World Festival of Animated Film /
28 September to 3 October 2020
World Festival of Animated Film / 28 September to 3 October 2020
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Gender, Labour and Historiography: Rethinking Women's Contribution to the History of Animation - Bella Honess Roe (University of Surrey, Guildford, UK)

This paper presents research being carried out as part of a larger project on women and animation historiography. In that project, I am thinking about how the gendered history of animation has inflected our understanding of what women’s contribution to animation has been. Broadly speaking, the history of women in animation has been written in two ways: that of the ‘helpmeet’ to the history of mainstream studio animation (e.g. as ‘ink and paint girls’ in the US) or as lone artisanal craftswomen working outside the cultural capital exchange of commercial animation. The latter area is where research on women in animation has been focused, often in a celebratory fashion that seeks to mark the significance of women’s independent animation.

In this paper, I question this history and explore its origins. For it is not, as we know, the true picture of women’s contribution to animation. Many women played significant roles in studio animation in the US and beyond. Similarly, I question whether the celebration of the ‘feminine aesthetic’ (as Paul Wells called it in his seminal 1999 book Understanding Animation) has contributed to the limited historiographical scope of women in animation and has perpetuated the marginalisation of women’s labour in animation as something that has, and should, take place outside of the mainstream. Is it possible to rethink this history at this juncture? And what might such a rethinking involve?

Bella Honess Roe’s areas of expertise include animation, documentary and the media industries, areas on which she has published widely, including her 2013 book Animated Documentary (Palgrave), which won the 2015 Society for Animation Studies Maclaren-Lambart award for best book. She has written several articles and book chapters on topics including animated documentary, genre, British documentary in the 1980s and the intersection of documentary and the museum. Most recently, she has published the edited books Aardman Animations: Beyond Stop-Motion (Bloomsbury, 2020), The Animation Studies Reader (Bloomsbury, 2019) and Vocal Projections: Voices in Documentary (Bloomsbury, 2018). She teaches at the University of Surrey, UK.