In 1933 Lillian Friedman, while working at Fleischer Studios, became the first woman EVER to work as an animator at any studio.
From the early days of animation—and up until 1933—women were generally hired only in the lowly role of inker or opaquer. If talented and lucky they might advance to the position of inbetweener. But they NEVER worked as animators.
It was accepted thinking in the industry that women were not capable of the creativity required to be an animator, plus there was resistance to women entering this male dominated field. The article below from a Paramount 1936 promotional booklet includes the statement “Nobody knows just why, but women generally are not successful as cartoon animators.”
There’s also a telling 1938 letter that can be found online, typed on beautiful Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs stationary. It’s a response to Miss Mary V. Ford who wrote Walt Disney Productions concerning a job… the reply states “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....The only work open to women consists of tracing the characters on clear celluloid sheets with India ink and filling in the tracings on the reverse side with paint according to directions."
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Article from Paramount promotional booklet for "Popeye The Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor" 1936 Collection: Virginia Mahoney
Popeye copyright 2011 King Features Syndicate, Inc. TM Hearst Holdings, Inc.
In 1933 Lillian Friedman, an employee of Fleischer Studios, became the very first female to be hired as a commercial animator at any animation studio. She had joined Fleischer Studios as an inbetweener in 1931 at the age of nineteen. Animator Shamus Culhane recognized that she was highly talented and advocated for her advancement to animator. It was no easy job to convince the other animators to accept a woman working in that position. In addition, Shamus points out in his book Talking Animals and Other People, he had to devise tricks to make her accepted in the all male environment… and even though Lillian achieved animator status she was paid considerably less then her male counterparts.
The film below, Pudgy and the Lost Kitten, gives screen credit for animation to Myron Waldman and Lillian Friedman. This copy of the film has German sub-titles which I always thought reflected how popular these films were overseas- but 'The Crazy HR' has corrected me... "This was for many years a 'lost film,' meaning nobody knew about the existence of any copy of the cartoon. This has subtitles because it aired on the Channel ARTE during their show "Cartoon Factory." (ARTE is a German Channel)
Film: Pudgy and the Lost Kitten
The Internet Movie Database (online) credits Lillian with animation work on 11 films made with Fleischer Studios between 1934 and 1938—and shows she received screen credit on seven of these films, and was uncredited for her work on the other four. However, IMDb did not include her animation on Sindbad the Sailor which the above article attests to—or a reference elsewhere to her animation on Betty Boop’s A Language All Her Own. So Lillian animated on a total of at least thirteen films, with six of them uncredited. The lack of screen credit is not unusual since generally, although several animators may work on a film, no more than two animators received on-screen credit. Lillian remained at Fleischer’s until 1939 when she resigned to be with her family full time.
Book: Talking Animals and Other People by Shamus Culhane
Popeye Paramount Promotional brochure for Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor 1936
Ray Pointer online comments
Disney rejection letter:
The Internet Movie Database (IMDb)
Book: Who’s Who in Animated Cartoons by Jeff Lenburg