ANNECY, France – Animation leads live action in terms of gender inclusion, but the statistics are still far from suggesting any parity. That was one main conclusion of the study “Inclusion in Animation – Investigating Opportunities, Challenges, and the Classroom to the C‐Suite Pipeline,” whose presentation kicked off the third Women in Animation World Summit, which took place June 10 at France’s Annecy Intl. Animation Film Festival.
The study was made by Stacy L. Smith and powered by The USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative –a think tank devoted to analyzing diversity and inclusion issues in the entertainment industries– in partnership with Women in Animation.
The report’s point of departure was to examine U.S. film and popular TV series animation, evaluating women’s inclusion above and below the line in key roles, and also in the executive positions at major companies and studios.
The study unveils some encouraging results. Noteworthy advances towards gender equality have been achieved in animated movies: Women comprise roughly half of animation executives and fully half of those in leadership positions – for example, CEO, CCO, and presidents – at major film animation companies and studios.
According to the report, women hold approximately half of all the executive positions across the major film animation companies.
A second area where women are gaining ground is in film production Women accounted for 37% of producers on 120 animated features made over the last 12 years.
“The women who now helm the major studios are there because they each produced feature films that brought in billions of dollars. They have solid records of making good films and big money. We are seeing the needle move on diversity because they understand that it is good business,” WIA president Marge Dean told Variety, adding: “Also, the growth in the animation numbers is supported by WIA’s efforts in advocacy and talent development that continually reminds the industry of the issues as well as supporting the growth of a larger diverse talent pool.”
Female talent is also highly visible at schools and in early careers. In 2016, 33% of animated shorts were directed by women, 51% in 2017, and 60% in 2018.
The TV landscape differs. In TV, as of July 2018, most executive roles were taken by men, with 39% held by women. At the top of TV animation organizations, women filled just 6% of posts, their numbers increasing as the power of their position decreased. Fewer women of color were executives, with only 7 in film (6%) and 16 (9%) in television.
USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative report reveals other negative results. The percentage of female producers in live action content (15%) is “a flat line for 12 years,” it reads. the percentage of female producers is 22 percentage points higher in animated films. From 2007 to 2018, hiring patterns vary. “Most notably, the lowest [annual] percentages – 12%, 22%, 26%, 31% across the study time frame have increased suggesting the animation industry in film may be at work towards more inclusive hiring practices in producer ranks,” the report reads.
The report also analyzed directing. Looking at a sample of 120 top animated features from 2007 to 2018, only 2.5% (5 out of 197) of directors were women. Four women made these features: Jennifer Yuh Nelson directed two installments of the “Kung Fu Panda” franchise. Just 4% of the 1,335 directors of top‐grossing films – animated or live action – released between 2007 and 2018 were women and only 9 directors were women of color.
Regarding cast, only 20 (17%) of the 120-animated features released over the period had a female lead or co-lead. Only three of these films had a woman of color (3%) in the main role (“Smurfs: The Lost Village,” “Moana,” and “The Princess and the Frog”).
In below the line roles, women are still a minority in film and TV. Across 52 top animated films from the past five years, just 7% of head of story positions were occupied with women, as were 8% of heads of animation, and 14% of art directors.
Across 100 popular animated TV series, women made up 16% of animation directors, 20% of lead animators, and 11% of lead storyboard artists.
In terms of qualitative findings, the Stacy-USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative report sheds light –through interviews and surveys– on three major challenges confronted by women. A first is a culture of homophily – “the idea that individuals form relationships with other people who are similar to them on a key trait (e.g., gender, race, etc.)”– prevents women from feeling and developing a sense of belonging in order to move forward in their careers.
Second, women reported being valued less than men and that gender stereotyping is still a highly active hindrance. Third, women are perceived as lacking in ambition. “Thirty‐five percent of decision-makers claimed women’s ambition was a reason for the lack of women directing,” the report says.
How to move forward? “The animation industry has an opportunity to move from thinking about individual bias to the structural ways that the business can create greater inclusion,” Stacy L. Smith told Variety.
She added: “By facilitating belonging, improving the processes that relate to evaluation, and making this a goal for everyone, we can achieve progress toward an industry that values and supports all voices.”
A journalist and researcher, Smith’s concerns embrace content patterns in audiovisual representation, employment patterns behind the camera, barriers and opportunities facing women and underrepresented racial/ethnic groups in media, economic analyses and to find solutions to inequality in entertainment industries. Smith is also the founder and director of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative.
At this year Annecy festival, 40% of the selected shorts competing in official sections are directed or co-directed by women. This figure rises to 64.5% in the graduation films category – in line with the report’s observations..
According to Annecy Festival sources, women are less present in TV categories, where they direct or produce 33% of selected works. However, in the commissioned films category, 43% of films selected are directed or co-directed by women.
In feature films, the gap is still very substantial. Just 2% of selected movies are directed or co-directed by women: Anca Damian’s “Marona’s Fantastic Tale” and Zabou Breitman and Éléa Gobbé-Mévellec’s “The Swallows of Kabul.”
The Annecy Summit was organized by Women in Animation (WIA) and France’s Les Femmes s’Animent (LFA), in partnership with the Annecy Intl. Animation Festival and its Mifa market.