This summer, for the first time, the museum offered animation instruction just for girls: The Heroine’s Journey. In this two-week class, students designed a lead character and studied narrative structure, use of fairy tales, trope-writing, and stereotypes in animation. In addition to designing a unique character, the students developed storyboards, drew character sketches, and transformed those sketches into three-dimensional maquettes.
We were inspired to launch this course because, although women are entering art and film schools at higher rates than ever before, they nevertheless remain underrepresented in the animation industry. Our hope in designing this class was to expose young women to animation, storytelling, character design, and related disciplines, while also discussing the importance of diversity in the animation and film industries.
The Heroine’s Journey—in addition to teaching animation, story, character design, and film theory—also included discussion of body image, pay scale, and stereotypes. Importantly, over the course of the class, several key women from the animation industry graciously and generously acted as mentors to the students. Chris Nee, creator of Disney Junior’s Doc McStuffins and upcoming Vampirina, joined us to discuss her background, personal challenges, successes, and experiences in creating a television show, as well as working in the industry. She provided tips to our students about how to create a compelling lead female character. Joining us after Chris were Amanda Visell and Michelle Valigura, artists, sculptors, and owners of Switcheroo, both of whom worked on stop motion segments for The Simpsons and Elf (2003). They explained the process of creating maquettes, demonstrating various sculpting techniques, and helped the girls bring their characters to life. Each of these incredible artists supported our students’ story and character designs, encouraging them try new ideas to express themselves as artists.
In our inaugural course this summer, we were honored to witness 12 girls bringing creative and inspiring thoughts and ideas to life with their art. And we hope that their experience at The Walt Disney Family Museum encourages them to pursue their dreams.
Education Studio Coordinator at The Walt Disney Family Museum