/ethnic backgrounds. Seventeen percent of “Created by” or “Developed by” credits in TV were held by women, with just three earned by women of color.
In terms of cast, only 20 (17%) of the 120 top animated features from 2007‐2018 had a female lead or co lead. Three of these films depicted a female of color (3%) as the protagonist. The numbers were better — but not equal — across the first episode or segment of the 100 top animated TV series on broadcast and cable. Just 39% of the credited cast was filled with girls or women. Only 12% of the cast were females of color.
In below the line roles, women are still outnumbered in film and TV. Across 52 top animated films from the past five years, only 7% of head of story positions were filled with women, as were 8% of animation heads and 14% of art directors. Women of color held 6%, 3% and 4% of these positions, respectively. Across 100 popular animated TV series, females comprised 16% of animation directors, 20% of lead animators and 11% of lead storyboard artists. Slightly higher percentages of women of color were observed in these roles in comparison to film, as 8%, 13% and 3% of positions across these respective jobs went to women from underrepresented racial/ethnic backgrounds.
“This study validates what we have known all along, that women are a hugely untapped creative resource in the animation industry,” added Marge Dean, President of Women in Animation. “Now that we have a greater understanding of how the numbers fall into place and what solutions may help rectify this deficiency, we can take bigger strides towards our goal of 50-50 by 2025.”
Major impediments facing women in the animation industry were identified from responses of those polled who indicated that a male-dominated and masculine culture affects females, that the industry view of women is less valuable and that women are perceived to be less interested in the field. Unique impediments facing women of color were also explored, namely the negative consequences that emerge from being a “token,” including feelings of isolation.
“One sentiment that emerged from the qualitative responses was a sense of distrust and skepticism from animation industry members about current efforts surrounding inclusion,” said Dr Katherine Pieper, one of the study authors. “As organizations and individuals grapple with how to support and extend the careers of women in the industry, including women from all backgrounds and communities, the goal must be to ensure that everyone feels a sense of belonging and that men and women are committed to target inclusion goals and working collectively toward achieving them.”