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The Queens of Animation

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In The Queens 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 In The Queens 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 audiences. Based on extensive interviews and exclusive access to archival and personal documents, The Queens 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.


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In The Queens 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 In The Queens 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 audiences. Based on extensive interviews and exclusive access to archival and personal documents, The Queens 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.

30 review for The Queens of Animation

  1. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    The Queens of Animation by Nathalia Holt is a 2019 Little Brown publication. Although 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 The Queens of Animation by Nathalia Holt is a 2019 Little Brown publication. Although 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 child. The 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 more 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 more 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- 3.5 round up.

  2. 4 out of 5

    TL

    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 older. When you're little, you usually don't think about all blood/sweat/tears the people behind the scenes put into a movie. Its just a magical world you fall into and fall in love with. I'm sure most of you have a favorite Disney character above the rest:). For me, the first ones I fell in love 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 older. When you're little, you usually don't think about all blood/sweat/tears the people behind the scenes put into a movie. Its just a magical world you fall into and fall in love with. I'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 more fond of/closer to Belle as I grew up. Besides our mutual love of books, she was more "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 her:(. The 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 more fair). Makes me want to go back through the films and examine them more closely. A few things I do remember hearing about: Racist sequences/lyrics in Fantasia/Aladdin How expensive Sleeping Beauty was to make. Certain movies being flops at the box office. Others that were new to me: How 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 then For the longest time Disney male employees not wanting to draw fairies or sequences "too feminine basically " (loud snorting was involved in these instances) When Pixar.was 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 could. Would highly recommend.. these women should be more well known and recognized for their contributions. *Proud DisneyGirl*

  3. 4 out of 5

    Online Eccentric Librarian

    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 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 lounge/do 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 misogynistic/racist 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 oafs. Kudos 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 squarely 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.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kristina

    I received The Queens 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 Queens 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 I received The Queens 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 Queens 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 deserve. As 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 more in depth details for some of the more 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 Queen didn’t see fruition for decades, eventually morphing into Frozen). The book is arranged more 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 more palatable (and marketable) to the public. This isn’t new to me, but I did appreciate knowing more 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 quotes. The women all blur together against a backdrop of sexism and workplace harassment and technical details. The Queens 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 that…how 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 knocking…Bianca cowered in the corner, her heart beating wildly, and her panicky gasps for air becoming high-pitched…She 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 (5-6).If 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 story/quotation/event 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 book. Another 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 more effort into her highly emotional and fictionalized descriptions of these women:[Mary 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 (114). [Mary 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 Queens 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 know…until 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 authored. Addition to review While 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.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

    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 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 queens of animation had incredible hurdles to overcome, including pay inequity and their male coworkers stealing their ideas, but they persisted and helped make the studio into what it is. Reading 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 more. 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 Queens 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 work. Holt 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 questions whether Mary Blair, a favorite of Disney’s, could have utilized her privilege to speak out more 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 classics. The Queens of Animation will be released on October 22, 2019.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Edes

    This book should have been called The History of Animation at Disney. I had issues with several things. The 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 myself. When I sifted out all of the technical information and the details about This book should have been called The History of Animation at Disney. I had issues with several things. The 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 myself. When 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 story. Overall, this was a very disappointing read and I would not recommend it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    It was the 1956 rerelease of Fantasia that rocked my world. I was four years old and Mom took me to a Buffalo, NY theater to see my first movie. The images and the music made a lasting impression, driving a lifelong love for symphonic music. I already was in love with illustrative art, thanks to the Little Golden Books that my mother brought home from her weekly grocery shopping trips. My favorite was I Can Fly, illustrated by Mary Blair. And on my wall were Vacu-Form Nursery Rhyme characters It was the 1956 rerelease of Fantasia that rocked my world. I was four years old and Mom took me to a Buffalo, NY theater to see my first movie. The images and the music made a lasting impression, driving a lifelong love for symphonic music. I already was in love with illustrative art, thanks to the Little Golden Books that my mother brought home from her weekly grocery shopping trips. My favorite was I Can Fly, illustrated by Mary Blair. And on my wall were Vacu-Form Nursery Rhyme characters including Little Bo Peep, Little Boy Blue--which I later discovered were also designed by Mary Blair! And even later in life, I learned that Mary Blair had worked for Walt Disney. And of course, growing up in the 1950s, anything Disney was a favorite. Especially the 1959 release of Sleeping Beauty. I was still in my 'princess' phase, which came after my 'cowboy gunslinger' phase. Mom took me to see the film. I had the Disney Sleeping Beauty coloring book. I had the Little Golden Book. And I had the Madame Alexander Sleeping Beauty doll! Sadly, my dog chewed it up but in my 40s I purchased one on eBay to satisfy my inner child. Fast forward to the late 1980s and my husband and I were buying up Disney videotapes for our son, raising another generation of Disney fandom. His first theatrical movie was The Little Mermaid. My fandom never took me as far as to read books about the Disney franchise or Walt. Until The Queens of Animation: The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History. I remembered my love of Mary Blair and thought, Nathalia Holt has something here. I wanted to know the names and the contributions of these unknown women. It was a joyful read, at once a nostalgic trip into the films that charmed and inspired my childhood-- and our son's --and a revealing and entertaining read about the development of animation and the rise of women in a male-dominated culture. I put aside all other books. Holt concentrates on the women's careers but includes enough biographical information to make them real and sympathetic. I was so moved to read about Mary Blair's abusive marriage. Holt also does a stellar job of explaining the rising technologies that would impact animation, eventually eliminating the jobs of hundreds of artists. We learn about Walt's interest in each story that inspired the animated movies and the hard work to develop the story, art, and music, along with the conflicts and competition behind the scenes. I learned so many interesting facts! Like how Felix Salten's novel Bambi: A Life in the Woods was banned in Nazi Germany because it was a metaphor for Anti-Semitism! How Mary Louise Weiser originated the grease pencil, one of the many technologies Disney developed and perfected or quickly adapted. And I loved the story of Fantasia. Bianca Majolie presented the music selections to Walt, including The Nutcracker Suite's Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Waltz of the Flowers. Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker ballet had never yet been produced in the United States at the time! The male animators did not want to work on illustrating fairies (they instead created the Pastoral Symphony's centaurs and oversexualized centaurettes, including an African-American servant who was part mule instead of horse). Choreographer George Balanchine was touring the studio with Igor Stravinsky, whose The Rite of Spring was included in Fantasia, and he loved the faires in the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies. Fifteen years later he debuted The Nutcracker at the new Lincoln Center and it became a Christmastime annual tradition. I just loved this book for so many reasons! I was given access to a free egalley by the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased.

  8. 5 out of 5

    MCZ Reads

    Thank you to Goodreads for my copy of this book! I really enjoyed The Queens 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 more women than I expected. But the sheer amount of information meant that each woman is introduced quickly; 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 Thank you to Goodreads for my copy of this book! I really enjoyed The Queens 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 more women than I expected. But the sheer amount of information meant that each woman is introduced quickly; 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 individually. I 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 lyric/movie. 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 more information about the main characters. The writing throughout the book is very basic. No line or quote 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 technique, 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. From what I’ve read of nonfiction, instances of discrimination are described as they happened, and maybe the victim‘s emotional response is shared, and any reasonable reader would think, “That’s awful.” I’m not used to the author explicitly calling it awful. 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 flawed. I learned more about the history if women involved with Disney; I specifically learned more 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 techniques described in the book, and I hope others do the same.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Simone

    Really liked this one. It’s my first nonfiction about animation and definitely opened the doors for me to read more about tv, movies, and music. Wasn’t a fan of how the book slowed down after the 1950s, but really appreciated the glimpse into the world of Animation my friends all work in.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jacob

    I received a free copy of this book through a Goodreads Giveaway. The Queens of Animation is the story of Disney’s female workforce over the course of the company’s history. Like other works discussing women’s history in the 20 th century this one follows the big historical events: struggles through the depression, expansion of women’s roles in the WwII homefront, post war regression and changes brought/ forced by technological advance. For Disney it seems nothing is new, every film was I received a free copy of this book through a Goodreads Giveaway. The Queens of Animation is the story of Disney’s female workforce over the course of the company’s history. Like other works discussing women’s history in the 20 th century this one follows the big historical events: struggles through the depression, expansion of women’s roles in the WwII homefront, post war regression and changes brought/ forced by technological advance. For Disney it seems nothing is new, every film was considered years or decades ago. Tokenism still seems present as well as the battles to portray female characters realistically. What I did not expect was how little I was able to differentiate between all of the women featured in this book. Mary had to contend with domestic abuse, but is the only one who’s name I remember. One of the others really really wanted to be a pilot, several were single mothers working to keep their children. All were driven and talented. Readers are provided many brief biographies, but many seem to flitter away as soon as they’re introduced. In discussing the culture of the workplace, it is made clear that it was male dominated and focused, with credit typically going to men aside from a few, rare credits. What we would now call sexual harassment or a hostile workplace are detailed, or remembered by anecdote, but not given a whole lot of analysis or discussion. The removal of John Lasseter gets a mention but only that. As is often for books like this, the earlier history is told in great depth, but as the book continues explanations and depth of coverage are lessened as we approach modern day. I would have liked to hear more about the development of many of the films, or learn more about motivations of those involved (as possible by documentation). Not a book I plan to recommend to anyone. It is not comprehensive enough to be a history of Disney nor is it that effective in meeting its title, I feel there is still much of this story to tell.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Geonn Cannon

    I really enjoyed this. The story of Disney told through the women who made the studio what it is today. I always thought Disney was a big unstoppable powerhouse, so it was interesting to read about how often they bombed and came close to losing everything. Side note which only applies to the audio version: whenever the narrator quoted an article or news report, her voice was filtered to sound like it was coming from an old-time radio speaker. It was a nifty little piece of flavor that I I really enjoyed this. The story of Disney told through the women who made the studio what it is today. I always thought Disney was a big unstoppable powerhouse, so it was interesting to read about how often they bombed and came close to losing everything. Side note which only applies to the audio version: whenever the narrator quoted an article or news report, her voice was filtered to sound like it was coming from an old-time radio speaker. It was a nifty little piece of flavor that I appreciated a lot.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Emily O

    I consider myself very lucky to have grown up during the Disney Renaissance (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, etc.) I have been a Disney nerd ever since. As soon as I saw The Queens of Animation was going to be releasing this fall, I knew I needed to read it. (Thank you @littlebrown #partner) Pub Day: 10/22/2019 . The Queens of Animation explores the (often unacknowledged) role of women in the history Disney Animation (1930s-present). . I really enjoyed this book. While the I consider myself very lucky to have grown up during the Disney Renaissance (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, etc.) I have been a Disney nerd ever since. As soon as I saw The Queens of Animation was going to be releasing this fall, I knew I needed to read it. (Thank you @littlebrown #partner) Pub Day: 10/22/2019 . The Queens of Animation explores the (often unacknowledged) role of women in the history Disney Animation (1930s-present). . I really enjoyed this book. While the structure of the book is the timeline of the studio’s history, Holt does a great job weaving individual women’s stories into the timeline. She maintains a balance of discussing the women’s contributions while also telling the history of each film, technological advances and hardships these women had to overcome personally and professionally. What was most fascinating was the glacial pace at which women were given credit or even fully appreciated for their work. Even as late as the 90s, Disney was still considered a boys club. Holt also offers interesting perspective on the evolution of female characters in Disney movies from damsels in distress that need to be saved by a prince to independent fighters (Mulan, Merida, Moana). . There weren’t many downsides to this book. I will say there is a decent amount of technical talk about cameras, technology, and animation that may make some glaze over (I find it fascinating). There were just a handful of anecdotes about some of the women that didn’t move the book along, but did paint a better picture of who they were. . Overall, this was a very interesting and fascinating perspective on Disney Animation history. Now, please excuse me while I watch every Disney and Pixar movie.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Chaitra

    There’s a little store in Disney Springs that I visit every time I go to Disney World. It’s tiny, I’ve forgotten the name, but it sells Disney art. I buy postcards because a) I don’t have the money for the bigger ones and b) I don’t have the place to put them either. They’re newer artists, artists in residence and what have you, whose work gets periodically showcased at Epcot, but their interpretation of the old characters is really cool. I enjoy spending time there. I was hoping this book would There’s a little store in Disney Springs that I visit every time I go to Disney World. It’s tiny, I’ve forgotten the name, but it sells Disney art. I buy postcards because a) I don’t have the money for the bigger ones and b) I don’t have the place to put them either. They’re newer artists, artists in residence and what have you, whose work gets periodically showcased at Epcot, but their interpretation of the old characters is really cool. I enjoy spending time there. I was hoping this book would be like that. The problem is, for a book about artists, there’s very little actual art. They produced a massive amount of concept art? I get that Disney was probably not sharing, but the internet has more in the way of photos than the book. I know Mary Blair’s work, but I didn’t know Retta Scott’s work or that of Tyrus Wong. And they’re beautiful and worth looking at. The only thing I could say after reading the book was that I know the names I’m supposed to go on the internet to find. And that’s only art - I barely know their lives. Because this book is sketchy. It has a (very annoying) format: the title tells us the movie it’s going to talk about in the current chapter, only no, it skips ahead to the next movie that it’s supposed to address in the next chapter, sometimes barely two pages into the chapter. It introduces us to a new woman who is working on I’m not really certain which of the two movies, then the studios finances and animation techniques and so on and so forth. Sometimes in the middle it remembers it’s supposed to talk about the woman and thinks of something vapid to say. There was enough on, say, Mary Blair to fill an entire book. The least the author could do was fill a chapter with just her story. I’m interested in the graphic media being used to make the movies I love, but this book could have done with a minimum of that. I don’t think it needed the detailed production history every Disney movie from Snow White down to Frozen recounted. I wanted more of the women, but I guess they’re sidelined even in their own book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    Hoping there would be something about Mary Blair.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jeimy

    When I was very young I was watching the Disney Channel and there was a short newsreel that showed how the grand marshal of the Walt Disney World parade was the winner of the Disney Store's trivia competition. At that moment I knew I had to work hard and earn the right to be grand marshal at the parade. From that day on, I read everything I could about Walt Disney and his legacy. Fast forward to my early adulthood and I win my local trivia championship and get flown to Florida to compete for my When I was very young I was watching the Disney Channel and there was a short newsreel that showed how the grand marshal of the Walt Disney World parade was the winner of the Disney Store's trivia competition. At that moment I knew I had to work hard and earn the right to be grand marshal at the parade. From that day on, I read everything I could about Walt Disney and his legacy. Fast forward to my early adulthood and I win my local trivia championship and get flown to Florida to compete for my spot as grand marshal. Unfortunately, Kyle got in my way. Kyle had just completed a year at Disney U and he beat me by one question: the name of an intersection. Though my dream was crushed, my fascination for Disney history never deserted me. However, it was not until recently (when I read Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire that I realized I did not know much about the females that helped expand Disney's empire. I devoured this book with its behind-the-scenes look at the way these animators contributed to classic Disney films and its forays into the women's private lives and personal achievements.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Toni_B_Librarian

    "The Queens of Animation" offers a chronological view of the lives and work of women writers and artists at Disney studios, from Snow White to Frozen. Author Nathalia Holt presents their story sympathetically, detailing the slights they experienced, such as being left out of film credits and receiving far lower pay than their male counterparts. Holt describes the boy's club atmosphere that permeated the studio throughout much of the twentieth century--there was in fact a Disney club only for top "The Queens of Animation" offers a chronological view of the lives and work of women writers and artists at Disney studios, from Snow White to Frozen. Author Nathalia Holt presents their story sympathetically, detailing the slights they experienced, such as being left out of film credits and receiving far lower pay than their male counterparts. Holt describes the boy's club atmosphere that permeated the studio throughout much of the twentieth century--there was in fact a Disney club only for top male animators and executives--and how sometimes women managed creative and artistic triumphs despite this, while at other times they were thwarted, frustrated, and even driven to desperation. While there are many names and storylines to follow in this history, Holt does an admirable job of making clear who's who and presenting the women she describes as complex and memorable people. The most compelling figure is perhaps Mary Blair, whose colorful, modern artwork informed Disney animation for decades even as she faced sexism at work and personal tragedy at home. Holt is likely at her best in describing the era when Disney animation was at its midcentury peak, though I may have found this to be the meatiest and most enjoyable part of her work because my own favorite Disney films were produced in this era. But as overt sexism begins to wane in the late twentieth century, one of the central themes of the author's work begins to fade from view, and I can't help but think that the book might have been stronger if it had been shorter and focused more strictly on the first thirty years or so of women's experiences with the studio. Some may find that Holt's description of the men at the studio to be over-the-top or a pile-on; but the women of Disney clearly suffered in a climate where they were often not paid like their male colleagues, respected as they were, nor empowered as they were. Holt's work might be a popular history in the vein of her earlier "The Rise of the Rocket Girls," but she meticulously provides her sources. If the men of Disney are portrayed here as at times having the boorishness of Gaston, the conniving of Scar, or the arrogance of Shere Khan, there are also times in the account where men--including Walt Disney himself--are allies, giving women opportunities, embracing their contributions and honoring them (even if not enough). It's a nuanced picture and a hopeful one, as cultural shifts are leading more women to enter animation and cultural reckonings like #metoo lead all of us to reassess where we have been as a society and where the future might head.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Biblio Files (takingadayoff)

    I expected the book to be about the two or three women who created art for Disney studios during the heyday. I was surprised to find that about six women are profiled in detail and another eight or ten are introduced in passing. In addition to the stories of some exceptional artists, this is the story of the Disney studio when they were making groundbreaking movies such as Snow White and Bambi and Fantasia. Disney thought that feature length animated movies should be for adults but also appeal I expected the book to be about the two or three women who created art for Disney studios during the heyday. I was surprised to find that about six women are profiled in detail and another eight or ten are introduced in passing. In addition to the stories of some exceptional artists, this is the story of the Disney studio when they were making groundbreaking movies such as Snow White and Bambi and Fantasia. Disney thought that feature length animated movies should be for adults but also appeal to children. This was news to me that children were not the target audience for the big animated projects, although I think Mickey Mouse and the other short cartoons were aimed at children. It makes you look at the movies in a new way. It was very inspiring to read about the artists like Mary Blair and Biancha Majolie who left their distinctive styles on such projects as It's a Small World and Bambi. After enjoying Nathalia Holt's Rise of the Rocket Girls and Queens of Animation, I can't wait to see what she comes up with next!

  18. 4 out of 5

    The Library Lady

    This is the second and last book that I have read by this author. She has a gift for taking potentially terrific material about little known women and making a hash of it. Interesting tidbits here, such George Balanchine's role in the creation of the Nutcracker scenes in "Fantasia," and how that may have been the seeds of his later staging of what is now THE holiday ballet, get lost, and as in her previous book, so do the women she seeks to honor.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Scott Martin

    (Audiobook) Not too long ago, I read a bio on Walt Disney, so I was somewhat familiar with Disney's style of leadership and work. Yet, even in that bio, there was a lot still to say about the history of Disney and in particular, his animated work. This book fills in a great deal of that history. I knew that women were employed to do some of the detailed work of creating the various animated stills used in the cartoon movies. Yet, some of the biggest stories, and elements that went into the (Audiobook) Not too long ago, I read a bio on Walt Disney, so I was somewhat familiar with Disney's style of leadership and work. Yet, even in that bio, there was a lot still to say about the history of Disney and in particular, his animated work. This book fills in a great deal of that history. I knew that women were employed to do some of the detailed work of creating the various animated stills used in the cartoon movies. Yet, some of the biggest stories, and elements that went into the artwork and story, came from the minds of the few women who were in the creative departments of the early Disney studios. Walt Disney acknowledged talent, to include the artwork of a classmate who he brought on as the first female animator. He recognized talent, and was not afraid to hire women when others would not. Yet, Disney was not so progressive in his thinking about women in general. He was critical of how they could handle the pressure, which was not a fair comment, as Walt was infamous for being brutal to all of his artists and scriptwriters in review sessions. Yet, he would make use of their work and talent, even if they did not get the credit they fully deserved (this was actually a problem for the entire early Disney enterprise, as in the credits of the first Disney movies, only a small fraction of all animators ever saw their names in the credits). While women would take decades before they could take their place of prominence and receive their rightful credit for their work in animation, they still managed to have significant impacts. In Fantasia, it was a small team of female animators that created the dancing plants for the Nutcracker Suite, which prior to 1940, was not often performed in America. Fantasia helped to change that, with a major assist from their work. The few women that did manage to carve out a living and career in the Disney Animation department offered significant contributions, helping the studio navigate various financial and creative challenges. All the while, the women had to manage various personal struggles, all while trying to carve out a career in a male-dominated world. It would culminate in the creation of Frozen, the most successful animated movie in history (especially in financial successes). It is a fascinating history of not only the Disney Animation Studios, but of how women managed to fight to get their place in a key part of the Hollywood Enterprise. The author did her research, managing to reach out to the people and families of the people involved, going beyond the official histories, bringing to life a previously untold story. It does not overly condemn or praise figures such as Disney, but it is clear that prejudices against women dominated the industry for years, and it is still a challenge. If you had not read anything else about Walt Disney or the history of the studios, you would get a good overview about the basic history/key events, but with a number of previously untold stories to boot. Audiobook or hard/e-copy would have the same rating, but the reader does a great job with this material. For fans of history/Hollywood/art, or just a good non-fiction read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Brandie

    ***Won from a Goodreads Giveaway*** On Sale October 22, 2019 Very informative, The Queens of Animation tells the story of the women who worked on and influenced Disney animated films from the very early days to Frozen and beyond. Their place at Disney was tentative, an uphill battle, and rife with misogyny, jealousy, and vindictiveness. Not a picture of Disney any of us would ever dream of but one echoed throughout the workplace especially in those early days. I really enjoyed reading about the ***Won from a Goodreads Giveaway*** On Sale October 22, 2019 Very informative, The Queens of Animation tells the story of the women who worked on and influenced Disney animated films from the very early days to Frozen and beyond. Their place at Disney was tentative, an uphill battle, and rife with misogyny, jealousy, and vindictiveness. Not a picture of Disney any of us would ever dream of but one echoed throughout the workplace especially in those early days. I really enjoyed reading about the various women’s work on the films. As a fan of Fantasia, I particularly enjoyed learning why I enjoyed the sequence with the fairies, which was headed by a woman and comprised by a nearly all-woman team, as the majority of men at the time viewed drawing fairies as unmanly and abhorrent. It also opened my eyes to why I never liked the Pastoral scene, spearheaded and comprised of men the sequence is misogynistic and originally contained an extremely racist depiction of a character. The story and antidotes held my interest and I was immersed in the book. The drawbacks will, I hope, be fixed in the final draft as this is an Uncorrected Proof copy. The opening of the book where Bianca Majolie’s work is torn to shreds by Walt Disney and her door is broken down by the men on her team so they can poke fun at her in her despair was strange and felt really off. Especially since it felt like a dream, nightmare really. I wasn’t even sure it wasn’t a bad dream until much later in the text as it isn’t made clear. I had a hard time with the transitions which were abrupt when they even existed. The author occasionally let her personal feelings peek out in the text but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as long as the vitriol is watched. I would also like to see more pictures in the final draft. I have no idea if that is the intent or not. This copy only has a few of some of the women from the early days. More pictures of the women, particularly of them going about their work, if there are any, and pictures of their art would be a welcome addition. I would love to have seen the gorgeous artwork that is spoken of, especially the work of Mary Blair. The Queens of Animation is definitely a story that needs to be told. I can’t believe there are few to no references to the women who contributed to Disney animated films in the existing biographies and such. So sad that even today they are excluded. I haven’t read any of them, this is just from what Nathalia Holt mentions in this book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    4.5 stars, really. A fascinating book about the women who worked at Disney in the studio's early days, following up through the present. It's in turns horrifying and exhilarating, as we learn about the incredibly toxic, sexist, racist work environment of the '30s and '40s (actually I'm not sure when that really went away) but also the incredible strides that Disney Studios made in animation and technology. I think my favorite part of the book was learning about all the new developments Disney had 4.5 stars, really. A fascinating book about the women who worked at Disney in the studio's early days, following up through the present. It's in turns horrifying and exhilarating, as we learn about the incredibly toxic, sexist, racist work environment of the '30s and '40s (actually I'm not sure when that really went away) but also the incredible strides that Disney Studios made in animation and technology. I think my favorite part of the book was learning about all the new developments Disney had a hand in, and how much Walt himself was the impetus for taking risks and pushing harder to expand the field, sometimes at great risk or cost to his business. I suppose that from the perspective of his workers, it made their jobs a lot less stable and there was certainly a lot of turnover - but there were also some amazing innovations being made. Some were very surprising, like The invention of the grease pencil, or the fact that a Disney artist inspired the first family-themed, child-led production of the Nutcracker - something that still goes on every year all over the place. I didn't realize before how close Disney animation came to being tossed by the wayside due to its fraught economics. What a relief that Walt's nephew, Roy E. Disney, was willing to risk and push like his uncle. Otherwise we wouldn't have any of the most nostalgic Disney movies of my youth, like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. We also wouldn't have the popular ones of today like Frozen or Moana. I really liked getting to learn about the animators/artists/story writers themselves, too. Man, but some of them had a hard time. I wanted to climb in the book and hug Mary Blair and tell her to get the heck out (of her marriage, not the studio). It's amazing to me how intertwined all the companies have been over the years. It seems like almost everyone bounced around between Disney, Pixar, Lucasfilm etc.... like they weren't as separate in reality as they seemed before the mergers. This is a very rough history with lots of twists and turns, but such is life, I guess. I can only hope that the work environment is better now.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Zohar - ManOfLaBook.com

    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 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.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Artemis

    What a fantastic and delightful read! A must for fans of animation, Disney, and women's history. As a huge fan of all three, I couldn't get enough. I devoured this enchanting treasure trove as much as any good Disney animated film. 'The Queens of Animation' by Nathalia Holt is jam-packed with information about the women who worked at Walt Disney Studios from its inception, and even before that. It is told chronologically and in an addictive, narrative flow. Aside from a few loose ends from What a fantastic and delightful read! A must for fans of animation, Disney, and women's history. As a huge fan of all three, I couldn't get enough. I devoured this enchanting treasure trove as much as any good Disney animated film. 'The Queens of Animation' by Nathalia Holt is jam-packed with information about the women who worked at Walt Disney Studios from its inception, and even before that. It is told chronologically and in an addictive, narrative flow. Aside from a few loose ends from jumping from one female animator/inbetweener's life and influence to another in the same chapter, I didn't spot a single grammatical error in the whole book. I was never taken out of this fascinating education. The majority of it does extensively cover the making of the Disney flicks from Walt's lifetime, though; but the researched facts are still important to know about. Walt Disney films and shorts, and their legacy, have A LOT to thank women for. It is not just in 'Brave', 'Wreck-It-Ralph', 'Frozen', 'Zootopia', and 'Moana'; practically every Disney film since 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' in 1937 has had a woman artist's and writer's touch - and not only in the Ink and Paint department (which sounds disturbingly like a sweatshop to me). It is their impact, criminally underappreciated and uncredited as it is, that Disney owes much of its success to. Women created beautiful, magical scenes, and gave Disney Princesses strong personalities. You learn so many things about animation and advanced technology and techniques over the years in 'The Queens of Animation' as well. Grace Huntington was an aviator pilot, too, so there are other fields included to teach readers. Holt is absolutely not shy about revealing the difficulties these brilliant, ambitious women faced in daring to try to break the glass ceiling and the boys' club mentality. She does not gloss over the childish cruelty that was directed at them, the workplace harassment (in 1937 the men at the Disney story department literally chased a lone female employee, Bianca Majolie, out of a board meeting and meticulously broke down her office door just to yell abuse at her while she hunched over and cried, fearing for her life. Yeah, Walt, this is not that women can't take "a little criticism" - this is a witch hunt), and domestic violence and abuse. Holt is also critical of any racist depictions in Disney films of the past and the present. She doesn't cover everything, but it's enough for one book. Despite the tragedy, there is a little magic, a catharsis, in the book; a little faith, trust and pixie dust, and a spoonful of sugar to go a long way. There is hope. Hope that things will be better. Made profoundly possible now that Holt has written 'The Queens of Animation'. Women have always been around in every field. They have always been passionate, creative and talented. They are not going anywhere. After reading 'The Queens of Animation', you will remember the names Bianca Majolie, Mary Robinson-Blair, Retta Scott, Grace Huntington, Sylvia Moberly-Holland, Dorothy Anne Blank, Hazel Sewell, Gyo Fujikawa, Thelma Witmer, Mary Goodrich, Ethel Kulsar, Elizabeth Case Zwicker, Barbara Wirth Baldwin, Mary Louise Weiser, Mildred Fulvia di Rossi, Rita Hsiao, Heidi Guedel, Carmen Sanderson, Sammie June Lanham, Evelyn Kennedy, Kazuko Nakamura and Reiko Okuyama (the "mothers of anime"), Ellen Woodbury, Brenda Chapman, Linda Woolverton, Jennifer Lee, and Prasansook "Fawn" Veerasunthorn. As well as Hollywood colour director Natalie Kalmus, and male Asian-American artist-animator Tyrus Wong. The friendships the women formed together, both within and outside the hostile male work environment, are also a satisfying joy to read about (Walt, although he became much more progressive overtime, probably didn't know the irony of naming his top animation team "the Nine Old Men"). These women made your childhood great, and will keep doing it, now that there are more women working in animation than ever before, and are receiving the deserved credit and recognition for it. It still isn't enough, but we are getting there. Thanks again, Nathalia Holt! Final Score: 4.5/5

  24. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    When I was a pre-teen, my goal in life was to be an animator. My first email address was even "animatedchick". My interest in animation came from my dad. My dad is an art teacher, and he designed a class on classic animation. As he worked on developing the class, he brought me along to workshops and library trips and watching cartoons for an entire summer to analyze the art and how the artists affected the history of animation. If 11 year old Katie had read this book, my life may have taken a When I was a pre-teen, my goal in life was to be an animator. My first email address was even "animatedchick". My interest in animation came from my dad. My dad is an art teacher, and he designed a class on classic animation. As he worked on developing the class, he brought me along to workshops and library trips and watching cartoons for an entire summer to analyze the art and how the artists affected the history of animation. If 11 year old Katie had read this book, my life may have taken a totally different trajectory. Holt tells the story of how women shaped so many of the Disney movies and what working conditions were like for women of the time. She especially spoke about Mary Blair, a totally badass female artist I had never heard of until this book. This history did have a lot of random side stories shared--I imagine the author interviewed every woman she could find related to Disney animation and wanted to honor each story, which sometimes resulted in super random moments (There was one recollection of a female animator running into the guy who played Davy Crockett in the stairwell and dropping all of her papers. I thought, ok, this will develop into a love story or her promotion or demotion. But alas. That was the entire story with no further mention). But despite the randomness of some stories and the limited information on other women (hi, I want to know more about life in Ink and Color), it was a fast and delightful read that made me want to rewatch all the classic animation films with my dad and celebrate the emergence of strong female leaders in the animation industry within the past decade.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I was given this book by Goodreads in exchange for an honest review. Looking through the reviews for this book on its Goodreads page, I was a little surprised by the mixed reviews. For me, I thought The Queens of Animation was a great book and really brought to light so many women who made Disney animation into what it is today. As someone who grew up during the Disney Renaissance and has read so many books about Walt Disney and studio, I was surprised how much I didn't know. For the women of I was given this book by Goodreads in exchange for an honest review. Looking through the reviews for this book on its Goodreads page, I was a little surprised by the mixed reviews. For me, I thought The Queens of Animation was a great book and really brought to light so many women who made Disney animation into what it is today. As someone who grew up during the Disney Renaissance and has read so many books about Walt Disney and studio, I was surprised how much I didn't know. For the women of Disney, I knew about Mary Blair and that was about it. Nathalia Holt really took the time to detail many other female animators and story directors - past and present - who have never really been mentioned, both in books about Disney and in the credits of the movies they worked on. For example, I had no idea how many movies that came out during the Disney Renaissance and beyond, such as The Little Mermaid and Frozen, were actually first proposed and worked on as early as the 1940s by these animators. A lot of their efforts were put into the "morgue" of Disney and discovered by animators decades later. Holt details the work that many women did on Disney's animated films, from Snow White all the way to Moana and Frozen today. Not only does she explain their backgrounds, but she explained how difficult it was to have their work recognized and get respect from the mostly male Disney employees. Many of them persevered and many great moments in Disney films (and sometimes the entire film) are here because of their hard work. Sadly, the pressure, stress, and dissatisfaction of being some of the only female animators or story directors in the early decades did cause some women to leave, and we probably missed out on some wonderful work because of that. Sure, some of the biographies within the book were a little short, but I think that shows how little most of the women's work was not credited to them. In addition, because the focus on the women of Disney has only been ramping up more recently, many of the original animators are gone and the stories that could've been added to this book were lost as well. I think it's a credit to Holt that she got as much as she did, considering a lot of early female animators' work were credited to the men running the department, instead of going to the people who worked day in and day out on them. I also appreciated her mentions of animators who were people of color, and the struggle they went through alongside these female animators, whether they were women or men. The only real downside I found was the times spent on technical talk about certain methods of animation and filming. While I have read a lot on Disney, I am not well-versed in the technical aspects and it seemed like some of the explanations were written as if the author assumed readers would already have background knowledge of them. That made them difficult for me to get through, because despite not knowing anything I still wanted to read them and try to understand what went on. Other than that, I really enjoyed reading this and would've finished it faster if things like work and migraines didn't get in the way. If you would like some insight as to how women have made an impact at Disney since the very beginning, as well as what they went through to make those impacts, I highly recommend you read this!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie Grover

    The Queens of Animation was given to me by the publisher. This book gives a chronological view of the women writers and artists that were an intricate part of Disney Studio. I had no idea how complex the animation process was prior to Xerox machines and computers. No wonder the public waited for years for new movies to be released. Several things surprised me: women were not listed in film credits, women were paid considerably less, it took 20-30 drawings for every second of screen time, it was The Queens of Animation was given to me by the publisher. This book gives a chronological view of the women writers and artists that were an intricate part of Disney Studio. I had no idea how complex the animation process was prior to Xerox machines and computers. No wonder the public waited for years for new movies to be released. Several things surprised me: women were not listed in film credits, women were paid considerably less, it took 20-30 drawings for every second of screen time, it was amazing how many times Walt was near bankruptcy and still managed to convince banks to believe in his dreams, there were a lot of well-educated women involved in Disney. I appreciated the extensive research that went into this book, but I felt like the end was rushed. Holt spent a great deal of time explaining the early history of Disney. It was clear how important Disney was to our economy and well being during the depression and WWII. I wanted more examples of the animation and more details about Disney during the 60’s and 70’s. This book was informative and provided my bookclub with an evening of great discussion.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Clarissa

    I listened to the audiobook, I think read by Saskia Maarleveld. The narration was nice & simple, which I enjoyed. I really did like this book. I like hearing and learning more about the history of animation, especially more about the women in it. It definitely concentrated about the women in animation, but sometimes it felt more like a history of Disney or of Walt Disney. I'm sure a lot of that was necessary for understanding and I'm not complaining anyway, lol. But, those times, I felt like I listened to the audiobook, I think read by Saskia Maarleveld. The narration was nice & simple, which I enjoyed. I really did like this book. I like hearing and learning more about the history of animation, especially more about the women in it. It definitely concentrated about the women in animation, but sometimes it felt more like a history of Disney or of Walt Disney. I'm sure a lot of that was necessary for understanding and I'm not complaining anyway, lol. But, those times, I felt like I wanted more on the women.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dana

    Not only was this about the history of women involved in the making of Disney movies (story development, animation, Ink and Paint), but it also showed the history of animated films in general. The women featured in this book worked in demeaning situations- male animators and story developers were highly critical, often harshly so, towards women who worked in more prominent roles in creating animated movies. Through the ups and downs of labor strikes, times of war, and the development of newer Not only was this about the history of women involved in the making of Disney movies (story development, animation, Ink and Paint), but it also showed the history of animated films in general. The women featured in this book worked in demeaning situations- male animators and story developers were highly critical, often harshly so, towards women who worked in more prominent roles in creating animated movies. Through the ups and downs of labor strikes, times of war, and the development of newer technologies, women began to take on more vital roles in the creation and development of Disney movies. It was interesting (even frustrating, as a woman) to read about the history of how women influenced the making of Disney movies, from the beginning with Snow White to the most recent films, including Frozen, Brave, and Zootopia.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Emi

    4.5 stars

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Schultz

    Read if you: Are a Disney fan, interested in entertainment history, or just want a fabulous read about incredible women.. For many of us, no matter our nationality, age, or ethnicity, Disney movies were a staple in our childhood and can serve as a connection between the generations. From 1937's Snow White, 1950's Cinderella, 1991's Beauty and the Beast, and 2013's Frozen, Disney's animated feature films have been loved, criticized, analyzed, and reintroduced to new audiences over the years. And Read if you: Are a Disney fan, interested in entertainment history, or just want a fabulous read about incredible women.. For many of us, no matter our nationality, age, or ethnicity, Disney movies were a staple in our childhood and can serve as a connection between the generations. From 1937's Snow White, 1950's Cinderella, 1991's Beauty and the Beast, and 2013's Frozen, Disney's animated feature films have been loved, criticized, analyzed, and reintroduced to new audiences over the years. And is any first-time trip to Disney complete without enduring the dreaded earworm that is "It's a Small World?" These movies (and attraction) would not have been possible without the groundbreaking work of female Disney animators, art directors, screenwriters, and visionaries. Their little known stories are brought to life through the brilliant writing of Nathalia Holt, who tells of their dreams, accomplishments, heartbreaks, struggles, and triumphs in this extraordinary read. After learning of the astonishing Mary Blair's anguish poured out in the "Baby Mine" scene from Dumbo, Ellen Woodbury's hilarious creation of Zazu in The Lion King, Brenda Chapman becoming the first woman to win the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar for Brave (and dedicating her win to her daughter), and Jennifer Lee organizing a women's only "Sister Summit" for Disney employees to discuss the bonds and difficulties of sisterhood during the creation of Frozen, you will be tempted to run through the highlights of the Disney canon in order to see these movies with fresh eyes (even the ones you might view as problematic, like Cinderella, or emotionally fraught, like Bambi). Holt does not shy away from discussing racial stereotypes in Song of the South and Peter Pan, so this is definitely not fan service. It is filled with stories of fascinating women who broke down barriers, overcame obstacles, and made their marks on entertainment history. Many thanks to Little, Brown and Company and Edelweiss for a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review.

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