Maybe some day a Sally Potatohead

From last spring, an item about Disney and 1938.

It shows a letter sent to a woman who had applied or asked about applying for a job as an animator at Disney Studios. The letter is signed by Mary Cleillegible. It says Disney doesn’t hire women as animators, for the cogent reason that Disney doesn’t hire women as animators.

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. For this reason girls are not considered for the training school.

That’s helpful, isn’t it? Women don’t do that work, because that work is done entirely by men. For that reason “girls” are not considered. kthxbye

It’s a long time ago, but it makes me feel a bit sick even so. A door firmly slammed that simply can’t be opened. A desirable interesting job doing a new kind of art, that is formally reserved for men only, for no reason except that it is. Unapologetically. The woman who wrote the letter to ask about applying learns that it’s not something she can even attempt, The competition would naturally be fierce, but she can’t even try.

And things haven’t changed as much as they might have. I assume letters like that are no longer sent, nor are matching emails sent (I still assume) – but you could write a similar letter about the casting of Disney animation movies. That’s still almost all male. The Lion King? All male apart from one girl to play the love interest. Toy Story? All male apart from one girl to play the love interest. Toy Story 2 was a great leap forward because it added Mrs Potatohead.


  1. johnthedrunkard says

    Door? What door?
    A door slammed in what was only perceived as a blank wall.
    The uncomprehending circularity of the note is breathtaking.

  2. leftwingfox says

    When I first went to animation school, my mom came with to help me move and settle in. As we toured the school, she admitted that she was half-temped to sign up as well. She had wanted to be an animator at Disney when she was a little girl, but had also been told that Disney didn’t hire women animators. So she went into architecture instead.

    Heartbreaking. Especially since she’s a much better artist than I am.

  3. Kels says

    I went to animation school here in Ottawa, and was happily surprised to see that the classes were well over 50% women. I don’t know if that’s true elsewhere, but if so then there’s finally a groundswell on the way.

    A lot of TV animation (including some Disney shows) get produced locally, and that’s where most of the grads end up, although there’s always mobility in the business.

  4. says

    The letter goes on to say that the only work open to female applicants is coloring in the drawings created by the young men who, by virtue of their Y chromosomes, create better, and therefore get to do all the creating, while the women get to do the less skilled work. Geethxbye.

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