While the Walt Disney Company is a thriving company that allows opportunities to all people, the company hs gone through a lot of changes in order to become the company that it is today, and there are a lot of people to thank for that. Through the company’s long history, many men and women paved the way to creating a diverse working environment for women in the workforce and allowing women to also thrive at the studio. Therefore, in celebration of International Women’s Day, we’re taking a look at some of the important women that have and continue to influence and help shape The Walt Disney Company into what it is today.
Frozen co-director Jennifer Lee not only broke records for Disney by creating a phenomenal film that would be one of Disney’s most profitable blockbusters ever, but she also broke a record for The Walt Disney Company by becoming the first woman to ever direct a Walt Disney Animation Studios film. Lee continues to be an inspiration to women and girls everywhere in the entertainment industry and a strong advocate for diversity in the workplace. There is a misconception in Hollywood that female-directed films don’t generate as much box-office revenue as their male counterparts. If there’s anyone who’s debunked this theory, it’s Jennifer Lee and her two-billion dollar co-directed film.
While Lucasfilm leader Kathleen Kennedy has been the center of some confusion over her opinions on women directing Star Wars films, (later clarifying her statement), there’s no doubt that things have changed drastically for women through Star Wars under Kennedy’s leadership. Beginning with The Force Awakens, the franchise began to expand their focus with female-led protagonists opening up the franchise and the world to many more new fans. Kennedy continues to inspire young girls and women everywhere through the power and global reach of Star Wars making it one of the most innovative ongoing influences for modern women.
While Princess Leia’s role in the original Star Wars twas pretty minuscule, Carrie Fisher brought so much life to the character and truly invigorated the role that it would be difficult to imagine the series without her. Fisher would become an influence to women everywhere on-and-off screen through her performance and also a strong activist for people struggling with addiction and mental illness. Like Leia before her, Fisher poured everything into what she cared about making her legacy one that should be remembered for a lifetime.
One of the primary reasons that Pixar’s Brave exists is because writer Brenda Chapman pushed for it at the Pixar Studios which finally landed itself into development. Chapman was originally signed on to direct the film but was replaced with Mark Andrews when creative differences arose, and instead co-directed with Andrews. While Brave certainly hits more than a few bumps in the road, it’s certainly undoubtedly an important move for Pixar and a story worth cherishing for that reason. Chapman has since said she is proud of herself for standing up and fighting for Pixar to tell this tale that would come to inspire young girls everywhere, making her one of the most influential women at Pixar Animation.
To date, the work of Mary Blair continues to be the most absolute influential artist to walk through The Walt Disney Company. Her artwork was always a favorite of Walt Disney, inspiring countless movie sets and artist influence. One of her biggest influences can be felt on “it’s a small world’ at Disney Parks throughout the globe, inspired entirely by Blair’s artwork. Her design and detail is something that is still cherished in the ways that Disney parks are designed and envionsed, making her a pioneer for the history of women in artistry in the entertainment business.
The Women of the Ink and Paint Department
Back when Disney was starting out, it was tough for a woman to break in as an animator. In fact, there’s a now-infamous letter from Walt Disney denying a job to a woman in which he said “Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen as that work is performed entirely by young men…The only work open to women consists of tracing the characters on clear celluloid sheets with India ink and filling in tracings according to directions”. Therefore, women were largely present in the studio’s Ink and Paint department, coloring and tracing each frame to design for the final look in the film. Through their dedication and talent and poor compensation in comparison to the men, these women can be viewed as pioneers, paving the way to a future of young women who now fill up a large portion of the animators at Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, and other Disney subsidiaries. While there are far too many to list by names, each and every women who poured their talent and soul into these films is worth remembering for creating and inspiring work that will last for generations.
While Disney continues to change, we’re thrilled that the doors are opening up for thousands of young women and girls who are looking to thrive and innovate at the company, and we’re thrilled that these fantastic ladies have helped paved the way in order to allow other young women the opportunities to do so. On behalf of all of us, thank you to all these women and join us in celebrating them this #InternationalWomensDay!