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The Queens of Animation: The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the… (2019)

de Nathalia Holt

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"Richly detailed...Shines a welcome light on Disney's true heroines." ---Margot Lee Shetterly, New York Times bestselling author of Hidden Figures From the bestselling author of Rise of the Rocket Girls, the untold story of the women of Walt Disney Studios, who shaped the iconic films that have enthralled generations From Snow White to Moana, from Pinocchio to Frozen, the animated films of Walt Disney Studios have moved and entertained millions. But few fans know that behind these groundbreaking features was an incredibly influential group of women who fought for respect in an often ruthless, male-dominated industry and who have slipped under the radar for decades. In The Queens of Animation, bestselling author Nathalia Holt tells their dramatic stories for the first time, showing how these women infiltrated the boys' club of Disney's story and animation departments and used early technologies to create the rich artwork and unforgettable narratives that have become part of the American canon. As the influence of Walt Disney Studios grew---and while battling sexism, domestic abuse, and workplace intimidation---these women also fought to transform the way female characters are depicted to young audiences. With gripping storytelling, and based on extensive interviews and exclusive access to archival and personal documents, The Queens of Animation reveals the vital contributions these women made 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.… (mais)
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Walt Disney's animation studio was famed for making feature films about the lives of princesses and fairies, but especially in its early decades it was an all-boys club. The hiring practices at Disney were not at all subtle about not wanting to hire women, and the few women who did work at the studio met with great resentment from their male colleagues. Nathalia Holt sets the record straight on five women who left their mark on the Disney's style and success, even if there names were not always credited: Bianca Majolie, Grace Huntington, Sylvia Holland, Retta Scott, and Mary Blair.

Blair is probably the most well-known of these artists with her concept art significantly influencing the style of Alice in Wonderland and Cinderella, and her work on it's a small world and the mural at Walt Disney's World's Contemporary Resort still persisting. Her personal life is marred by an abusive husband (also a Disney artist) and alcoholism that is the antithesis of her sunny art work. Majolie was the first storyboard artist and developed the stories for Pinocchio, Cinderella, and Peter Pan. She also discovered a recording of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite - virtually unknown in the US at the time - and used it is a basis for a segment of Fantasia and thus popularizing the music and the ballet.

Grace Huntington was the second women to work as a story artist, but fascinatingly she was also an experienced aviator who set solo altitude records despite test piloting also being a restricted career for women. Holland, another storyboard artist with a musical background, used her experience to inform "The Pastoral Symphony" segment of Fantasia, the "Little April Shower" sequence of Bambi, and "Two Silhouettes" in Make Mine Music. Scott was the first woman to be promoted from ink and paint (a laborious task where most women at the studio worked) to a full animator, and contributed her art to Bambi, Fantasia, and Dumbo.

The book offers great insight into animation and Hollywood culture in the 30s, 40s, and 50s and the doors that were opened to women during that time and those that remained close. Holt does bring the story fully up-to-date with Jennifer Lee rising to the Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney Animation after the success of Frozen, and the much broader representation of women on-screen and behind the scenes at Disney in the present day. But the book is best and richest in detail on the early decades telling the fascinating stories of these pioneering women and their enduring legacies.

Rating: ***1/2 ( )
  Othemts | Dec 26, 2020 |
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 them.

A 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. ( )
  Beamis12 | Aug 10, 2020 |
3.5 stars (rating shown may vary depending on whether the site allows half star ratings.

I thought this was only going to be about the early days of animation at the Walt Disney Studios, but it does actually cover up through the movie "Frozen"--though much more detail is spent on the early years than on the later years (after Disney and Pixar merged).

It was quite interesting to learn about the women pioneers in the industry and the struggles they faced. I honestly didn't realize how many people work on an animated feature (or how long it takes to develop one!) and how few of those names appear on screen in the credits. And for years it seemed who got their name on the credits was very arbitrary.

It's also interesting to see how far women have come in the industry (and how far they still have to go). Sexual harassment is one area that notably has changed--from Bianca running out of a meeting and being pursued by the rest of the group (all males) who even break down the door to her office to having a major officer of the Pixar group suspended due to improper conduct with female employees--big change.

Many of the most beloved Disney characters were shaped by women. Disney films (and Pixar ones too) would probably look very different if women hadn't been allowed to have input. ( )
  JenniferRobb | Mar 11, 2020 |
Thanks to Book Club Cookbook's Galley Match program and publisher Little, Brown and Company for a copy of this book. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

I have always been a fan of anything related to Walt Disney (animation, films, Disneyland, the Wonderful World of Disney, the Disney Museum) so I couldn't wait to read this book, and I found it fascinating. The author did an admirable job of researching the history of the women who worked as animators for Walt Disney Studios and then weaving the facts into a dramatic true story. From the early animated films of Snow White to the live action feature films, to Pixar and Frozen, the development of Disneyland and the various animation technologies - the book focused on the women who were crucial in developing the look, sound, and branding of Disney animation. What makes this book so readable is that in addition to their professional lives, Holt shared their personal lives. They battled sexism, domestic abuse, workplace intimidation, competition, and relationships. And a most important factor - they successfully fought to transform the way female characters were depicted for young audiences. ( )
  PhyllisReads | Feb 26, 2020 |
For more reviews and bookish posts please visit http://www.ManOfLaBook.com

The Queens of Animation: The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History by Nathalia Holt tells of several influential women who worked at Disney Studios in the early part of the 20th Century and later on, fighting the male dominated culture and making significant impact on the company. Dr. Holt is a science writer as well as author of the New York Times bestselling author of Cured: The People who Defeated HIV and Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us from Missiles to the Moon to Mars.

I’m a big fan of animation, and even used to collect original art (cells), I’ve read several books about animation and the early years of Disney. While some of the ladies mentioned in The Queens of Animation: The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History by Nathalia Holt are in those books, none of them goes to the extent and detail this book does.

Many of the animation books and Disney history books really around the Disney’s Nine Old Men, and the artistry of the movies, which were only appreciated later on. Ms. Holt takes us on a trip of nostalgia in an entertaining and revealing way, but the author is not some Disney fan who decided to write a book, she takes a hard, honest look at a culture which valued women less simply because of their gender, regardless of their talents.

The author writes about the emerging technologies with Walt Disney was eager to adopt, and the company which was a lot more cautious after he left. She tells us about how involved Walt was in his own company, from storytelling, to conceptual art, music and the final product itself.

The ladies who worked for the studio, mostly uncredited, will make major contributions to many movies. The book profiles Grace Huntington, Retta Scott, Sylvia Holland, Bianca Majolie, and Mary Blair, starting in the 1930s and up to Frozen. The author goes into the creative process which took place making the movies, while I was already aware of it, the process always fascinates me by how painstaking it was and the patient those hundreds of people must have had.

This was an interesting book, and the ladies profiled are certainly to be admired. I thought the author chose well by writing about these talented ladies who also had the gumption to take on the male dominated culture and company. ( )
  ZoharLaor | Dec 14, 2019 |
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"Richly detailed...Shines a welcome light on Disney's true heroines." ---Margot Lee Shetterly, New York Times bestselling author of Hidden Figures From the bestselling author of Rise of the Rocket Girls, the untold story of the women of Walt Disney Studios, who shaped the iconic films that have enthralled generations From Snow White to Moana, from Pinocchio to Frozen, the animated films of Walt Disney Studios have moved and entertained millions. But few fans know that behind these groundbreaking features was an incredibly influential group of women who fought for respect in an often ruthless, male-dominated industry and who have slipped under the radar for decades. In The Queens of Animation, bestselling author Nathalia Holt tells their dramatic stories for the first time, showing how these women infiltrated the boys' club of Disney's story and animation departments and used early technologies to create the rich artwork and unforgettable narratives that have become part of the American canon. As the influence of Walt Disney Studios grew---and while battling sexism, domestic abuse, and workplace intimidation---these women also fought to transform the way female characters are depicted to young audiences. With gripping storytelling, and based on extensive interviews and exclusive access to archival and personal documents, The Queens of Animation reveals the vital contributions these women made 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.

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