When the Day Breaks (Amanda Forbis)

Women in Animation: Facts and Perceptions


The following is a translation of a guest post by Julie Roy, a producer in the NFB Animation and Youth Studio. She has published many articles on women in animation and has been a guest programmer at several animation festivals. At the NFB, she has produced many well-known films, including The Necktie, Bydlo, Kali the Little Vampire and Edmond Was a Donkey. Read the original version of this post, Femmes cineastes d’animation.


The Oscars® recently won by Suzie Templeton (Peter and the Wolf, 2006) and Torill Kove (The Danish Poet, 2006) suggest that women now occupy a privileged place in the world of animation. The Cristals won in Annecy by Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis (When the Day Breaks, 1999), Suzie Templeton, Michaela Pavlatova (Tram, 2012) and Regina Pessoa (Tragic Story with a Happy Ending, 2005) give the same impression. Yet did you know that, since 2000, fewer than 20% of short films selected for official competition at the prestigious Annecy International Animated Film Festival have been by women?

At Animafest Zagreb, another major animation festival, 15% of films selected in 2010 were made by women, while in 2012 the figure dropped to 11%. These figures are surprising given the number of acclaimed female filmmakers we’ve seen emerge in the past 40 years. Besides those named above, Alison de Vere, Gisèle Ansorge, Joan Gratz, Caroline Leaf, Nicole van Goethem, Suzan Pitt, Joanna Quinn, Michèle Cournoyer, Janet Perlman, Ruth Lingford, Marie Paccou, Martine Chartrand, Michèle Lemieux and Florence Miailhe have all picked up awards at major film events.

We can draw two conclusions from this:

1) Few films by women end up in competition at the top festivals (fewer than 20% on average for the main animation festivals like Annecy, Zagreb and Ottawa).

2) Proportionally, the percentage of female prizewinners at the major events is higher (since 2000, 27% of the Cristals at Annecy went to women; at Zagreb, over the same period, women took home 36% of the grand prizes).

Does the percentage of selections reflect the level of production? This is hard to say since the figures needed to do the math aren’t consolidated anywhere and are almost impossible to compile. We can, however, examine our own NFB data to see how things stand here and use our situation as a telling sample.

Women in Animation at the NFB

Since 2001, the NFB has completed a total of 445 animation productions (including productions supported by the NFB through the FAP and ACIC programs). Of this number, 36% were made by women, a figure much higher than the percentage of works selected by festivals.

As for film projects submitted to Cinéaste recherché(e), our competition for emerging filmmakers, 36% of the projects were by women in the 2002 and 2004 editions. In 2010 and 2012, the numbers went up: 49% of submitted projects were by women. Over the years, the competition has been held 20 times, with women winning the top prize 40% of the time.

With regard to Hothouse, the other NFB program for emerging filmmakers, the percentage of projects submitted by women is also going up (33% in the first editions and over 40% in the latest edition). Significantly, since the program began, 29 of the 50 projects chosen for production have been by women (58%).

Though we can’t draw broad conclusions from these numbers, it seems that, in the world of animated shorts, gender parity still has a way to go, don’t you think?

This is a subject that begs for further exploration. But today, as we approach International Women’s Day, let us celebrate the talent and success of our female filmmakers, for they have played a large role in solidifying the NFB’s reputation worldwide.

Ladies, I salute you and applaud your efforts.


For a first-hand look at the contributions some of our filmmakers have made, watch these films for free on NFB.ca: