Saturday, Oct 6 – 3:15pm-4:45pm
Kirsten Moana Thompson
“‘Quick, Quick, Like a Bunny’: Animated Labor, Color and the Ink and Paint Dept”
This paper explores a key machine in animation’s production process: The Ink and Paint Department in the classical studio era. It examines the relationships between gender, labor and materiality in the creation and promotion of proprietary paints, pigments, and other materials in cel animation. While color supervisors like Dot Smith at Disney would urge their staff to increase production with commands like “Quick, quick like a bunny,” inkers and painters worked long hours for some of the lowest wages in the industry. These conditions would prompt a number of strikes at animated studios in the forties, including the Disney strike that was raging at the very moment when The Reluctant Dragon was released.
Examining 22 oral histories from Women in Animation’s oral history archives of inkers and painters from the classical studio period which have not yet received scholarly attention (despite Disney’s recent promotional book on this subject), this paper connects cel animation’s offscreen color production with the onscreen depiction of labor in Disney animated features. More specifically, it discusses the Ink and Paint Department scene in The Reluctant Dragon (Disney, 1941) which theatricalized the offscreen production of color pigment and paint, with several scenes in Snow White where labor is represented as both fun (“whistle while you work”), but also repetitive and aimless (collecting diamonds for no apparent reason). The paper considers the discursive relationship between Disney’s promotional representations of animation’s material production in 1941 and recent studio re-presentations and monetization of that labor history in studio publications like the recently published Ink and Paint: The Women of the Walt Disney Studio (Mindy Johnson: Disney Editions: 2016)
Kirsten Moana Thompson is Professor of Film Studies and Director of the Film Programme at Seattle University. She teaches and writes on animation and color studies, as well as classical Hollywood cinema, German, New Zealand and Pacific studies. She is the author of Apocalyptic Dread: American Cinema at the Turn of the Millennium (SUNY Press, 2007); Crime Films: Investigating the Scene (Wallflower: 2007), and co-editor with Terri Ginsberg of Perspectives on German Cinema (GK Hall: NY, 1996). She is currently working on several new books: Color, Visual Culture and American Cel Animation; a book on Bubbles, and a co-edited collection on Advertising and Animation with Malcolm Cook.
“An Examination of Lauren Montgomery’s Influence on Mainstream Superhero Pop Culture”
Lauren Montgomery has brought some of the world’s most popular superheroes to life, from established franchises such as Wonder Woman and Batman, to original characters such as Avatars Aang and Korra. As showrunner on Voltron: Legendary Defender, Montgomery continues to influence these ‘superhero spaces’ in pop culture. There has been a gradual trend towards more female representation in these spaces previously dominated by male fans and franchises. As Hollywood studios realize not only the cultural but financial value of female led films, it is worth examining the history of representation in these spaces on the small screen.
To that end, this paper will look at three specific areas of Lauren Montgomery’s work. First it will discuss her early influence on DCs superhero franchises, most notably as the director of Wonder Woman (2009) and storyboard artist on Superman: Doomsday (2007). It will consider how her work on these titles shape the current conversation and visual lineage of females in blockbuster superhero films, specifically through her depictions of Diana and Lois Lane. Second it will examine her work on the cultural phenomenon Avatar: The Last Airbender and her involvement as producer on the female-led follow-up series The Legend of Korra. Through this discussion I will dissect the ‘boys won’t watch stories about girls’ narrative that the creators fought against during the shows creation, and consider the parallel theory that often hinders female representation in animation and superhero series that only ‘boys will buy toys’. Finally, it will explore her current role as showrunner on the reboot of the Voltron series, Voltron: Legendary Defender. I will specifically look at the importance of gender representation in superhero stories through the role of Pidge who was rebooted as a female character hiding behind a male guise in this modern adaptation of the franchise. Pidge challenges gender presentation and identity norms in causal and incidental ways, and offers an interesting critique of women in male roles.
Amanda Konkin is a Production Manager at Rainmaker Studios in Vancouver, British Columbia. She previously worked as a production coordinator on Surf’s Up 2: Wavemania, and recently completed the Netflix Original Series ReBoot: The Guardian Code (March 2018). She is currently finishing up a companion series of short animated 360 video experiences based on the show. Amanda completed a Master’s Degree at the University of British Columbia in 2011 focusing on the use of interactive media to bridge live audience experiences with those in the digital space and received a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Grant for her thesis work.
"You're Standing on My Neck: An Analysis of Gender Inequality within Adult Animation"
In 1995, a call for “a show for girls” rang down the halls of MTV Network. Its outcome was Daria: penned in an almost half-female writer’s room, the show would become the longest running and highest critically-reviewed animated program in the network’s history. In June 2018, MTV announced its reboot, Daria and Jodie, which comes to screens that have still only seen a handful of adult cartoons from female creators. Over two decades since that heralding cry, Daria remains anomalous.
This paper examines the factors that have hindered women’s inclusion at the highest creative levels of the infamously male-centric adult animation television genre. Research such as Evan Elkin’s “The Post-network Politics of Adult Swim,” have examined how some programmers prioritize a young white male demographic, and inspected perceived sexism in certain content, branding and marketing. This paper puts such critical analyses into conversation with the less-investigated industrial factors that may limit the opportunities given to female and non-binary creatives. Relying upon first-person testimony from animation professionals, and emphasizing gendered employment, this paper analyzes various cultural and structural attributes of adult animation programmers. Could it be that, with the exceptions of series such as Lisa Hanawalt’s upcoming Tuca and Bertie, and Natasha Allegri’s current Bee and Puppycat, women just don’t pitch adult animated content? Or do practices of adult cartoon producers as they develop new talent and ideas place roadblocks before female creative visions?
This paper boils down to a simple question, best imagined voiced in Daria’s own iconic deadpan: Why is adult animation standing on female creator’s necks?
Cooper Nelson is Development Coordinator at Frederator Studios, where she reviews pitches and pens interviews with animation professionals. Originally from San Francisco, she double-majored in Cinema and Media Studies and Law, History, and Culture, with a minor in Screenwriting, at the University of Southern California. She graduated in the Class of 2017 as USC’s first Valedictorian from the School of Cinematic Arts. While at USC she interned with the San Francisco Film Society, Lionsgate Entertainment, and DreamWorks Animation Television. Beavis and Butthead was her favorite show when she was 7 and to this day she struggles to understand why other female viewers apparently did not share her affinity.