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BTGF is presented by and in collaboration with the following:

   Sunday, Oct 7 – 9:30am-10:30am   

Mihaela Mihailova

“The Quill is Mightier than the Sword: Empowering Women in Animation Through VR Tools”



As virtual reality gains momentum, many have identified the medium’s relative youth as an opportunity to lay the groundwork for better female representation both on screen and behind the headset. Often posed as a possible alternative to male-dominated tech industries, virtual reality is anticipated to bolster women’s presence and impact on immersive media and emerging technologies (Martin). Indeed, from Maureen Fan, who founded Baobab, the VR animation studio behind the successful 2016 short film Invasion!, to visual artist Rachel Rossin, who drew upon her own paintings to create the three-dimensional multimedia installation Lossy (2015), women in animation have been taking advantage of VR’s creative potential (Evans).

This talk explores the ways in which VR tools can facilitate and encourage the creation of female-driven and female-oriented content. Specifically, it looks at Quill, a program that allows artists to paint within a VR environment using an Oculus Rift headset and Oculus’s Touch controllers (Watercutter) and Maestro, a social VR tool developed by Penrose Studios, which allows creative teams to collaborate inside the virtual reality world they are creating (Trew). Wesley Allsbrook, art director of the female-centered short Dear Angelica (2017), has credited Quill (which she co-designed) as “a tool that makes people like [her] who have no technical experience into CG artists” (Watercutter). Similarly, animator Bruna Berford, who worked on Penrose’s Allumette (2016), a loose VR adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Match Girl,” has pointed out that the social VR component of Maestro simplifies workflow by giving her team simultaneous direct access to content. Thus, both technologies hint at emerging media’s potential to creatively empower women in animation and promote female-driven animation toolkit design.   

But are such developments truly representative of a paradigm shift? VR producer and curator Catherine Allen asserts that, despite the “golden opportunity to make the VR space as inclusive and diverse as possible, […] right now it is so male-dominated and the content reflects that” (Faramazi). Keeping this in perspective, my talk will consider the promise of such VR tools against current industry practices in order to interrogate the notion that VR software development alone can effectively address systemic inequality.


Mihaela Mihailova is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Film Studies in the Department of English at Michigan State University. Mihaela's research interests include animation, film and media theory, Eastern European cinema, video games, and comics. She has published articles in animation: an interdisciplinary journal, Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema, Post Script: Essays in Film and the Humanities, and Kino Kultura. She has also contributed chapters to Animating Film Theory (ed. Karen Beckman) (co-written with John MacKay), Animated Landscapes: History, Form, and Function (ed. Chris Pallant), and the forthcoming Animation Studies Reader (eds. Bella Honess Roe, Nichola Dobson, Amy Ratelle, and Caroline Ruddell). She is currently working on a book manuscript, "Animating Global Realities in the Digital Age." Through a comparative analysis of contemporary studio animation and visual effects produced in the United States and Russia, the project examines how animated media’s relationship to reality articulates national ideologies in the era of digital globalization.

Stephanie Delazeri

“An Analysis of the Gendered Representation in Animation Instructional Materials”  


This paper will critique the misogyny found throughout US animation/ comic book/ illustration educational instructional materials (ie ‘how to’ books, online tutorials) specifically in their sections that pertain to ‘how to draw women’. No matter the demographic from toddlers to teens to adults almost every guide I found presented distorted restrictive images of women, giving professionals and students step-by-step instructions on how to draw them in highly sexualized and stereotypical ways. With many of these materials being the first introduction students and young artists have to the world of art and animation, they can quickly teach bad habits that can stick with the artists for the rest of their lives. These materials have become a tangible canon that has carried on the tradition of misogynistic attitude, design and movement in animation for the last 100 years. These books have repeated lessons taught by male artists over the past century with no sense of self-reflection, allowing outdated, offensive and even violent attitudes concerning the female body to thrive and remain relevant.

My research will address the history and evolution of these materials by comparing books spanning from the 1920s to today. This paper will explore the trends found which include; fetishization of long, elaborate rules to drawing females, gender having intrinsic personality traits, exoticization of women of color, and authors assuming their reader is always male. Many of the classic animation pedagogy books today are looked upon as sacred texts by much of the animation industry, while other guides are ignored. As a result of this dynamic, outdated, restrictive and sexist ideals in the depictions of women continue to be passed down through generations to both male AND female artists. And these books are only becoming worse. Without a critical eye on the medium’s tradition, the root of sexism in animation will continue to become ingrained in the budding artists of the future whether they know it or not.


Stephanie Delazeri is an undergraduate at the California Institute of the Arts, majoring in Experimental Animation. Born and raised in Los Angeles by Brazilian parents, her animations have been screened in over 25 film festivals both nationally and internationally including festivals in Australia, Japan, Canada, and Germany. In addition to animation, Stephanie also has an interest in film/animation research. She presented at the 2016 Asia Animation Forum in South Korea and was a Robert Flaherty Film Seminar Fellow in 2017.

Lynn Tomlinson

“The Creative Art of Mentorship: Yvonne Andersen, Amy Kravitz, and Sheila Sofian”


This paper is a case study of two women, both contemporary independent animators working in the United States with respected careers teaching at the university level. Amy Kravitz has been animating since she was a young girl in Yvonne Andersen’s Yellow Ball Workshop, and has taught for four decades at the Rhode Island School of Design. She is known for her poetic short experimental animated films and her inspiring teaching. Sheila Sofian has taught animation for almost thirty years at the University of the Arts, the College of the Canyons, and now USC. She is a leading practitioner of animated documentary and has developed courses and workshops and has written on the subject. Both women have had a major influence not only through their own creative work, but also through their creative pedagogy, shown though examples of their own and their students’ work, and insight into the ways that their innovative teaching has impacted their practice, and vice versa. I will look at how animation mentorship becomes a kind of creative family tree: Kravitz was Sofian’s undergraduate professor, and I started my own career in academia as Sofian’s teaching assistant, and this presentation includes my own perspective as an independent animator and animation professor. Through interviews with Sofian, Kravitz, and their colleagues, peers, and former students, my paper investigates how mentorship, teaching strategies, and creative work in independent animation impacts the next generation of independent animators and may also impact the industry. Focusing especially on the period from the 1990s to the early 2000s, I will investigate instructional challenges and changes that impacted animation in the academic setting at the end of the last century: the shift from film to digital processes; the need to negotiate institutional pressure to “prepare” students for industry careers with a desire to encourage students to think creatively about animation as a fine art; finding institutional and financial support in time of diminishing public arts funding; balancing family, teaching, and art-making; and addressing the benefits and challenges of the academic environment as a co-career along with creative production as an animation artist.



Lynn Tomlinson is an animator and interdisciplinary artist whose current work addresses environmental change by shifting the point-of-view away from human beings, onto animals and inanimate objects. Awards for her work include Individual Artist Fellowships from the states of Maryland, Florida, and Pennsylvania. Her clay-on-glass animated shorts have been official selections in festivals internationally and have aired on children’s public television, MTV, and Sesame Street. She has published articles on Miwa Matreyek and Kathy Rose, and the Brothers Quay. She has taught animation since the early 1990s, at the University of the Arts, Cornell, MICA, and Delaware College of Art and Design, and is currently on the faculty of Towson University, outside Baltimore, Maryland.