Image © Top row, left to right: Lois van Baarle, Claire Wendling. Bottom row, left to right: Crystal-Jade Vaughan, Hannah Jacobs, Mary Blair.

From Animation to Children’s Media and Beyond…50 Inspiring Women!

From Animation to Children’s Media and Beyond…9 Story and Brown Bag Films' 50 Inspiring Women!

In honour of International Women’s Day, this year we put a call out to our Brown Bag and 9 Story team members, asking them to share with us the women who have inspired them throughout their careers.

The result - An EPIC list of just over 50 incredible women working in Animation, Children’s Media and beyond!

Without further ado, it is time to get to know the women who inspire us…

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Alexis Platt, Production Manager:

One of the best people I've worked with in the industry is Jocelyn Stevenson who is a creator/ writer/exec producer. I produced a series for her a few years ago. She co-created Fraggle Rock and worked on Sesame Street, Bob the Builder and Pingu, amongst loads of other hits over the years. She recently exec produced Magic School Bus Rides Again for 9 Story. She is, without doubt, an immensely talented woman and also one of the nicest people you'll meet. She is someone who shows that kindness and success are not mutually exclusive.

Paul Sheehy, Senior Lighter:

I am inspired by Sharon Calahan, ASC  - Director of Photography/Lighting at Pixar Animation Studios.

Sharon Calahan is a big inspiration to me as a lighting artist and her work speaks for itself. She has worked on films such as Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Ratatouille and The Good Dinosaur. Notably, Sharon is the first CG Director of Photography member of the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) which is an incredible achievement.

Crystal-Jade Vaughan - Creative Director, Story & Concept Artist

I love the art style of Crystal-Jade Vaughan. She has worked for Dreamworks, Microsoft, Disney. Her style is quite unique too. Well worth a follow on Twitter and Instagram.

Cat Hicks - Animator at Pixar Animation Studios

Cat Hicks is another Pixarian whom I follow on Twitter and Instagram. She recently animated on Coco and The Incredibles 2. Her posts are quite informative and positive. Her puppet making skills are awesome too.

Jennifer Ansley, VP Marketing & Communications:

Entrepreneur & turnaround specialist Kathryn From gave me my first job at her consulting firm when I was fresh out of school, and I have always considered myself incredibly lucky to have had her as an early role model. She was a gifted strategist and powerful communicator. Best of all, she identified what she wanted, went after it, and never backed down from a challenge. I always admired her ability to blaze her own path.

Samantha Braithwaite, Animator:

Comic artist Claire Wendling is pretty darn cool.  All of her drawings have loads of personality even when the characters are just sitting there.  

Brittany Funston, Production Coordinator:

Top Wing producer, Tia Menich has always inspired me!

Working with her is such a pleasure. She is always calm in the face of adversity. Not much can ruffle her feathers! When you work with her you know everything is going to be okay because she leads with such confidence and kindness.

She always makes everyone on her team feel valued and is a patient teacher.

She wouldn't tell you this because she's very humble, but she really commits herself to everything she does and gives her all 100%! She genuinely loves what she does and it shows! She just wants every show she works on to succeed and be the best it can be. It's her hard work, dedication, passion, and energy that inspires me to want to go above and beyond too!

In many ways, I feel like she's my mentor and if I can even be a LITTLE bit like her when I am a producer I will have done very well!

Diane Aarts, Animation Supervisor:

Helen Ogger is someone worth reading about - while Franklin Thomas likes to talk about how the ladies of the ink and colour department applied rouge to snow white's cheeks (they didn't) it was actually Helen who developed the process of adding drops of rouge colored ink that bled directly into the cells. We always hear about the talented “ink and paint girls” but we never learned their names.

Rebecca Sugar, Creator of Steven Universe, is an amazing creator and her enormous heart shows through everything she does. Her stories are so inclusive and loving.

Jenn Kerr, Animator:

Lois van Baarle a.k.a Loish is one of my biggest inspirations. I love her designs and flow of her lines and also her colour choices are so vibrant!

And Claire Wendling, I like her line work too. I tend to like really soft, flowing lines over hard angled stuff.

Tom Kleinenberg, Department Lead - Previz and Layout:

Leigh van der Byl, Gwen Frey and Lois van Baarle inspire me.

When I was 16, I realised I wanted to get into 3D art. I had no idea what was involved so I posted on a South African internet forum asking what my options were. One of the responses was from Leigh van der Byl who was a lecturer at the college I went on to study at. As it happened, by the time I got there she'd moved on to work overseas, initially in the US, and eventually the UK. She's done some incredible work on some of my favourite films over the years; Aviator, Sin City and Gravity particularly stand out to me. Tracing the path of her career and the work she's done has always been inspirational. Thanks, Leigh!

Gwen Frey is a technical artist in the games industry. She's worked on some great projects (Bioshock Infinite, The Flame in the Flood) and her YouTube Channel and Twitter thread are great resources full of interesting information, particularly for rigging but also game art in general. She's also half the “Dialog Box” podcast which has regular discussions about what goes into making video games.

Lois van Baarle is one of my favourite illustrators currently working, I really like her style. It's always great seeing a commissioned or personal piece she's done pop up.

Ruben Bautista, Lead FX Artist:

A female friend posted me a link to this short video by the BBC from Lotte Reiniger. Seems she was the early developer of what later would be known as Multiplane Camera (used by Disney in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs).

Stephen Keeling, Compositor:

Pauline Edwards, department head over at Factory ™ inspires me. I don't believe I have worked with anyone more hardworking. She led the team by example through some very difficult projects. I would not have put the same effort into completing these projects if this example had not been made.

And Joanna Quinn, as both an animator and a businesswoman, I went to an exhibition of her work whilst a student, it was inspirational seeing the progression from GCSE drawings up to her professional work. The nature of her work in particular often focuses on the lives of women.

Finally, Marissa Delbressine, a young artist whose work style and work ethic inspired and guided me as a student. Her piece “Seasons” with its ethereal nature was of particular interest to me.

Alix Wiseman, VP Business Development Acquisitions:

Suzie Templeton, director of Peter & The Wolf, among other things. Amazing director, great sensitivity.

Also Joanna Quinn, is a  wonderful animation director and illustrator.

Finally, Candy Guard, creator/director of Pond Life, many moons ago.

Siobhan Doyle, Head of Character Assets:

Rebecca Sugar inspires me. I first knew her through the songs she wrote for Adventure Time. She was primarily a storyboard artist.

Mainly, I'm a huge fan of her show, Steven Universe.  A sci-fi drama surrounding a half human boy being raised by three aliens from an entirely female looking species. She pushes themes of alternative families, diverse gender expressions and sexuality, abusive relationships, PTSD, grief and much more in a way that's frank enough to engage adults, and easily accessible to children. The tone is generally light and goofy, superhero-style adventures, but regularly hits serious issues with just the right amount of gravitas. There's literally nothing else like it on television.

Also, Natasha Allegri inspires me. Another Adventure Time storyboard artist that went on to create her own show, Bee and Puppycat. It's not as successful, but I really love it's aesthetic and would love to see more.

Heather Clark, Keyframe Artist:

Mary Blair is a huge inspiration, everyone loves her. Her work had a major influence on the look of Disney films of the 40s and 50s, at a time when there weren't many women in the industry. And her style and sense of colour are the best.

Also, Rumiko Takahashi, a manga artist. She's had a successful career for decades and managed to produce multiple hits, like Ranma 1/2 and Inuyasha.

And Vera Numann, known for scarves, signed “Vera” with a ladybug. I'm impressed by her (and her husbands) entrepreneurship, creating a successful business based around her designs.

Charley Thomas, Producer:

I would like to share 3 women who inspire me -

Julie Soebekti (Supervising Producer, Brown Bag Films)
Every day she always comes in with a smile and a laugh, even if she’s completely snowed under. Her positive demeanor is infectious, and her direct way of working is so helpful and admirable. As a manager, she is clear and concise and always makes you think for yourself. She is always able to listen to any problems or issues and come up with a way of either working around it or working with it. She inspires me to be better at my job every day by leading by example. She’s truly someone to look up to in this industry and I consider her one of my greatest mentors.

Jennifer Dodge (EVP Entertainment, Spin Master Entertainment)
Jennifer is all about girl power. She is a role model to all women (young and old) in this industry and a standard to set ourselves against. She is the female leader we all need, and the woman we all aspire to be. When she walks in a room you know she’s there, and you want to hear what she has to say. She is the very definition of what it means to be a strong woman and she makes sure we are all heard in a world where female voices can sometimes be pushed aside. She fights for female empowerment in the very creative she is responsible for. Jennifer makes every woman on her team believe that the sky's the limit, that they can achieve anything they want and be anything they want to be, and that’s the kind of leader I aspire to be one day.

Jaelyn Galbraith (Creative Producer, Spin Master Entertainment)
Jaelyn has a warmth about her that is not found in many people, and uncommon around a workplace. She inspired me to go after what I want, to not let anyone get in my way and to focus on my own goals instead of worrying about the noise around me. In a world filled with obstacles, she made me believe nothing would prevent me from getting what I wanted, unless it was myself. She made me believe in my abilities and pushed me to go further. She is experienced, well-travelled and oh-so-knowledgeable on so many varied subjects that it makes taking advice from her seem like something you should have done a long time ago. She’s kind and gentle, but firm when she needs to be.

She makes sure her voice is heard, counted and accepted and I always remember to tap into that part of me whenever I am faced with an uphill battle. When I am doubting myself, I always hear her telling me I can do it. She is a trusted confidante, brilliant co-worker and friend.

Kirsten Shiel, Assistant Art Director:

Some of my favourite creatives are women! Definitely Nora Twomey, heading up female animation directors at the Oscars. The amazing art director Manddy Wyckens for the beautiful simplicity and harmony in her work. The illustrator Victoria Maderna for her beautiful original gouache paintings. Marie Thorhauge for her gorgeous and original character designs.

Taylor Annisette, Senior Animator:

The first woman that came to mind for me was Brenda Banks. I remember learning about her briefly in college as the first black female animator to work in the American animation industry. Unfortunately now, while trying to find out more about her, I'm finding depressingly little.

She was inspiring to me because not only was it good to hear about women in our industry, but also of black animators. It was usually just the history of one or the other, never both. It's an intersectional issue that isn't always addressed and that I sometimes feel divided by, being both a woman and half black.

What stands out about her for me is that I actually heard about her. From the little about her I did find, she had a pretty impressive body of work with some shows I'm quite familiar with, and may not actually have been the first black female animator at all. However, for me in college, I was just so happy to even have it mentioned, as briefly as it was, and have myself feel represented and accounted for if even in such a small way.

Logan McNeil, Art Director:

Who comes to mind for me are all the, mostly undocumented women who made up the ink and paint department at Disney, who were probably some of the most skilled artists in-house, as they had to hand ink directly onto acetate, the final line that would then be filmed on camera. All those wonderful effects, from fire to pixie dust, were hand painted by women in the effects department, and it remains some of the best reference for effects artists today, and really helped define that special quality to Disney classics. Less than a handful of these women have made names for themselves beyond the animation industry, Mary Blair, Retta Scott (the first woman to receive a screen credit as an animator), may come to mind, but most of these remarkable women remain invisible.

Andrew Hodgson, Animation Supervisor:

Brown Bag Toronto Producers Sam Littlefield and Michelle Awad inspire me.

Sam Littlefield is the Production Manager on Nature Cat, and is seriously awesome at her job.  She's always organizing many departments to work together, can handle conflicting personalities and keeps everyone on task. I can barely keep my part of the show straight, but she keeps it all in her head!

Sam has worked on the Oscar-nominated feature The Breadwinner, has given talks on the industry panel “Storytelling Through Collaboration” at the Ottawa International Animation Festival.  

She's just incredibly strong, organized, focused and super smart. But also super easy to talk to! She gives off an air that you can totally confide in.

Sam has inspired me to be strong in my own ways of life, and to try and be as focused and organized as her. I've seen where she's been and what she's worked on, and I know her drive is going to carry her to amazing places.   

Michelle Awad is the Producer on Magic School Bus Rides Again. I didn't work with her on that show, but I did on Numb Chucks. She's super smart, keeps her whole show organized, and really works to understand the animators point of view to set a fair and realistic schedule.

Michelle has worked for a long time and risen through the ranks of 9 story to get where she is. She's put in a ton of hard work to get here and it shows that she cares.  

Michelle has inspired me to persevere through difficult shows, and to realize which battles to fight and which ones aren't worth it.  Through her, I see that hard work is important, and benefits everyone around you. Michelle has been through a lot to get where she is, and she shows me how strong she is by getting through those tough times and to keep going.

Trish Bartkiw, Animator:

Claire “Shoomla” Hummel is an illustrator and costume consultant. She pushes character proportions just enough to make things interesting, and does a lot of research to make historically accurate or influenced costumes. Her animals are so fluid they could be liquid.

Stephanie Hans does vibrant paintings for comics, and focuses on dramatic lighting and interesting compositions. She gives me hope for mainstream comics.

I also love really detailed costume designs, like Maggi An Jeong's use of proportion through garments rather than physique, and Sakizo's delicate watercolours.

Paula Potts, Producer

Canadian actress, writer, director, and political activist, Sarah Polley is a great inspiration to me. I love how she does her own thing, is so outspoken, and talented.

Cory Bobiak, Director:

I am really digging the work of Julie Razumova. She has a timelapse video of her painting a piece of cherry cheesecake. The photo she's referencing is on top and her time-lapse painting is on the bottom. You're watching it and for a long time it looks like a painting, and then all of a sudden, WHAM! I couldn't tell which image was the real one and which was the painting. It's impressive how she builds the layers in her work…the realism she achieves is uncanny.

Bill Tedford, Office Ninja, Art Director:

I second Julie Razumova. I feel she has taken the concept of the selfie and replaced the underlying motivation of vanity to artistic expression.

Daniela Strijleva inspires me. Dani is a dear friend of mine who I hold in very high regard. We attended animation school together and worked together here at 9 Story in the early days. She is now a wonderful Production Designer and Artist at one of the best animation studios in the world - Pixar. She not only inspires me but also my wife, Heejung and our two girls.

Barbara Meyers, VFX Supervisor:

The two biggest female influences in my career:
Kendal Cronkhite, Art Director at PDI/Dreamworks and Sharon Calahan DOF at Pixar.

Also Eileen Moran - Producer (Weta Digital) ... HUGE influence (unfortunately passed away a few years ago). She left behind a legacy of other strong females (at Weta) in the Producing Field. I feel badly that she was not recognized properly while she was alive. She taught me a LOT about production management.

Rhya Tamasauskas, Marketing Manager:

I am inspired by the works of freelance animator Hannah Jacobs. Her whimsical and playful style make my imagination spin!

Anahita Tabarsi, Digital Marketing Manager:

I am a huge fan of comic book artist Fiona Staples. Her designs are formidable. I can't recommend the Saga series enough. It was gifted to me as a birthday present several years ago (by a very dear friend) and I immediately fell in love with the characters and their story. This is in huge part due to Fiona's awe-inducing ability to breathe a sense of drama and depth into her designs.

I also have such admiration for Marjane Satrapi, an Iranian-born French graphic novelist, cartoonist, illustrator, film director, and children's book author! Most people will know her for her autobiographical graphic novel Persepolis. It always strikes a chord with me when people confront persecution and have the strength of will to fight for their rights. Especially, when they do so through the medium of art!

Inna Testolini, Rigger

The following women inspire me:

Author J. K. Rowling. I love her books, her worlds, her personality, morals. Her life story is very uplifting and empowering.

Writer Astrid Lindgren. She creates magical worlds, full of kindness, curiosity and bravery, loved her books about strong little girls, inspired me in my childhood - Ronia the Robber's Daughter, Pippi Longstocking, loved her other books of course too: Karlsson-on-the-Roof, Mio, My Mio.

Novelist Ursula K. Le Guin. She makes amazing fantasy worlds full of myths and legends, another Tolkien (A Wizard of Earthseas).

Animator and Director Nina Paley. I like her work, her style, her active life position.

Hand Embroiderer and Illustrator Michele Carragher, I like her aesthetics, patience and overall she is an amazing person!

And I will mention 3 young women singers for their rebel-ness, wildness and free spirit, all three of different vibe:

Zaz Isabelle Geffroy. She has an amazing bright personality and produces sunshine in big quantities:

On ira 

Sous le ciel de Paris

Je Veux 

LP Laura Pergolizzi. I love her free spirit, awesome songs, melodies, boldness to pour her soul to the world:

Into The Wild

Tokyo Sunrise

Lost On You 

Sharon Kovacs. I admire her strength and independence:

50 Shades Of Black

Fool Like You 

My Love 

Anahita Tabarsi & Rhya Tamasauskas

We Love Animation™

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