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In The ueens of Animation bestselling author Nathalia Holt recounts the dramatic stories of an incredibly influential group of women who have slipped under the radar for decades but have touched all our lives These women infiltrated the all male domain of Disney Studios and used early technologies to create the rich artwork and iconic storylines that would reach millions of viewers across generations Over the decades while battling sexism domestic abuse and workplace harassment these women also fought to influence the way female characters are depicted to young audiencesBased on extensive interviews and exclusive access to archival and personal documents The ueens of Animation tells the story of their vital contribution to Disney's golden age and their continued impact on animated filmmaking culminating in the record shattering Frozen Disney's first female directed full length feature film

10 thoughts on “The ueens of Animation

  1. says:

    The ueens of Animation by Nathalia Holt is a 2019 Little Brown publicationAlthough it is long overdue it is still nice to see the women who worked on many of the classic Disney films we all know and love finally receiving public acknowledgement for their contributions Grace Huntington Retta Scott Sylvia Holland Bianca Majolie and Mary Blair are the women profiled in this book which also follows a timeline beginning in 1936 and ending in 2013 The movies these ladies helped to develop the influence they had on the process of creating these classic films and the myriad of challenges they faced professionally and personally are woven into the climate and history of the Disney studio The book is interesting especially the creative process which is perhaps the most enlightening aspect of the book for me That doesn't mean I missed the author's message or that I didn't find it important just that I found the art and the talent these ladies were blessed with fascinating I also enjoyed the trip down memory lane remembering the films that brought me such joy as a childThe author chose these women to write about because they did a lot of important work on these films and their involvement was invaluable to their success but unlike today when even the smallest contribution can earn an accreditation these ladies were ignored Not only that their ideas were stolen by their male colleagues and they often worked under hostile conditions and were sexually harassed This slight is a wrong the author is trying to draw our attention to so yes this book has a specific intent and the author is attempting to make a direct point However at times she underlined the issue too forcefully and was a little too heavy handed which unfortunately gave the book an impersonal tone The book is also a bit disorganized and all over the place at times and feels rushed through in places as well That said I enjoyed learning about this hidden history of Disney The process of change for women and even for non white males was a slow one It took years before women were acknowledged and given freedom and control at the studio But the conclusion is an upbeat inspirational one showing the great strides women have taken the impact they had in shaping Disney which eventually culminated with the first female directed Disney Film Frozen Despite some warbles here and there I thought this was an interesting book I admire the creativity of these animators and am very happy to see them finally getting the recognition they richly deserve Overall 35 round up

  2. says:

    Walt Disney was the neighborhood in Chicago where I grew up claim to fame The house he grew up in albeit many years previous was a few blocks from mine Everyone new in our neighborhood had this pointed out to themA terrific book that I enjoyed immensely Five women who broke the gender barrier and became integral to the studio Though the book and rightly so centers on these forgotten women we also get a sense of Walt himself the studios troubles and the making of the movies themselves A process that took years in some cases We also learn the stories of these women their struggles their fight to belong to this entrenched boys club Glad to see that Walt supported women employees Was surprised at some of the movies that in the early days were deemed flops Movies that are now treasured A wonderful narrative voice enhanced by the narration of Saskia Maarlevid

  3. says:

    Bravo to the heretofore unsung women of Disney and to Nathalia Holt for unearthing their history As much as I loathe the whole Cinderella scenario merchandising adding injury to injury the addictive grip imposes on consumers that Disney has perfected it's nice to see that the founder wasn't as completely despicable to women as many employers were during his reign Holt writes well and audio reader Maarvleveld's performance is wonderful too

  4. says:

    This was so fascinating to me I don't know about youins but I never paid attention to the credits in movies sheepish and never thought about the people who worked on my favorite characters until I was olderWhen you're little you usually don't think about all bloodsweattears the people behind the scenes put into a movie Its just a magical world you fall into and fall in love withI'm sure most of you have a favorite Disney character above the rest For me the first ones I fell in love with were Little Mermaid we used to make my brother play with us and pretend to be a merman hehe Lion King and Aladdin Beauty and the Beast came later but the first three were my first experiences with Disney I still love Ariel Simba Jasmine and the gang but I've gotten fond ofcloser to Belle as I grew up Besides our mutual love of books she was real to me if that makes sense I admires her courage and spirit too There were so many things about Disney Company I had no clue about The company being so much in debt the environment in the Story meetings how women had to fight to get their ideas noticed and that women helped animate my favorite films just to name a few I wanted to hug poor Bianca when she ran out of the Story meeting and Mary Blair when things started going downhill for herThe attitudes of the men were surprising and not at the same time More than once I threw my hands up and called them idiots or big babies It was interesting too to see how the evolving technology was worked into the films Disney made Sometimes my eyes glazed over on the technical details though The credits system for the films surprised me too I had no clue how unfair it was really and how it really wasn't fixed later even though it was supposed to be fair Makes me want to go back through the films and examine them closely A few things I do remember hearing aboutRacist seuenceslyrics in FantasiaAladdinHow expensive Sleeping Beauty was to makeCertain movies being flops at the box office Others that were new to meHow long Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast were shelved before they went into production How long Bambi was in production The workers strike at Disney back thenFor the longest time Disney male employees not wanting to draw fairies or seuences too feminine basically loud snorting was involved in these instancesWhen Pixarwas formed I won't spoil it for us but this was a very fascinating read I was worried about not being able to finish this before my turn was up but I flew through this and listened every spare moment I couldWould highly recommend these women should be well known and recognized for their contributionsProud DisneyGirl

  5. says:

    I received The ueens of Animation The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History by Nathalia Holt as a Goodreads Giveaway I’m very grateful for this because now I know to avoid all works by this author The ueens of Animation is not a pleasure to read and I found its treatment of the subject insufficient These women who bravely ventured into the brutally sexist and male dominated world of 1950s and 1960s Disney animation studios did not get the book they deserveAs a general introduction to animation and the Walt Disney Studios however this book does a decent job You will get an overview of the creative process behind the studio’s productions with in depth details for some of the iconic movies Bambi Pinocchio Fantasia If you are interested in the technical aspects of animation then hurrah because Holt supplies them often to excess It was surprising to learn how long it took to get these movies to production—usually several years The Snow ueen didn’t see fruition for decades eventually morphing into Frozen The book is arranged or less chronologically so you can follow the progress of technology from hand inked drawings to the use of Xerox copiers to computer animation It’s also interesting to note how Disney writers took the original sources of fairy tales which were often violent and disturbing the original Pinocchio is mean little bastard who is murdered in the end and good riddance to him and rewrote them to be palatable and marketable to the public This isn’t new to me but I did appreciate knowing about the original fairy tales However the women of this book who are supposed to be the book’s central theme don’t stand out as individuals Despite all of the author’s research and reading of the women’s journals letters and conversations with still living women and relatives of the women the women rarely get to speak for themselves There are not many direct uotes The women all blur together against a backdrop of sexism and workplace harassment and technical details The ueens of Animation is highly formulaic introduce the woman give some basic biographical information throw in technical information about animation move to the next woman The women’s stories often overlap as many of them worked at the studio within the same time period if not all in the same departments This formulaic approach would be fine if the author were a skillful writer She is not The prose is rather boring and seems dumbed down Holt’s most egregious insult is to dramatize events and write in a sentimental manner as if these women are in some kind of romance novel Holt writes that this woman thought that or laughed at this or shuddered at thathow the hell does she know this? These are real people not fictional creations How does Holt know at that exact moment Bianca Majolie is imagining leaving her demanding job as an animator because she’s unhappy? If Holt pulled this information from reading Majolie’s journals or letters then she should mention this in the text But she never does Holt never cites her specific sources for anything these real women say think feel or do That’s shoddy scholarship I absolutely HATE reading nonfiction books that treat its subjects like fictional characters The first chapter starts by dramatically introducing Bianca Majolie one of the first women hired by Walt Disney to work in the animation department as being terrified as she stands in front of a group men in a story meeting She’s there to present her ideas for a project which one is not specified but the men reject her ideas This is how Holt describes the scene after Bianca runs from the room She could hear the group of men running after her the pounding of their feet growing louder as they continued to taunt her She had never been so thankful to have a private office She ran into it turned the lock then covered her face with her hands and let the tears of embarrassment and shame she had been holding back flow As she caught her breath she could hear shouts on the other side of the door and then her colleagues’ insistent knockingBianca cowered in the corner her heart beating wildly and her panicky gasps for air becoming high pitchedShe knew that the team wanted her to be thoroughly humiliated Her tears fueled their cruelty The wooden door frame began bending now the plywood and nails no match for the pressure of so many men on the other side With a loud craack the wood splintered the door gave way and a crowd of men tumbled into Bianca’s sanctuary She buried her head in her arms covering her ears to try to block their shouts but it was no use She would have to take it like a man 5 6If this were a novel I’d say wow That’s a pretty good scene What happens next? But this is nonfiction so this scene seems ridiculous to me When I search the notes section at the end of the book which are not specified by page number only chapters so you have to look through all of the notes to find what you think might be the source for the specific storyuotationevent you’re looking for Holt credits this “disastrous story meeting” to a “recollection” from another book But even if the story is factually true based on this recollection Holt has dramatized it too much; it crosses the line from fact based to fiction—and that’s how she wrote the entire bookAnother problem with the story is the lack of any critical analysis or connection to the outside world Aside from acknowledging how WWII affected the Disney studio’s workforce finances and projects it’s as if the studio and these women existed in a vacuum Many of the studio’s early works well later ones as well are criticized for being sexist and racist Fantasia fits the description for both yet Holt does not place the films and the people in this book within the context of social and historical events that affected them For example Holt discusses that Sylvia Moberly Holland made a short film during WWII to help women understand menstruation Giving women this kind of information about their bodies was highly controversial and hey regarding this we’re still in the 1940s but Sylvia managed to get it done There’s absolutely NO analysis of this in relation to how the film was received by the greater public or if she got any blowback from doing this This is how Holt connects the importance of this to the outside world “Sylvia’s piece was being produced at a time of innovation in feminine hygiene products” 166 That segues into the development of the tampon which FYI had been in use for centuries—even Egyptians used them Unfortunately Holt puts effort into her highly emotional and fictionalized descriptions of these womenMary Blair has had several miscarriages She could not grieve openly for the loss of her babies so Mary channeled her sorrow into her sketch pad and brushes She painted the scene between mother and child in a dark moody palette the images destined to become iconic Yet at the edges of her paper the watercolors pooled like tears running from her eyes betraying her sorrow 114Mary Blair’s trip to Cuba to experience the culture She sketched furiously over the course of five weeks as she traveled the country visiting cigar factories strolling through fields of sugarcane and twirling her heels in dance halls 165 I often felt that large chunks of these women’s lives were left untouched Holt starts the book with that dramatic scene with Bianca but never follows up on what happened after that Bianca is abruptly fired by Walt Disney; she doesn’t even know until she returns from vacation and discovers that her office is no longer hers—a coworker tells her she was fired After this Bianca is also essentially fired from the book and completely disappears until the last paragraph or so in the last chapter of the book Mary Blair was in an abusive marriage and Holt describes a violent scene in which her husband breaks a chair over their young son’s head because he refused to eat his vegetables The boy is described as having “deep wounds across his head” and she realizes that she too has “blood running down her own face” 249 So what happened after this? Who the hell knows Holt drops the narrative The stories of these women’s lives are fragmented and scattered When discussing the racism of the film Song of the South Holt shames Mary Blair for not stopping it One woman against a bunch of men the animators responsible for the racist drawings and yet she should have stopped it Walt Disney himself suggested some of the racist stereotypes But because Mary drew “nuanced” depictions of the South and was racially sensitive to the bigotry Holt repeatedly calls her out for not disagreeing with the animators’ and her boss’s racist ideas “At story meetings when racist depictions were discussed she sat completely silent” “Mary did not comment” “and she again said nothing” 178 Holt mentions a drawing Mary drew titled Sick Call which sympathetically depicts two African American men the one man clearly in physical distress Holt again shames Mary for not stopping the racism of the animators “If Mary had brought this sense of humanity to the story meetings in addition to her Song of the South concept art might she have swayed Walt? We’ll never know” 179 That’s a pretty bitchy comment by the author First Holt supposedly researched Mary Blair’s life Rather than write suggestively nasty things about her maybe cite some kind of fact based research relevant to the situation Holt is writing a book about these women being the first to break into the overwhelming sexist and oftentimes hostile male dominated Disney animation studios yet she displays absolutely no insight into her own subjects Gee why would Mary be hesitant about speaking out against all the male animators and her boss Walt Disney? Why shouldn’t this lone woman argue with her male colleagues about attitudes that are fairly common and accepted in 1940 America? I would say Mary did speak out via her racially sensitive and sympathetic portrayals of African Americans That is her protest The ueens of Animation is okay for a general overview of the Walt Disney studios and animation but if you are truly interested in these women and the larger topic of the history of animation and Walt Disney skip it Holt’s prose style—for a nonfiction book—is deplorable While there is a notes section it doesn’t strike me as being very helpful since it is grouped vaguely by chapter not page number While reading I kept thinking this sentence should have a footnote or asterisk for a specific source to back up what she is writing I’m not impressed with Holt as a writer or as a researcher There is a collection of color photographs in the middle of the book The last photograph shows a mural painted by Mary Blair This is the caption “Mary Blair’s mural in Disneyland in the 1960s; it may or may not still exist” In the epilogue the author mentions the mural again while relating an overly cutesy story involving her daughter The pictures may still be there she tells little Eleanor but they may not be there “the other Mary Blair mural created in 1967 is likely still there its images hopefully intact and entombed under layers of plaster” 321 Um Holt did you maybe think of I don’t know asking someone at Disney about it? I checked the notes—nope she apparently did not bother to ask anyone So Mary Blair’s murals are the Schrodinger’s Cat of Disneyland—both alive and dead at the same time and no one will ever knowuntil maybe a better author comes around and actually asks Nathalia Holt also wrote Rise of the Rocket Girls a book I have on my TBR list I am removing it I want to read about the subject but not in any book she authoredAddition to reviewWhile reading Fantasyland I came across a section about Congress's hearings into Un American Activities in the 1950s AKA the Communist hysteria aka McCarthyism and who was a star witness for this nonsense? Why Walt Disney He was still pissed about the strike that shut down the studios 6 years ago and was getting revenge by blaming the whole thing on Commies The strike was covered in this book but the author never mentions Disney's involvement in the McCarthy hearings While the book's supposed focus is the women of Disney studios Disney's bigoted and sexist attitudes and vindictiveness are barely mentioned even though I think those attitudes probably set the tone for the hostile atmosphere in the studio overall Yet another example of this book failing to provide any kind of analysis

  6. says:

    I was interested in the biography aspects of lesser known employees at Walt Disney Studio in the early years But what we have here is a book with an agenda so thick that this isn't a biography so much as a platform to scream white men are pigs The women and non white males are made out to be god's gift to the world read angelic and perfect and supremely talented while the obviously Caucasian men either refuse to do work jeer at everyone go to parties create the worst aspects of Disney films or have special 'club' areas that no one else can attain so they can loungedo nothing The irony to me is that this book is the exact same thing it purports to abhor it's just as one dimensional in its thinking at the misogynisticracist men it is lambasting I want a biography not a soap box that over idealizes its subjects into absolute sainthood and turns every one else into cartoonish oafsKudos to the women and non white males who had to work in the Walt Disney Studios in the 1930s 1960s and deal with so many obstacles I would have liked to have read their stories but the focus in this book is suarely on misogyny and racism aspects of the Walt Disney Studios The 'biographies' here are just props and so over exaggerated as to be non believable The irony for me is that I consider myself a liberal female and even I could not stop rolling my eyes through it all

  7. says:

    Note I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in return for an honest review“The rise of women in the workplace no matter what side of the world it occurred on was frightening to some men and they approached the perceived threat much as toddlers would a monster under the bed — by crying about it”Nathalia Holt’s book tells the story of the women who helped shape the early days of Disney Studios and its projects Before reading this I only knew about Mary Blair but was very excited to learn about other women including Bianca Majolie Sylvia Holland and Retta Scott Their stories were eye opening to say the least Their contributions to Disney films such as Snow White Bambi Cinderella Dumbo Pinocchio Peter Pan and even Saludos Amigos are criminally understated and unknown I would go so far as to say that these works wouldn’t have existed without the talent and creativity of these women These ueens of animation had incredible hurdles to overcome including pay ineuity and their male coworkers stealing their ideas but they persisted and helped make the studio into what it isReading about the horrors of sexism and misogyny that they had to endure was especially harrowing One incident that stood out was when Holt detailed at time that Majolie brought up one of her ideas at a storyboarding meeting and Disney disliked the idea so much that he ripped up her sketches The other men in the meeting began jeering at her and Majolie ran out of the room and locked herself in her office The men followed eager to hurl further abuse at her and actually broke down her wooden office door to yell at her some Disney reportedly said of the incident that it was one of the reasons that the studio shouldn’t hire women as they couldn’t take ‘a little criticism’The ueens of Animation is an ambitious engrossing book covering aspects of Disney Studios history that many including myself would be unaware of World and domestic politics World War II efforts to unionize the shifting role of women in society and the workforce money segregation and racism So much contributed to the path that Disney Studios took with its early workHolt also forces the reader to confront uncomfortable truths about many of those involved with Disney Studios from artists and animators complacency in the face of racism and misogyny to Walt Disney himself A moment that resonated with me was when Holt uestions whether Mary Blair a favorite of Disney’s could have utilized her privilege to speak out on the racism inherent in Song of the South one of if not the most controversial Disney pieces This made for compelling if tough reading and I’m thankful for Holt bringing attention to social justice issues as well as the women who helped shape Disney Studios and its classicsThe ueens of Animation will be released on October 22 2019

  8. says:

    Thank you to Goodreads for my copy of this bookI really enjoyed The ueens of Animation but not for the reasons I thought I would This book is rich with Disney history and the evolution of animation and it highlights the work of women than I expected But the sheer amount of information meant that each woman is introduced uickly; I had difficulty keeping track of everyone’s names and histories and by the end I only had the sense of who a handful of the women were as people I feel that I learned how women in general fared in the early days of Disney but retained less specific information about each woman individuallyI appreciated that each chapter was titled with a song lyric that had to do with the movie being developed at the time The strongest chapters were the ones where the song or movie tied into the theme of the chapter Halfway through the book these connection seem to falter and it feels as though the chapter is reaching for a connection to the lyricmovie I also found the inclusion of certain details strange especially when other details were glossed over or admitted For example we learn the exact birthdates of two children when just years or maybe years and months would have sufficed but there’s only one sentence giving context for the book’s title Small details about people who are mentioned once could have been simplified to make room for information about the main charactersThe writing throughout the book is very basic No line or uote stood out as impressive or memorable What the author does do well is break down old fashioned technology and complicated animation methods so that someone who has no knowledge of the industry like me can follow The coverage of how the films were made and the art styles of each woman and her influence on respective movies is the book’s biggest strength and why I’ll be keeping a copy on my shelf That being said these explanations sometimes define a very simple or common word or describe a relatively modern techniue as if it’s already out of date I guess there’s nothing wrong with writing for an audience a long time from now but I’d never seen that before and I found it momentarily jarring I don’t know how I feel about the authorial tone of the book It is not at all objective For the most part I agree with the author—what these women endured from their coworkers was terrible and the racism of certain Disney films is shameful—but I’ve never seen it explicitly called that outside of an op ed Again I mostly agree with the author but the tone painted a story that was strictly black and white This made the portrayal of Walt Disney confusing The way this history is presented makes him either gross or charming callous or compassionate whatever the anecdote calls for He’s not given any nuance Granted this is not his story but frankly it means the women are always portrayed as saints They are the heroines of this story but I think readers would allow them their due credit even if they were flawedI learned about the history of women involved with Disney; I specifically learned about Disney’s history and the cultural context of the most well known films So I’m happy I read this book even if the learning happened in a roundabout way I’d recommend this for fans of Disney and students of art and animation The book made me want to look up the older movies on Disney and look for the art techniues described in the book and I hope others do the same

  9. says:

    This book should have been called The History of Animation at Disney I had issues with several thingsThe author would briefly introduce a female animator give a sentence or two about her then proceed to move on to minute technical details about the process being used at that time to create animation By the time she got back to talking about the woman I had forgotten who she was referring to and had to reorient myselfWhen I sifted out all of the technical information and the details about Disney's financial woes there was actually very little meat to her stories about the women animators I thought they were supposed to be the heart of the storyOverall this was a very disappointing read and I would not recommend it

  10. says:

    Pre reading Hoping there would be something about Mary BlairAfter reading And so there was plenty about Mary Blair I had no idea that her lively colorful emotionally rich art was created amidst such tragic personal life Legendary womanNathalia Holt's newest book is of a Disney Animation Studios' biography from a female lens She does a thorough job recreating lives and inner monologues of many women of the studio whose voices were otherwise forgotten The narrative can be a bit bumpy though Holt can be talking about one animation feature then suddenly dropping it in favor of another then going on a tangent about her subject's personal life then coming back to movie #2 then switching again then talking about the life of some man involved in the third movie Then you start wondering if you should know this name or that and it gets a bit confusing It's a grande tour of a very complicated subject with many players involved so some clarity would have been appreciated Good book on history of animation though