This year, three of the 10 all time highest-grossing animated movies hit theaters, highlighting the influence of these films. And in a time when the roles of women in film, both on and off-screen, are being discussed with increasing depth and energy, renowned animation school California Institute of the Arts will be exploring how female characters are represented in this particular medium with the second annual Animated Woman Symposium on Gender Bias in Animation.
The Symposium will take place on December 9 at 5 p.m. in Langley Hall on the CalArts campus in Valencia, California. Highlights of the event will include premiere screenings of original short films, discussions and an exhibition exploring past and present incarnations of female animated characters.
Symposium originator Erica Larsen-Dockray is special faculty in CalArts’ Experimental Animation Program in the School of Film/Video. She designed and teaches the popular class, The Animated Woman, which is the source of the symposium’s visual work and topics for discussion.
“It has been such a pleasure to work with these students who are a delightfully diverse group coming from a variety of backgrounds and artistic practices,” said Larsen-Dockray. “Their projects reflect important perspectives from marginalized communities as they investigate animated characters and issues of biases, which in many cases, has impacted them directly.”
This year, students from CalArts programs ranging from Character Animation, Experimental Animation and Sound Design to Stage Management and Fine Art, are taking part in the class and symposium. Their work includes original animated films, installations, drawings, paintings, songs, zines and keynote presentations—and feature critical and often satirical takes on topics such as “the nerd girl,” magic as a gendered plot device, body hair, female superhero sidekicks, tomboys and more.
Female students, faculty and alumni of CalArts have made (and continue to make) a major impact on the industry, as highlighted in a 2015 Los Angeles Times feature on the rise of women in college animation programs. In 2012, Brenda Chapman (alongside fellow alum and co-director Mark Andrews) became the first woman to receive a Best Animated Feature Oscar for Disney-Pixar’s Brave.
On the airwaves, CalArts alumna Daron Nefcy is the creator and executive producer of multiple Annie nominee Star vs. The Forces of Evil on Disney Channel/Disney XD. When the show launched in 2015, Nefcy became the second ever woman to create a Disney Channel animated series, and the first in 18 years. Star has been renewed for a third season.