Series: Women in British Animation

Women in British Animation: A Short Introduction

While the United Kingdom never had an animation industry on the same scale as those of the United States, Japan or Russia, the country has long played host to a vibrant subculture of experimental animation. Animation, like any other medium, started out as an experimental endeavour. In Britain, it was pioneered by turn-of-the-century filmmaker Arthur Melbourne-Cooper, who made short, stop-motion films using teddy bears and puppets made from matchsticks. But while American animation was quickly streamlined into a more professional assembly-line process by the likes of Van Beuren Studios and Bray Productions, British animation retained a distinct do-it-yourself ethos. This...

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Women in British Animation: Thalma Goldman Cohen

“Sex has become very commercialized. But people are moving away from cheapness, it abuses them.” —Thalma Goldman Cohen In 1976, Screen International cast an eye over the position of women filmmakers in Britain. “If British Cinema, to its shame, can boast few female directors as yet,” read the article, “one field in which women seem currently to be proving their ability is animation.” The main subject of the piece was a relative newcomer to the scene: Thalma Goldman Cohen. Born Thalma Cohen in Rishon-Le-Zion in 1944, and adding “Goldman” to her name due to a short-lived marriage in the...

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Women in British Animation: Candy Guard

“I just want to make people laugh. Not by being silly – but by being truthful.” —Candy Guard In her student days at Newcastle Polytechnic and St Martins School of Art, Candy Guard hoped to enter live-action filmmaking. But instead, she found herself being tugged towards the world of cartoons. “I started to put ideas down in strip cartoon form,” she said in an interview for Jayne Pilling’s 1992 book Women & Animation: A Compendium. “It was a quick way of dealing with dialogue visually, without having to write it as a script. Someone suggested animation which seemed to...

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Women in British Animation: Petra Freeman

“Animation is for weirdos.” —Petra Freeman During the eighties and nineties, Channel 4’s patronage of experimental animation provided opportunities for new talent across the country. Some of these animators arrived at the medium very much through the back door, bringing with them aesthetic sensibilities unlike those of anyone else in the field. One such person is Petra Freeman. As Clare Kitson relates in her book British Animation: The Channel 4 Factor, Freeman had little interest in animation as a child. Nor was she initially keen to study the medium: her chosen subject at the Royal College of Art was...

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Women In British Animation: Gillian Lacey

“When the Leeds workshop started there was very little challenging animation being done and as a result there was always an excited audience waiting to see what the next films would be.” —Gillian Lacey No discussion about the history of women in British animation would be complete without a mention of Gillian Lacey. Although her filmography is not particularly expansive, and her more recent work has moved away from cartooning, hers is nonetheless one of the strongest feminist voices to have been heard within UK animation. Gillian Lacey entered the animation world as a beneficiary of the British Film...

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