Director Jennifer Yuh Nelson arrives at the premiere of "Kung Fu Panda 2," in Los Angeles on May 22, 2011. (Photo: Matt Sayles/ AP)
LOS ANGELES — Women make up roughly half of all executives in animation, but a study released Monday says the numbers fall significantly when it comes to female directors and other leadership roles in the industry.
The study by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and the nonprofit advocacy group Women in Animation said that in the past 12 years, only 3 percent of animated film directors were women and only one, “Kung Fu Panda 2” director Jennifer Yuh Nelson, was a woman of color.
The results reveal a few positive trends: Women comprise roughly half of the executives in animation and fully half of the most powerful positions in major film animation companies and studios.
Also, data from animation programs and film festivals reveals that a robust pipeline exists from animation classrooms into early careers.
In some areas, like producing, animation has better female representation than live-action films. The study found that women made up 37 percent of producers on the 120 animated films surveyed going back to 2007. On live-action features, women make up about 15 percent of producers.
“The proportion of women in this leadership role in animation, and the progress made in the last decade indicates that there are spaces where the industry is taking inclusion seriously and affecting change,” said initiative director Stacy L. Smith in a statement.
Women also made up 13 percent of directors of popular animated television shows from 2018, the only year covered by the study. But women of color were underrepresented in all areas.
Tenacious teenager Moana (voice of Auli'i Cravalho) recruits demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) to help her become a master wayfinder in the animated "Moana" in 2016. (Photo: DISNEY)
Women are also outnumbered in below-the-line roles like head of story, lead animators and art directors, the study found.
And in front of the camera, only 20 of the top 120 animated features across the past 12 years had a female lead or co-lead. Of those, three, “Moana,” ”The Princess and the Frog,” and “Smurfs: The Lost Village,” had a woman of color as the protagonist
Marge Dean, the president of Women in Animation, says a better understanding of the numbers will help push the industry toward achieving better gender representation by 2025.
“This study validates what we have known all along, that women are a hugely untapped creative resource in the animation industry,” Dean said in a statement. “Now that we have a greater understanding of how the numbers fall into place and what solutions may help rectify this deficiency, we can take bigger strides towards our goal of 50-50 by 2025.”
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