"Cartoons Ain't Just
April 25, 2001 PDT, by Robin Clewley
Ten years before Patricia Beckman discovered a career
in animation, she worked at the White House press
Beckmann Still from Patricia Beckmann's animation
short, "Won & Twoo."
It was a man's world, with President Bush heading
the show and men holding most of the important jobs
in the administration.
Instead of absorbing the ins and outs of politics,
she found herself doodling during press conferences
and making faces behind Dan Qualye's back. It wasn't
long before she realized she wanted a profession
that was less serious, and much more creative.
She found exactly that in animation.
But little did she know that leaving the male-dominated
world of politics for a career in Hollywood would
lead her into the exact same work atmosphere.
Of course, there are differences. Here, nobody seems
to mind the doodles and the mimicking. Her film
about Siamese twins -- one homophobic and one homosexual
-- cutting down each other for their sexual orientation
Still, Beckman sees the differences between men
and women in Hollywood -- at least to the extent
of how they're expected to behave.
"Women aren't allowed to do the kind of humor that
I do," said Beckman, who didn't make her film until
after she left the studios and branched out on her
own. "If you do any sort of sexual humor, you're
going to send the wrong message. Besides, I look
like the girl next door."
This year, the nonprofit organization Women
on the Web chose Beckman as one of their Top
25 Women on the Web. She has created animation for
the films Batman and Mars Attacks and also worked
in the developmental department of Film Roman, the
company that produces The Simpsons.
Beckman now runs her own company,
and in October 2000, was awarded an honorable mention
from the Playboy Animation Festival for her short
animated film, Matilda. Beckman said she was the
only female animator nominated at the festival.
"I think that's why (Women on the Web) gave me the
award," Beckman said. "Here are all these smart,
cool women -- educators, CEOs -- and I create goofy
Beckman may be one of the only women in her field,
but so are many women working in technology. What
makes the animation world different?
"It's a locker room," said Celia Pearce, a research
associate at the Annenberg Center for Communication
and head of the interactive track at the School
of Cinema-Television, both at the University
of Southern California. "The mentality, the
behavior, is unfriendly to a woman's sensibilities."
Pearce said when she went to a speech on animation
given by John Dykstra, head of animation at Sony
Imageworks, someone in the audience asked him
if he enjoyed creating the animation for the film
Stuart Little. According to Pearce, he said, "To
be quite honest with you, I like to blow things
"That about summed up the industry for me," she
said. "For a woman, that's not particularly appealing.
And I think that's why women go into the fine arts.
It gives them the opportunity to not blow things
Pearce said although being an animator does not
strike a chord for all women, there is a large percentage
of female animation producers. Sherry McKenna, CEO
of the gaming company Oddworld
Inhabitants, has been in animation production
for more than 20 years.
"It's not called a man's world for nothing," McKenna
said. "Women are more naturally organized and detailed-oriented
than men. That is why the man's world allows us
to do this job. A woman's touch in animation may
not be as necessary as in producing. Producing is
At the special effects and animation company Rhythm
& Hues, none of the 11 character animators
on staff are women, said Pauline Ts'o, vice president
of the company. Animation companies Pixar,
Studios declined to return repeated phone calls
and e-mails for this story.
"Women are not encouraged to do animation," said
Eric Jennings, who used to animate for Rhythm &
Hues. "It's always perplexed me. Why aren't they
Another reason for the disparity is that animation
seems to naturally attract boys at an early age.
Boys like He-Man and Spiderman," said Christine
Panushka, professor and chair of the division of
animation and digital arts at the University of
Southern California. "Most girls aren't interested
in that. I like to think of animation as a fine
art form. The trick is to bring young women in early
and to show them what animation can really be."
McKenna said the disparity between the sexes in
the animation industry seems to be changing, but
that could be partly due to the technicality involved
with animation becoming user-friendly. Regardless,
she said women are always under-represented in the
"Men are taught to have careers," McKenna said.
"Women are taught to have jobs."
© 1994-2001 Wired Digital, Inc., a Lycos Network
Company. All Rights Reserved.