WOMEN THROUGHOUT THE HISTORY OF ANIMATION
This program is a collection of films from women throughout the history of animation, spanning an 80-year time period. Selected films represent a number of important and influential women that are either at the forefront of their creation (whether that be directors or animators) or are producers & distributors. This program will introduce and dissect the work and lives of these women within the context of their animated works and the broader industry that surrounded them at the time. Many of these women were often unfortunately overshadowed by their male counterparts despite their incredible talent and knowledge in the field of animation. This was often due to gender politics and sexism within the industry itself, and that is something that will be addressed in this screening program.
The films chosen will consider a number of different animation techniques and practices including, but not limited to, cut-out or silhouette animation, early iterations of computer-generated animation, rotoscope techniques and sand animation. Each artist’s inspirations and influences will also be considered by exploring the time period or movement that contextualise each work respectively. Films selected span across German cinema post-WW1, the early days of Disney animation studios, the minimalist animation movement, the period during iron curtain, the height of the National Film Board of Canada as well as contemporary works and works produced locally in Australia.
The Adventures of Prince Achmed (Opening Sequence)
Germany, 3’21, 1926
This film is an early example of cut-out or silhouette animation techniques and is the first known animated feature-length film, spanning a total of 96,000 frames. This film is an adaptation of the ‘1001 Arabian Nights’ tales and was made at the end of the First World War, at a time when German cinema had regained momentum and a reputation for quality. Lotte Reiniger’s figures were hinged at the joints and then manipulated by hand using stop-motion animation techniques. Reiniger used incredible precision to frame her figures against backgrounds of translucent paper and colourful acetate foils. Her husband and long-time collaborator Carl Koch worked as both a camera operator and fellow animator alongside Reiniger.
Felix Comes Back
Pat Sullivan (Produced by Margaret. J. Winkler)
United States, 7’36, 1922
Margaret. J. Winkler was one of the most successful and well-known distributors of animated films throughout the 1920s and as such played an important role in the history of animation. Winkler initially established her career by working for Harry Warner as a private secretary, she then went on to establish her own company and financed one of the most highly commercialised animated series of her time; ‘Felix The Cat’. In addition to this, Winkler also financed the Fleischer brother’s ‘Out of the Inkwell’ series and Disney’s ‘Alice Comedies’. Winkler’s withdrawal from the industry was a reflection of long-held societal conventions following her marriage with Charles Mintz. It was common during these times for women to stop working after they married and thus, Mintz took over the majority of the company in Winkler’s place.
John Halas & Joy Batchelor
United Kingdom, 5’00, 1959
This film is about the history of hot water and was created and produced by John Halas and Joy Batchelor who were known for their creative artistry in the field of minimalist animation. Joy Batchelor was an experienced illustrator and animator who worked in England before joining forces with John Halas and forming their studio in 1940. Halas and Batchelor soon became one of the largest and most influential animation studios, making 70 animated shorts and 2000 ads, as well as commissioned films and propaganda.
An Adventure in Stripes
Poland, 11’00, 1960
This film follows a striped elephant that is rejected by the other black and white skinned elephants in the tribe because of its uniqueness. The production of this film (among many others) was during the period of the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe whereby anything that was seen to draw on so-called western culture was banned and art at the time was rigidly controlled and heavily censored. Alina Maliszewska is an animator, scriptwriter and set designer who began her career studying at the Krakow Academy of Fine Arts. Following this, she began work at Studio Minotaur, going on to direct 40 animated films.
Synchromy no. 2
Mary Ellen Bute
United States, 5’38, 1936
Visuals in this film are reflections and refractions of light from glass colanders which Mary Ellen Bute manipulated. Because of her intricate and explorative films, Bute is an important influence in the history of animation.‘Synchromy no. 2’ is part of a series of films which illustrate Bute’s connection with music and her experimentation into the concept of “the absolute film” which addresses both the eye and the ear in an attempt to create “visual music”. Initially she became drawn to music after a collaboration with the musician Joseph Schillinger who had theorised a mathematical structure that reduced music to a series of formulae. She pioneered early animated films and worked closely with one of the most influential animators of all time in her film ‘Spook Sport’ (1940), this was of course Norman McLaren, who shared her same fascination with music.
Evelyn Lambart & Norman McLaren
Canada, 5’28, 1965
This film is representative of one of the most influential animators of all time and the woman who worked by his side. Norman McLaren was one of the leading innovators of the new art of animation who explored the ways in which sound can be translated into a visual language, working closely with Evelyn Lambart to do so. Lambart and McLaren worked together at the National Film Board of Canada, which was known as one of the most influential production houses of the time. It fostered many young creative animators to experiment with the possibilities of animation in a hope to diverge from the hyper-realistic style of Walt Disney that was saturating screens at the time.
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
Australia, 4’00, 1968
‘Yellow Submarine’ (Dir. George Dunning, 1968) of which this short expert is from, is an example of indie filmmaking in its prime. This film features a plethora of artists with varying animation techniques and styles together with the music of The Beatles. Co-written by Al Brodax, Lee Minoff, Jack Mendelsohn and Erich Segal, the film is expansive in its representation of the possibilities of animation. This excerpt for the song ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ features rotoscope techniques based from videos of Fred Astair and Ginger Lawrence. The rotoscope was originally conceptualised and invented by Max Fleischer, becoming an incredible turning point as it allowed for more realistic mobility to be achieved. This common technique is seen here in this piece by Australian animator Anne Joliffe.
Canada, 10’15, 1976
This Melancholic tale is an adapted short story by Mordecai Richler and is an example of an independent piece of animation which received an Academy Award nomination in 1977. Caroline leaf initially began experimenting with animation when she first took it as an elective whilst studying architecture. This was taught by Derek Lamb from the National Film Board, here she discovered that whilst she didn’t have very much luck with drawing, she had a talent for using sand as a form of artistic expression in her animation. She would paint directly onto glass, and sometimes directly onto film, a technique which was pioneered by Norman McLaren. Leaf joined the NFB in 1972 which allowed her considerable creative freedom to work and produce films. She left in 1991, this was marked by her production of the film ‘Two Sisters’ (1991).
Lillian F. Shwartz
United States, 4’20, 1976
This film is an example of a work that was conceived by one of the most influential early contributors to Computer Generated animation as we know it today. Most people who had come to CG animation had done so for a love of technology, but Lillian F. Shwartz came from an artistic point of view and aspired to deconstruct and reconstruct both literally and metaphorically through her art. Her work spans graphics, film, video, animation, special effects and multimedia. Fundamental to her work is the basis of experimentation and exploration which is seen in her prolific career. Her work has been exhibited at The Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Whitney Museum among many others.
Australia, 2’33, 1983
‘Dream House’ is another example of computer-generated animation in some of its early stages of development. The film depicts a dream state, weaving in and out of the imagined rooms that each represent aspects of a life. The film is semi-autobiographical and was shot on 16mm film in Australia. Sally Pryor herself is a multi-faceted lover of the technical aspects of IT and electronics and has used this fascination to create abstract animated films. She is a designer, programmer, educator, animator, artist and biological scientist and throughout her career has interconnected her varying interests both in her studies and in her artistic works.
Australia, 4’48, 2001
Another home-grown animated film, ‘Local Dive’ directed by Sarah Watt depicts a hot Australian summer day by the swimming pool. The boys that dominate the local pool and the anxiety that this brings for the protagonist is something that is important to represent in this screening program whilst we dissect women in the animation industry (which is very much a male dominated field). The intimidation that the protagonist feels is something very akin to feelings Watt may have felt in the industry herself. Watt depicts intricate animated sequences when the young girl swims underwater, and audiences can then get a true sense of the expanse of Watt’s imagination through her animation of vivid sea creatures and coral. Watt’s later film ‘Look Both Ways’ (2005) incorporates both live action and animated sequences and represents anxieties in much of the same way.
Arlene Klasky & Gabor Csupo
United States, 7’07, 2003
The Klasky Csupo studio was founded by Gabor Csupo and Arlene Klasky in 1982. They are responsible for animating and producing some of the most well-known and loved animated films to date. Titles such as ‘Rugrats’ (1991 – 2004) and ‘Duckman’ (1994 – 1997) as well as the first three seasons of ‘The Simpsons’. An influential auteur animator of the time, Igor Kovilyov, who is responsible for a body of narrative-defying films was able to reach his full potential because of the Klasky Csupo studio. This connection allowed him to immigrate to the Unites States where he eventually got his own studio. This selection is a TV short that is injected with crass humour, epitomising the studio’s character-driven style of comedy.